Earth Day 2000

Published April 1, 2000

Go online. Take a look at It’s the home page for Earth Day Network. On Earth Day, April 22, 2000 (my birthday) there will be a huge celebration sponsored by Earth Day Network on the Mall in Washington, DC. My wife and I will attend, but I’ll be wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses.

The home page tells you the game.

It’s been a blast, fossil fuels, but now we’re into payback time. Carbon pollution, great gobs of it from the U.S., is giving Mother Earth a fever. Weird weather is just the warm-up act.

The environmental community wants each of us to quit using fossil fuels and switch entirely to renewables.

Are you surprised? Are you shocked? If you are, you haven’t been paying attention. President Clinton, after all, calls the Kyoto Protocol “a good first step.” Obviously, he means a first step to a fossil fuel-free future.

It’s been clear for years that the goal of modern-day environmentalism is the elimination of fossil fuels as an energy source. Those of us in the energy business know how nonsensical this goal is. Those of us in the energy business know that the American economy succeeds because of fossil fuels, not in spite of them. Those of us in the energy business know that societies that are fossil fuel intensive are the most successful, and that people in those societies have greater health and greater wealth than societies that are less fossil energy intensive.

It’s also clear that the environmental community has the attention of the popular media and substantial backing not just from politicians, but also from the federal government generally, academia, and state governments as well. This support extends even into state capitals, where their economic health depends upon a robust fossil fuel industry.

Why is this? There’s a simple answer and it is one word: ourselves.

Industry in the United States seems incapable of standing up for itself. Industry in the United States seems incapable of telling the American people–with a consistent voice–that it’s OK to be human and OK for humans to engage in industrial activity; that industrial activity is good and not bad; that we live longer and better because of it; that more people on Earth living better ought to be our goal; and that government policies designed to the contrary are bad ideas.

The professional environmentalists may be wrong, but they are smart, well funded, and know how to collectively sing on key. A bad argument prevails when it consistently and persistently can be made with no rejoinder.

We have been at our advocacy work for 10 years. I have delivered with mixed success this message in one form or another to literally scores of executives in the coal, electric utility, oil, and natural gas industries. There are times when I feel like I’m talking to a wall.

There are many reasons for this. Some are institutional. I even admit it perhaps is due to my inability to articulate what I know to be true. But that the very individuals with the greatest economic stake give my message a mixed reaction remains a fact.

Let me say again here as clearly as I can–on the record before an audience much broader than industry executives–if industry does not get off its collective duff and take the environmental community head-on, including putting forward a well thought-out, sophisticated case as to why Earth Day Network and those in alliance with them are simply wrong, we will all lose our collective enterprises over the long term.

The view from here is that Vice President Al Gore will be the next President of the United States. Under a Gore presidency, the efforts of the last eight years to de-carbonize the American economy will intensify. But I also submit that those efforts will go on even if there is a Republican in the White House. After all, it was President George Bush who signed the Rio Treaty and put all of this in play.

You may think a de-carbonized American economy sounds like a good idea. I don’t, and not just because I’m in the fossil fuel business. I am convinced that if you agree with me and think de-carbonizing the U.S. economy is a bad idea, then it is time for you to engage. If you don’t, I submit the American economy ultimately will de-carbonize, no matter who is the next President of the United States.

Fredrick Palmer is president of the Greening Earth Society.