The Effects of Radical Environmentalism on American Business: A Response to a Loyal Reader

OK, I am not usually one given to responding to critics. I pause, enjoy a chuckle as I read them and then I move on, but Jim Graham's comments to my recent article entitled “Wrapping up the Current Economic Crisis” I think deserve an answer. He wrote:

"Radical environmentalist agenda"? WTF are you smoking? You call 8 years of pandering to Big Oil, including an illegal war to open oil fields to pad Cheney's wallets a "Radical Environmental Agenda?"


Well, yeah, that is a pretty radical attack on the environment... OK, never mind. You are right. (Far right, right enough to be consistently wrong, but right,)

Thank you, Jim. Your comment offers me such an embarrassment of liberal cliché riches I really don't know where to begin. Perhaps we should get the trivia out of the way and start with the idea that the Iraq war is somehow padding Dick Cheney's wallets.

The Padding of Dick Cheney's Wallets

I guess a guy who has that much padding needs more than one wallet. You are, of course, referring to his employment by the energy company Halliburton and allegations of continuing association between the Vice President and that company. Here are the facts:

  • Cheney resigned from Halliburton in 2000.

  • Cheney has not used his capacity as Vice President to assist Halliburton during his tenure.

  • Cheney was given a heads-up in 2003 when the Department of Defense gave Halliburton a sole-source contract to help restore Iraqi oil production

  • Halliburton took out an insurance policy for Cheney to protect him from high legal fees if he should be named in any pending litigation against the company. That was in 2003 as well.

I can see where you went wrong, Jim. You think that past employment by an oil company equals current corrupt bargains, a perfectly understandable position since you also seem somewhat unfamiliar with the Vice President's pay arrangements with his former employer. According to our friends at FactCheck.org, “Cheney doesn't gain a penny from Halliburton's contracts, and almost certainly won't lose even if Halliburton goes bankrupt. The [2004 John Kerry] ad claims Cheney got $2 million from Halliburton "as vice president," which is false. Actually, nearly $1.6 million of that was paid before Cheney took office. More importantly, all of it was earned before he was a candidate, when he was the company's chief executive.” Looks like the worst thing Cheney did was to put off some salary payments, a tactic sometimes used to lower tax liability for a given year. The key here is that any money he got from Halliburton was money owed to him for work performed as CEO, not work done after becoming Vice President. Unfortunately, that little detail was somehow lost when the story was reported in the media. Perhaps the contract to get Iraqi oil should have gone to a company with no American ties whatsoever. That way we could have been certain that Cheney wasn't involved and would have no opportunity at all to pad anything. I believe that Hugo Chavez has an oil company that might have worked for you.

Now, your charge that the eight years of the Bush Administration, hardly a shining example of presidential success but not the worst we've seen, has been “8 years of pandering to Big Oil.” Really? How has the government pandered to Big Oil? If they really had, we would see oil rigs all over the place, ANWR would be a derrick farm, we would have many more refineries, and we would probably be seeking membership in OPEC rather than enduring the sorry spectacle of the President of the United States going off to beg a little more production from the Saudi king like Bob Cratchet asking Scrooge for another lump of coal. On top of that, the profit margins of Big Oil would be more in line with Starbucks and our gasoline prices would be close to what we were paying in the 1980s. The mere fact that none of this has happened pretty much disproves the idea that the last eight years were the Years of Big Oil. On the other hand, the fact does lead one to an inescapable conclusion: America's energy industry has been hamstrung for decades by a radical environmental movement dedicated to 1) Protecting owls and small fish at the expense of American culture and prosperity; and 2) Justifying their own existence.

The Legacy to Business of the Radical Environmental Movement

Let's see a few of the things that these fine, tree-hugging scions of the Earth have accomplished through legislation and litigation viz-a-viz the resources necessary to keep American society chugging along:

  • Stopped new oil refinery construction for over 25 years.

  • Stopped new nuclear power plant construction for over 25 years.

  • Restricted and in many places stopped new domestic oil exploration in areas of known oil reserves.

  • Worked hard to raise fuel taxes across the country.

  • Worked to lock up private lands in the U. S. for biospheres and wildlife corridors without compensating the owners of those private lands they want to take.

  • Encouraged malaria and other pest-borne illnesses in Africa (where it is the #1 killer of children) and other developing regions by working to outlaw the pesticide DDT.

  • Weighed down business with dubious environmental regulations.

  • Stopped major energy projects for the benefit of small fish and plants.

