‘Old Myths’ Block Economic Progress

Posted April 21, 2004 at 10:40am

The world has become more advanced in the past two decades than in its entire history. Americans, especially now, live in an age in which technology, coupled with a prospering economy, produces tangible improvements in quality of life and the environment. We know now that the world’s most prosperous nations are the most technologically advanced and thus the most environmentally friendly.

Unfortunately, most Americans are using yesterday’s news when they consider the most important environmental issues today. Perpetuated by organizations that fundraise and lobby in the name of environmentalism, old myths threaten to block additional progress

for our environment in the future. Americans must understand that a balance exists between the engines of economic growth and the sanctity of our environment. They go hand in hand. They are NOT mutually exclusive.

The development of our nation’s natural resources was central to its modernization. Without American ingenuity and the availability of our natural resources, Henry Ford would never have invented his Model T, nor would Thomas Edison engineer his first light bulb. The pollution closely associated with the industrial revolution is all but a thing of the past.

Today, advanced technologies enable us to meet our needs and protect the environment at the same time.

Nonetheless, environmental fundraising organizations would have Americans continue to believe that the development of our natural resources and their use in society cannot occur in an environmentally friendly manner. Their motives for perpetuating myths are clear. Stories about positive environmental achievements do not raise money, but scare tactics and tall tales of Earth’s destruction do.

As a result, the public will likely never read “good news” in an environmental organization’s fundraising propaganda. Sadly, Americans are similarly hard-pressed to find the good news in the newspaper. It seems bad news sells better.

Here is the good news:

While some say that the world is running out of safe, clean sources of drinking water, water is actually one of the most ample resources on the planet. Two-thirds of the Earth’s surface is covered by oceans. Science and technology have made that water safe to drink through the process of desalination. As science advances and technology becomes more available, that process will become more and more economically feasible, providing farmers and families alike with ample supplies of water.

Science has also proven that our national forests are a sustainable resource and must be actively managed. According to the Agriculture Department, America has 749 million acres of forestland, 14 million acres more than we had in 1920. Today, we know that the largest threat to our forests is the old policies of hands-off management that cause catastrophic wildfires and disease. Therefore, we are putting Americans to work to thin dangerously dense forests in a way that fuels the economy and protects the resource at the same time. However, organizations lobbying in the name of environmentalism falsely claim that America’s forests are being “logged” and “clear-cut’” at an alarming rate.

The case in the forest industry is clear: As jobs disappeared, the vitality of our forests declined and the incidence of catastrophic fire skyrocketed. Bringing that skilled work force back into our nation’s forests is vital to returning the health of the ecosystem, and protecting the wildlife and communities closely intertwined within it.

Science and technology has also proven that producing domestic sources of energy can go hand-in-hand with environmental protection, and even yield environmental benefits. In fact, the Clinton administration’s 1999 Energy Department report, “Environmental Benefits of Advanced Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Technology,” documents the innovations that make energy production and environmental protection mutually achievable — even in places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — by leaving a production site in better-than-original condition.

Energy fuels every aspect of the American way of life. Ample supplies of affordable energy are therefore the lifeblood of a healthy economy and a safe environment. With Americans paying record-high prices for energy, the United States must use its own work force and advanced technologies to increase our energy supplies and lower our dependence on foreign cartels.

According to The Economist, over the past three decades, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has transferred an astounding $7 trillion from American consumers to OPEC producers.

That was approximately 67 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product in 2002. This amounts to a massive export of American jobs, national security and economic growth. When science says we can develop our country’s resources and technology provides actual environmental benefits, it’s unconscionable not to act.

Had President Bill Clinton not vetoed Congress’ will in 1995 with regards to energy development in ANWR, it could have been the largest producing oil field in North America. Its 10.3 billion barrels of oil would be flowing into U.S. markets right now. A recent Energy Information Agency study shows that opening just .01 percent — or 2,000 acres — of the federal land in ANWR to energy development would reduce oil imports by 876,000 barrels per day by 2025.

Congress must work together to pass a national energy policy to halt the impending crisis. As America continues to move forward, the nation should look to the most affordable and environmentally friendly resources.

Natural gas, for instance, is a clean fuel with ample supplies in North America that could provide millions of Americans with needed jobs and energy for electricity, home heating, cooling and more. Natural gas will fuel more than 90 percent of electricity-generating plants scheduled to be built. Yet environmental lobbying groups have filed lawsuit after lawsuit to stop the development of this environmentally friendly fuel within the United States.

This nation has the strictest environmental standards and the most advanced technologies in the world. Our nation’s policies must embrace the fact that environmental safety is brought about by a burgeoning economy. Using our natural resources plays an integral role in creating a healthy environment and economy.

Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) is chairman of the Resources Committee.