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Fossil Fuels, Not the Green New Deal, Improve Human Welfare

For millennia, most humans toiled in a Hobbesian state of nature: Their lives were poor, nasty, brutish and short. People lived chronically at the brink of starvation, and they suffered through numerous pandemics, as well as with high infant mortality rates and a short life expectancy.

But then, something remarkable occurred: Mankind learned how to use fossil fuels, spurring the Industrial Revolution. “First coal in England, soon followed by natural gas, and then crude oil in the early twentieth century,” Steve Moore explained in his compelling book, Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy

As Moore notes, thanks to fossil fuels, production per capita soared, as did life expectancy and human population.

“Average real income per capita — on a global basis — is now 10 to 20 times higher than at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution,” Moore added. “Each variable (GDP per capita, life expectancy, human population, carbon dioxide emissions), shows an advance of approximately sixteen-fold over the past one hundred years … with world economic product increasing from $2 to $32 trillion.” 

Fossil fuels and the flowering of the modern world provided the tools needed for reducing world poverty and hunger. And we could be making significantly more progress too, if it weren’t for the fact that the world is burdened today with ignorant warnings about human extinction and the imminent end of the world caused by the very same fossil fuels that have unquestionably improved human life for more than a century. 

Alarmists tell us the oceans are rising at a frightening pace and will soon engulf major cities and coastal shores all over the world — despite ample evidence that such fears are not warranted.

These assertions are often nothing more than politically motivated fearmongering. In many cases, it seems unlikely the alarmists actually believe their own dire warnings. 

Take Barack Obama, for example. He recently invested $11.5 million in a Martha’s Vineyard estate so close to the ocean you can actually throw a football from his backyard into the sea. 

Obama isn’t alone, of course. Coastal real estate markets, many of which are located in deep-blue parts of the country full of people who supposedly believe climate change is on the verge of destroying the world, reveal the absurdity of alarmist sea-level claims. Despite the alleged “existential crisis” of climate change, coastal property values are rising dramatically.

Despite all the erroneous and misleading claims, as well as the hypocrisy, the left continues to promote policies that will “fix” the present climate crisis—all while conveniently giving them the power they have always craved.

The best example of these policies is the Green New Deal (GND), which would replace fossil fuels with more expensive, less reliable renewable energy sources, at a cost of many trillions of dollars. If enacted, the GND would completely decimate the U.S. economy. The stock market would collapse, and America would fall back into recession. Unemployment would soar, millions of jobs would be lost, and wages would plummet.

Just as importantly, the environment would be wrecked as well. A new study published by the Heartland Institute and authored by Paul Driessen, a senior policy analyst for the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, documents that replacing fossil fuels and nuclear energy with wind power “would require 2.12 million (wind) turbines on 500,682 square miles (equivalent to) the states of Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, and much of West Virginia.” This would not only destroy habitats for countless animal species, it would also kill millions of innocent birds and bats. 

Unfortunately, the wanton environmental damage wrought by a switch to wind and solar power does not end there. The mining of toxic rare earth minerals that are necessary for wind and solar equipment is among the most environmentally destructive activities on the planet. 

Further, the necessary construction of thousands of miles of new transmission lines needed to bring power from remote wind and solar farms to urban population centers would cause additional habitat destruction and spark wildfires like the ones that recently ravaged California. 

Making matters even worse, the wind power industry has yet to devise an acceptable plan to recycle or dispose of the monstrous-sized wind turbines when no longer usable. 

In the end, the Green New Deal would destroy both the environment and the economy. The only “good” it would ultimately provide is for the ruling class in Washington, DC, whose power would be greatly enhanced, and their buddies in the renewable energy industry, who would receive bucketloads of taxpayer cash to prop up their ordinarily unprofitable businesses.

Peter Ferrara ( is the Dunn Liberty Fellow in Economics at the King’s College in New York and a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute and the National Tax Limitation Foundation. He served in the White House Office of Policy Development under President Reagan and as associate deputy attorney general of the United State under Attorney General Bill Barr and President George H.W. Bush.

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  • Intermittent electricity from wind and solar cannot replace the fossil fuel derivatives that account for more than 6,000 products in our daily lives.

    Without fossil fuels to drive the economy, we would need to have society accept the social changes to LIVE WITHOUT today’s: medications and medical equipment, tires, airlines, merchant ships, and all the electronics and communications systems that are made with petrochemical derivatives, just like societies lived BEFORE the 1900’s.

    In fact, electricity came AFTER fossil fuels, as ALL the parts of wind turbines and solar panels are made from the derivatives manufactured from petroleum.

    Without fossil fuels there would be NO renewable electricity industry!

  • If we spew huge amounts of carbon to build and maintain those transmission lines, is there actually a payback in terms of switching to wind?

    If we spew lots of carbon to build the allegedly clean high speed rail, is there a payback when we save these emissions?

    I think these are extraordinarily dubious investments, even on their own terms!

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