  • Decimated the logging industry in the Pacific Northwest over a bird.

This last deserves some special attention because we are not just talking about the jobs of people who cut down trees. We are also talking about mill operators and wood product manufacturers, retailers and many others associated with the logging industry. Companies were put out of business, many had to file bankruptcy and an entire culture was torn to pieces over a spotted owl. Was it worth it? I mean, did you get up this morning and thank the Lord for the continued existence of the Spotted Owl or the Snail Darter in the exact spots where they were found? I am sure that the people put out of work because of this are not singing the praises of the Spotted Owl, and that is really what all this comes down to: Jobs.

High energy prices, restricted land use, onerous regulations, high taxation and an emphasis on anything except keeping people working all have one thing in common: They all work to increase unemployment, but for the folks in the environmental movement, that kind of loss is acceptable. Why not? They are not likely to be profoundly affected by the deleterious results of their agenda. They don't seem to care that their efforts hurt business because they don't seem to equate that—business--with people's quality of life.

The problem is that these policies have hurt people. They have hurt our nation and they have hurt our economy. High energy prices, sending astronomical sums of money overseas for oil, have done more to damage our economy than all of the “corrupt” Wall Street companies or greedy bankers. The effects on small business has been particularly painful, raising the costs of doing business by raising the costs of transportation and energy; fueling inflation, which leads to higher prices and unemployment as businesses struggle to maintain their profits. Remember, small business is the cradle of 80% to 90% of the jobs we have in this country. Small business suffers, employment suffers. They go hand-in-hand. This was the trend long before Wall Street's problems came to light and if the radical environmentalists had their way, it would be the trend that small businesses would have to contend with far into the future.

Happily, that is changing. For the first time in decades, Congress has allowed the oil drilling ban to expire—it would have been political suicide for Pelosi and company not to—and people weary of high energy prices are taking a new, critical look at the effects of 30 years of radical environmental policies. You see, Jim, we are talking about a generational problem now, not the misguided policies of a single presidency. 2008 marked the year when the real results of radical environmentalism came to the surface and affected, exactly as predicted, everyone.

Don't get me wrong, I like green. I like the idea of recycling and wind power and solar energy. I like the idea of not turning the Earth into one big landfill and I think alternative fuels are cool. I drive a hybrid, and if I ever find a gas station that offers E85 fuel, I will be happy to fill my tank with it and chalk-up one for Mother Earth. On the other hand, I have to be realistic as well. We actually need all the things that the environmental movement has tried to deny us for low these many years, and we need them now. If this country is to thrive, which means that if business—especially small business—is to thrive, then these costs have to come down. The only way we can do that legitimately is to increase the availability of energy in the forms of oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear and yes, wind, solar and water power, too. We have to lower the regulatory burden on small businesses as well, especially since they pay 45% more per employee to comply with those regulations. All that has to change, but if the economically insulated folks in the radical environmental movement have their way, nothing will change.

Environmentalism will never really enjoy the kind of widespread support it does at the UN until the majority of people are personally and economically secure. We can look at all this in accordance with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. This is a psychological theory that is often depicted as a pyramid consisting of five levels: the first lower level is being associated with Physiological needs, while the top levels are termed growth needs associated with psychological needs. Deficiency needs must be met first. Once these are met, seeking to satisfy growth needs drives personal growth. The higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus when the lower needs in the pyramid are satisfied. Once an individual has moved upwards to the next level, needs in the lower level will no longer be prioritized. If a lower set of needs is no longer being met, the individual will temporarily re-prioritize those needs by focusing attention on the unfulfilled needs, but will not permanently regress to the lower level.

Environmentalism is one of the higher needs on the scale, and for those who exist at that level it may be perfectly rational to prefer an owl to the livelihood of a logger and the security needs of his family. The problem is that most of us are not there, and many who were there have since dropped back again. This should not have been a surprise to anyone familiar with the Maslow's theory, which was apparently born out when gas prices hit the roof and people suddenly began to change their long-held and seemingly unassailable positions against oil drilling as a blight on the environment because they recognized that their security was being threatened, and the threat was coming from the edicts of radical environmentalism.

The Bottom Line

If none of this proves the point, I have one more suggestion: Now that the drilling ban is gone, watch congress and watch the courts. See what gets proposed, get to the heart of the litigation, and see who wins and who loses should the pro-environmental side win the day. It won't take long for the radical environmental movement to prove my point for me.