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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Environmentalist Clowns Threatening Human Life

Today's Colorado Springs Gazette published my op-ed, "Environmentalist clowns threatening human life," reviewing a November 18 talk by Keith Lockitch. (The online version is dated November 20, while the print date is November 21.)

See also additional quotes from environmentalists.

For the story about the environmentalists dressed up as clowns, see the Denver Daily or Denver Post.

Here is the entire piece:

Environmentalist clowns threatening human life

Climate change threatens our nation. Pollution is the cause. We must reverse course now to save future generations from misery.

Contrary to environmentalist hysteria, the problem is not carbon dioxide warming the earth. Instead, our political climate of freedom suffers the pollution of environmentalist controls of our industrial economy.

On November 18, environmentalists dressed up as clowns rallied at the state capitol to demand that Colorado shut down a coal-fired electricity plant.

That night, Keith Lockitch, an environmental analyst with the Ayn Rand Center, explained in a Denver talk why environmentalist controls threaten human life and well-being.

People need industrial energy to live and flourish, Lockitch emphasized. Indeed, modern energy enables us to respond to climate disasters and weather extremes, natural forces that have always threatened human life.

Throughout human history and still today in undeveloped regions, droughts, floods, freezes, and heat waves have devastated food supplies and caused wide-scale suffering and death. What allows the developed world to largely escape such dangers is our relatively free, industrial economy.

Consider the droughts of the 1970s, Lockitch suggested. While the weather caused massive death and starvation in undeveloped regions of Africa and India, the United States suffered “only minor economic losses.”

Americans respond to freezes by turning up their furnaces. If it gets too hot we turn on air conditioning. If one farming region suffers a freeze, drought, or other problem, we ship food from elsewhere. To learn about potential dangers, including bad weather, we turn on our electricity-powered televisions or computers.

Industrial energy allows us to live longer, healthier lives. If we get sick, we ride in oil-powered ambulances to electricity-powered hospitals. While people in undeveloped regions continue to die from smoke inhalation from cooking fires, we use clean gas or electric stoves. Yet many environmentalists would hamper industrial prosperity.

The political question, Lockitch said, is separable from the scientific question of climate change. Whether or not human carbon dioxide emissions will seriously contribute to harmful warming, free- market capitalism enables us as investors, entrepreneurs, producers, and consumers to respond to problems, whatever their causes.

Don’t environmentalists merely want us to change from fossil fuels to renewable sources? Lockitch pointed out that prominent environmentalists opposed solar farms in the Mojave desert and wind farms off the shores of Massachusetts. Many environmentalists oppose nuclear power. Their goal is to limit human activity regardless of the availability of energy.

Lockitch outlined the problems with wind and solar. Americans currently use around 600 coal-fired plants. It would take 1,000 wind turbines on 40,000 acres of land to replace a single plant. Their production would require enormous costs.

Coal plants can expand or reduce output based on demand. “You can’t turn on the sun, and you can’t turn on the wind,” Lockitch noted. At a coal plant the energy is stored in the coal itself. Wind and solar plants produce electricity at unpredictable times in uncontrollable amounts, and it cannot easily be stored for future use. What happens if you face an emergency during a blackout caused by low wind?

That’s not to say that Lockitch is committed to fossil fuels. He pointed out that Rand wrote a novelized account of a motor with cheap, clean, and abundant energy.

To Lockitch, the question is not ultimately about fossil versus renewable energy. It’s about freedom versus controls. On a free market, people can decide how best to use fossil fuels and what new energy sources deserve research and investment.

Does the future hold advances in nuclear power, solar collection, or some yet-unimagined source of energy? Free-market capitalism spurs productive development.

Environmentalists might enjoy clowning around and imagining a renewable-energy utopia. In the real word, our lives and well-being depend on modern industrial energy production. To protect ourselves we must defend free-market capitalism. That means we must clean up the economic pollution of environmentalist controls.

Ari Armstrong, the author of Values of Harry Potter, publishes FreeColorado.com.

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