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A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have! - Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bob Barr Says: Maintain Economic Growth, Find New Energy Sources, Confront Global Warming

Bob Barr, former Member of Congress from Georgia and Libertarian Party candidate for President, today issued the following statement on energy and global warming:

As America confronts a variety of domestic and foreign challenges in the future, it is essential that we preserve our prosperous, productive, and innovative economy. Without a strong economic foundation, it will be impossible for our nation to deal with the many serious financial, social, and environmental problems facing the U.S.

One of the most complicated and controversial issues facing America is global warming. Although temperatures have increased in recent decades, the scientific community has been unable to make definitive judgments as to the past cause or future course of climate change. Indeed, the models which predict problems in the future did not predict the lack of any temperature increase over the last decade. Unfortunately, many climate processes are not yet clearly understood.

Thus, we need to conduct more and better scientific research about climate change to assess likely problems in the future and develop appropriate solutions. More dialogue is key to understanding global warming and developing the best means of dealing with the important questions surrounding the phenomenon. This dialogue must include scientists from all sides of the issue, including those who are skeptical of the assertion that humans are primarily responsible for global temperature changes and that those changes pose a substantial danger to humanity.

Moreover, we must develop cost-effective policies which will not undermine the U.S. economy. So-called cap and trade legislation, recently rejected by the U.S. Senate, would do grievous damage to the American economy, threatening to create a permanent recession by reversing industrial growth and destroying millions of jobs. Attempting to adjust global temperatures by artificially cutting energy consumption would undermine the very prosperous and innovative market system upon which we must rely for answers to everything from health care to international poverty to environmental protection.

Our energy future must be built on a commitment to both find more conventional energy sources and expand use of alternative fuels. The U.S. has large deposits of petroleum, oil shale, and natural gas. Barriers to their development in the Outer Continental Shelf, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and other federal lands should be lowered or eliminated, which would provide Americans with a more secure source of energy over the short term and help bring down today’s high prices, which are causing such economic hardship to so many Americans. Such steps would also allow us to begin seriously considering and developing alternative sources of energy that will be essential in the long term.

The development of alternatives to fossil fuels would provide the country with many benefits, ranging from lower CO2 emissions to greater diversity of energy supplies. Given the failure of past government subsidy programs, this transformation can only be led by the private sector.

The government must remove regulatory barriers, which limit the development of alternative as well as conventional energy sources. Moreover, public officials should cease their demagogic attacks on the energy industry, which has made money only by finding, refining, and transporting gasoline, natural gas, and heating oil for the American people. Vote-minded legislators risk creating an environment in which companies are punished for doing good, which will only make them more reluctant to invest in all technologies and fuels, alternative as well as conventional.

Indeed, the challenge of promoting continuing energy innovation should cause us to reconsider other policies which discourage business investment and capital formation more generally. Americans for Tax Reform recently reported that the tax and regulatory burden rose at both the state and national level over the last year. America’s corporate income tax is one of the highest in the world, creating a self-inflicted economic wound. Congress now routinely votes for new spending programs for which we have no way to pay, putting our entire economic future at risk.

The challenges that we face are serious, but I am convinced we can find solutions. We are more likely to develop policies that simultaneously promote economic growth, expand energy supplies, and lessen any adverse effects of climate change, if we promote a genuine dialogue among contending factions. Although I do not agree with the tax and regulatory policies advanced by former Vice President Al Gore, I do believe his call for greater reliance on alternative energy could be given positive effect by American industry. Only the market economy can balance his passion with the reality of preserving the growing economy upon which our future—and that of our children and grandchildren—depends.

We must address the issue of climate change, but do so realistically, recognizing the importance of simultaneously expanding energy supplies and maintaining economic growth. Our greatest strength in confronting the problems of the future is our free market economy. Only by reducing government barriers to private research and development are we going to achieve the innovative, even transformational, changes necessary in the years and decades ahead.

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