It took just one day for a White House decision to eliminate thousands of jobs. While some hailed that as a victory for the environment and another shot at the oil and gas industry, others — including some of President Joe Biden’s allies — saw its risk to livelihoods, consumers, families and small businesses across the entire U.S. economy.
We all agree that we have to protect and improve our environment. But strategies and policies that support environmental success do not have to prioritize anything above the greater good and the day-to-day needs of our citizens. That’s especially true now, with the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic that cost millions their jobs still lingering with no finite end in sight.
Any calculation that includes the potential destruction of a productive economic multiplier that impacts every centimeter of the economy is just bad math. The reason is simple: Trying to kill an industry in the name of environmentalism is a fallacy, unsupported by fact and science that unnecessarily causes vast collateral damage beyond the industry itself, in the form of harm to families and consumers whose livelihoods rely on it each and every day.
Then there is the salt in those wounds caused by lost tax revenue to governments, which in turn have less money to serve their citizens. That means fewer playgrounds, fewer parks and even fewer essential services. How can this outcome even be seen as a victory for anything?
In this case, any effort to eliminate an industry providing 8 percent of our gross domestic product means that much money, if not more, is at risk of coming out of our economy. We cannot pretend the impact is limited to one set of workers, because our individual economies are tied to each other’s. Every dollar we earn or spend gets earned or spent somewhere else. And when our disposable income drops, others suffer.
The victims of this kind of single-minded attack are our neighbors and friends from all walks of life. They are the country’s skilled workers and union tradespeople, who trained for years to do the highly specialized, well-paying work they do that literally builds our nation and its infrastructure on land and water.
They are the farmers and ranchers who produce the crops that feed us and the ordinary workers who keep America moving and thriving every day. It’s folks in manufacturing and transportation, building the products we need and use or getting them to us every day — a fact we recognized when the pandemic laid bare just how much we rely on these often-overlooked essential workers.
They are our small-business owners, from those running bakeries and restaurants to mechanics and plumbers and all points in between. Our hotels and tourism operators get hurt, too, because who has time or money for recreation and travel when they don’t have a job?
The service industry in general, from restaurants to hotels, has been especially hurt by COVID-19. Why would we choose a policy that will subtract even more from their already challenging lot today?
Every single person working in these industries has loved ones to support and futures to build. And they have memories. Those will be plenty fresh at the ballot box if they lose what they cannot afford to, because of the actions of overzealous bureaucrats recruited from careers of activism to government. Letting the advocates of any single viewpoint establish policy, no matter their justification, means the forest of the greater good is usually missed for the trees of victory for the few.
The American way of governing, for all its missteps and flaws, has traditionally valued job creation, a healthy economy and a level playing field as the cornerstones of any sweeping political vision. Our greatest leaders, no matter their party, have done their best to craft policies that achieve those ambitions inclusively, without harming ordinary Americans.
Even on our best days, people need honest work that pays well. So, as a nation, the jobs we have right now that let people make a living for their families and themselves are as precious as they ever were. Any policy that risks that, especially by promising jobs that do not yet exist, is simply wrong.
Wrong for the moment right now, and wrong for our future.
So, that begs the question: What is the best path forward? It’s simple. We must solve our environmental concerns and meet our energy needs – including the use of oil and natural gas. We can and must – and we are already showing we can – do both at the same time. Why do some insist on using issues like climate change as an argument to outright eliminate traditional energy? That position has too many flaws of logic and fact to be taken seriously.
Let’s work together. Let’s solve our energy supply and demand issues by taking the best renewable and traditional energy have to offer, keep the lights on and homes warm for those of among us living at or near poverty, and keep charging toward our environmental goals.
The solution is not either-or — it’s how and when.
It’s time to stop yelling and protesting for a zero-sum positions and time to start working together to achieve the outcome the vast majority of Americans want. We all want affordable, reliable energy that shepherds us toward a better environmental future.
David Holt is president of Consumer Energy Alliance, a U.S. consumer energy and environment advocate supporting affordable, reliable energy for working families, seniors and businesses across the country.
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