Cold warriors never die, they just turn green

Published September 1, 2000

In a February interview with Environment & Climate News, Dr. Walter E. Williams, chairman of the economics department at George Mason University, noted, “Now that communism and socialism have lost all respectability, I think in general those people who have those inclinations have changed their agenda and call themselves environmentalists.”

In June, Father Robert Sirico, founder and president of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, told E&CN, “The problem with so many environmentalists is that they are operating under the socialist world view.”

Now, these are both men of considerable intellect and learning—among those to whom I refer when I say that I may not be real smart, but I know lots of people who are. Nevertheless, accusing those who disagree with you of being socialists or communists seems to border on name-calling. Is it justified?

The hallmark of socialism is state control of the means of production, and of communism, state ownership of the means of production. Do many environmentalists put these ends ahead of environmental protection?

Over the last decade, the federal government has nearly eliminated logging in National Forests, stopped maintaining roads, and cooked up a “roadless” initiative to prevent any new construction of roads on public lands. The Clinton-Gore administration has used executive orders to place millions of acres of public land off-limits to commercial forestry and even recreation.

The result has been greater government control over public lands, but also a dramatic increase in catastrophic wildfires, according to the U.S. Forest Service’s own studies, coupled with a decreasing ability of firefighters to reach them. Disease and blight affect a growing percentage of the nation’s public forests. America now imports more of the lumber it needs from countries with weaker environmental protection laws.

The appearance, at least, is that environmentalists have placed control of public land over environmental protection.

Environmentalists lobby hard against cars and personal mobility, too. They backed the gasoline oxygenate mandate in the 1990 Clean Air Act, even though many knew it would cause more pollution and not less. They have also pushed EPA to enact ever-stricter regulations on gasoline and diesel fuel and on emissions from oil refineries, even though most experts say these regulations have little effect on human health. We now have about 25 percent fewer refineries than we had 10 years ago.

Again, control of production, not environmental protection.

Environmentalists call for government control of offshore drilling for oil and gas in the U.S. As a result, new offshore drilling has been virtually eliminated. Yet nearly all serious oil spills in the world are caused by tanker accidents, while the offshore drilling industry has an outstanding environmental safety record. Restrictions on new drilling in the U.S. have forced us to import the majority of our petroleum and petroleum products by tanker ships, increasing the risk of environmental damage.

Control of production, not environmental protection.

Regulations have pushed the price of new electricity generating facilities to nearly $1 billion each, with no sure return on investment. Transmission lines are inadequate, in part because of opposition to new construction fueled by the now-debunked scare that electromagnetic fields could cause cancer.

Environmentalists have demanded dramatically less pollution from coal-fired utilities, despite the progress already being made in response to earlier regulations and new technology, and despite the environmental benefits brought about by replacing small engines with electrical devices and processes. Environmentalists persuaded the Clinton-Gore administration to declare the Grand Staircase-Escalante area of Utah a national monument, not because it contains the most endangered habitat in the U.S., but because doing so placed off-limits the world’s largest known reserves of clean-burning coal.

Control of production, not environmental protection.

Environmentalists deplore widespread private ownership of cars and trucks, even though their use allowed 93 million acres of land once devoted to grazing for horses and mules to return to forests and other agricultural uses. They warn of the threat of urban sprawl . . . even though only about 5 percent of the land in the U.S. is developed. They call for less investment in roads, even though the resulting congestion generates more air pollution.

Control of production, not environmental protection.

These are just a few examples of how environmentalists say they want environmental protection, but their actions seem to place state control or ownership of the means of production above the environment. One is compelled to ask: Is greater state control of production an unintended, or intended, consequence of nearly all of the radical environmentalists’ agenda?

This short review does make Dr. Williams and Father Sirico look like a couple of pretty smart guys.