World leaders are convening in Paris for another United Nations climate summit. UN negotiators are pushing plans to restrict our most affordable and abundant energy sources, while 1.3 billion people around the world still lack access to electricity. For his part, President Obama was in Paris touting his so-called “Clean Power Plan” and other regulations, which will saddle American families, especially the poor and middle class, with higher energy bills in exchange for zero climate benefits.
Instead of denying energy access to the least fortunate, UN negotiators should “recognize the vital role that energy provides to human development and the ultimate well-being of millions around the world,” according to Institute for Energy Research Senior Fellow Charlie Drevna. In a piece for Fortune.com, Drevna explains how the best way to help the poor, grow the economy, and protect the environment is with market innovations, not government mandates:
We need only to look back to the Great Recession in 2008 for examples of private-sector solutions that emerged without government mandates. During this timeframe, we experienced a massive reduction in economic activity, resulting in a noticeable—but not overwhelming—decrease in carbon dioxide emissions. However, this dramatic economic downturn also caused severe hardship for many Americans, a hardship that far surpassed the commensurate reductions in CO2.
If fossil fuel use were to be restricted as demanded by some in favor of government-preferred alternatives, you could undoubtedly expect far worse economic and societal struggles. Substituting capitalism with government intervention to solve any problem is a recipe for corruption and disaster. Moreover, such an approach would harm individuals such actions intended to help—the least fortunate among us. Government intervention—picking winners and losers in the marketplace—has consistently proven government’s penchant for picking losers.
Another change we saw during this same timeframe was the development of shale natural gas. This private sector innovation—a tectonic shift accomplished with no government help—led to a reduction in CO2 emissions while reducing energy costs for consumers and creating high-paying jobs. Private sector innovation, American ingenuity, and a spirit of entrepreneurism have led to some of the greatest advances we all enjoy. After all, I do not recall a tax or outright ban on typewriters leading to the development of the personal computer. As we move forward, let’s have a constructive debate and carefully consider what choices will make people’s lives better and what assets will be most impactful. The private sector can—and is—investing heavily in energy alternatives that will provide us with a robust energy future. And while the government should encourage such innovation, it must get out of the way so that these innovative alternatives can develop in line with market demand—not mandate.
To read the full piece on Fortune.com, click here.