A dirtier and deadlier energy future
Mitt Romney’s new energy platform calls for more fossil fuel production and less regulation. It’s a vision of an energy future that is dirtier and deadlier than an economy founded on a transition to renewable energy sources. And, despite the devastating droughts and massive wildfires of the last few months, it’s a plan that ignores the climate dangers associated with a drill-and-burn policy.
Romney’s plan centers on the argument that unleashing corporations to extract more oil and gas will create jobs and grow the economy. But will dirty energy really create more jobs?
More Jobs Come from Investment in Renewables
Investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency upgrades generate far more jobs than similar investments in fossil fuel extraction. According to a report by the Center for American Progress and the University of Massachusetts, $150 billion invested in renewables would generate 1.7 million more jobs than if the same amount was spent on fossil fuel extraction.
But the economic argument goes deeper. A fossil fuel-dependent economy costs us billions beyond what we pay at the pump, and it’s a cost the oil companies shift to ordinary people, taxpayers, and future generations, while they keep the billions in profits.
Just one aspect of this: The burning of fossil fuels is making us sick at a time when an ever-increasing proportion of the nation’s income is spent on health care and health insurance. The National Research Council estimates the hidden costs of burning fossil fuels for transportation and electricity generation to be about $120 billion a year, primarily relating to its effect on human health.
That figure does not include the climate impacts, harm to ecosystems, and harm caused by mercury and other pollutants associated with fossil fuel burning. As Bill McKibben says in his recent article in Rolling Stone magazine, "Alone among businesses, the fossil-fuel industry is allowed to dump its main waste, carbon dioxide, for free. Nobody else gets that break."
The High Cost of Dirty Energy
Then there are the billions that accidents like BP's Deepwater Horizon oil disaster cost. BP is liable for $192 billion in damages, according to one expert estimate—but how much will the rest of us wind up covering? And how long will the health of the people of the Gulf and the local environment suffer? Then there's Enbridge's recent 1 million-gallon spill of tar sands oil, which still coats the bottom of the Kalamazoo River and caused an estimated $800 million in damages. (The National Transportation Safety Board says lax regulation was largely to blame for the spill, which came from a pipeline of the same type that is proposed to carry Alberta’s tar sands oil to Texas, across the fragile Oglalla Aquifer. Yet Romney is calling for laxer regulation.)
But there’s a more systemic reason why fossil fuel dependence is bad for the economy and bad for jobs. A recent analysis by research firm Oxford Economics, commissioned by Britain’s Department of Energy and Climate Change, shows that moving away from reliance on fossil fuels could cut in half the economic damage that occurs when fossil fuel prices spike.