Editor’s note: This commentary originally appeared at LewRockwell.com and is reprinted here with permission.
All domestic, commercial, and industrial facilities obtain their energy services (e.g. electricity, heating, and cooling) primarily from the nationwide electric and natural gas utility grids. These matrices of wires and pipes that traverse the countryside, towns, and cities evolved during the past century to become true marvels of the modern industrial age providing virtually universal access to effective, clean, abundant, convenient, and inexpensive energy with no more effort than the flick of a switch. Indeed, these energy grids that put an end to the drudgery of foraging for fuel are the very essence of productivity, security, and prosperity in the modern world.
Modernity is the result of capitalistic industrialization, entrepreneurial initiative, and free-market socialization. Its results are eagerly sought everywhere; but its methods and means are just as widely misunderstood, mistaken, misconstrued, maligned, and misused. Among the misguided reactions against modernity are concerns that man’s energy appetite has grown to the point where it is damaging the environment and climate in which he lives. Whether or not this concern has a scientific justification, it has produced sentimental consequences that have become the target of public policy, which has spawned legislation aimed at natural resource conservation, environmental protection, and climate change resistance. The implementation of this legislation has resulted in a degree of industrial regulation that is tantamount to de-industrialization with predictably retrograde consequences. Among other things, these policies have more than doubled the cost of obtaining electricity from its grid in less than a decade, during which time the grid has begun to deny service on random occasions.
The greater part of this escalation of electricity costs and unreliabilities is traceable to just one of the policy objectives, namely climate change resistance. The proxy for that objective is stringent control of “greenhouse gas” emissions, which is being sought out of fear that continued fuel-burning by humans will increase the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere to the point where the Sun will overheat the planet and plunge the climate into an irreversible warming trend with catastrophic consequences for mankind.
But why pick on CO2? Green plant life cannot get enough of the stuff. After all, there are other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere with greater solar interaction and fewer environmental benefits to sacrifice than CO2.
The answer to this question is an example of the streetlight effect:
A policeman sees a drunk searching for something under a streetlight. He asks the drunk, “What have you lost?” The drunk replies, “I lost my keys.” They both proceed to look under the streetlight together. After a few minutes, the policeman asks the drunk if he is sure he lost them here. The drunk replies, “No, I lost them in the park.” The policeman asks, if that’s the case, why are you searching here?” The drunk replies, “This is where the light is.”
Recall that legislation only works on people. People do things that put CO2 in the air. The other gases in the air are not as anthropogenic as CO2. To compensate, government conjured up some studies to show a plausible story connecting human industrial activity and atmospheric CO2. This story sufficed to justify legislation.
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This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom