The U.S. civil rights revolution of the 1950s and ’60s was one of the greatest social and political liberations in history. It gave African-Americans and other minorities new opportunities and new levels of success in virtually every walk of life.
But today we face unprecedented new challenges to indispensable but often neglected rights enunciated in our Declaration of Independence: “That all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
These fundamental rights are under assault in subtle, often insidious ways. Sometimes it is with the best of intentions, by good people who don’t realize they are impairing other people’s rights, hopes and dreams. At other times, it is by people who are willing, even determined, to sacrifice individual rights in the name of a proclaimed threat or greater common good.
One critical challenge involves restrictions on access to energy and economic opportunity – and thus on liberties and rights – in the name of protecting the environment.
Energy is the master resource of modern society. It transforms constitutionally protected civil rights into rights we actually enjoy: jobs, homes, transportation, health care and other earmarks of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. With abundant, reliable, affordable energy, much is possible. Without it, hope, opportunity, progress, job creation and civil rights are hobbled.
Laws and policies that restrict access to America’s abundant energy drive up the price of fuel and electricity. They cause widespread layoffs and leave workers and families struggling to survive, as the cost of everything they eat, drive, wear and do spirals higher. They roll back the progress for which civil rights revolutionaries like the Rev. Martin Luther King struggled and died.
They create unnecessary obstacles to the natural, justifiable desire of minority Americans to share in the American Dream. They prevent us from resolving conflicts through compromise and impose needless and unfair burdens on our poorest families. These regressive, energy-killing laws and policies deny minority and other poor families a seat at the energy lunch counter and send us to the back of the economic bus.
The Congress of Racial Equality and I care deeply about our environment. But we also care about having jobs, and affordable food, heat and transportation. We care about impoverished Third World families achieving their dreams.
We want to know that the environmental values we cherish really are threatened the way environmental activists say they are. And we want to know that the solutions they advocate really will safeguard those values, at reasonable cost, without creating enormous new problems, like global grain shortages.
Today, unfortunately, these common-sense requests are under assault by activists who want to eliminate fossil fuels, base public policies on unfounded ecological scare stories, and stifle debate by attacking anyone who challenges their assertions.
Energy reality must no longer be denied. Fully 85 percent of all the energy Americans use comes from fossil fuels. Add in nuclear and hydroelectric power, and we’ve reached 96 percent. Biomass (3 percent) is mostly waste from paper mills and sawmills.
A mere 0.8 percent is wind and solar power. These renewable sources are not alternatives to fossil fuel use. They are supplements. Just to provide electricity to meet New York City’s needs would require blanketing Connecticut with 300-foot-tall wind turbines that generate power only eight hours a day, on average. That is neither economically nor ecologically sustainable.
Read the rest of this piece at The Washington Times.