Energy and the Environment: An inseparable pair

RANCHO SANTA FE, Ca., April 11, 2012 – As gasoline prices climb at the pump and the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) continues to expand is regulatory power, energy, and the environment have become two of the key battleground topics of the 2012 Presidential election. Unfortunately, they shouldn’t even be separate issues.

President Obama and his Republican challengers appear to be too involved in partisan politics to recognize that our energy and environmental challenges are inextricably intertwined. Instead, both factions favor a “divide and conquer” strategy that panders to the more extreme elements of their Parties in a ritual that’s known as “solidifying their base” (translation: locking in massive campaign contributions and votes).

This tradition is yet another example of how the best interests of the Parties take precedence over the best interests of the People. If it wasn’t so damaging to our country, it might even be entertaining. Consider the irony:

  • The President and his fellow Democrats have proclaimed themselves to be champions of the environment, but it was President Nixon (R) who started the EPA in 1970.
  • Conversely, the Republican candidates have positioned themselves as the bastions of oil independence, even though it was President Carter (D) who launched the Department of Energy (“DOE”) in 1977 with the express mission to eliminate our Nation’s dependence upon foreign oil.

Of course, things have changed over the years.

In its inception, the Republican-inspired EPA was a small agency focused on protecting our health and preserving our natural resources.  It has now grown to over 17,000 employees and has become a political tool of the Executive Branch.

Since the President’s “cap and trade” initiative failed to gain the support of the Legislative Branch of our Government, his Administration has attempted to use EPA regulations to circumvent Article I of the Constitution. In that regard, the President’s recent upbraiding of the Supreme Court should come as no surprise since there is no reason to believe that the Administration views Article III any differently than it does Article I.

Correspondingly, the Democrat-inspired DOE has grown to over 16,000 full-time employees and approximately 100,000 contractors with an annual operating budget in excess of $25 billion. Is that an indication of unwarranted Government expansion or does it just reflect the cost of delivering its services? The answer can be gleaned by examining the progress the DOE has made over the last 35 years toward achieving its original objective: eliminating our Nation’s dependence upon foreign oil.

The EPA and the DOE are just two examples of why we need fresh new independent leadership in Washington, D.C.

President Obama and the Republican candidates also differ on several fundamental issues. Not surprisingly, these differences are in alignment with their respective core constituencies.

The President believes in Global Warming, while the Republican candidates do not. The President asserts that it is “well-settled science” according to his experts; while the Republican candidates cite their experts’ claims that the data is biased and has been intentionally misrepresented. Then, the two camps argue their points by calling each other names (e.g., “Flat-Earthers,” “liar,” etc.). There must be a better approach.


As stewards of our Nation, we need to establish a Resource policy whose environmental foundation focuses on protecting and preserving our natural resources to the greatest degree possible for “ourselves and our Posterity.” This requires a rational reflection that distinguishes between that which can be controlled and that which cannot. It also requires a balance between risk and reward. For instance:  saving the planet from a proven source of destruction would justify considerable risk; knowingly damaging elements of our society based on theoretical beliefs would not justify the taking of such actions.

Let’s use Global Warming as an example.

“Science” is mankind’s attempt to describe and explain natural phenomena through observation and experimentation. Its purpose is to provide useful models of reality that allow us to predict outcomes within relative degrees of probability.

At the theoretical level, science often represents little more than a highly educated guess. It can only disprove a null hypothesis by observation over time.

With respect to Global Warming, there are conflicting theories with credible evidence to support both. The root cause of the phenomenon remains unproven. Therefore, objectively, Global Warming is far from being a “well-settled science.”

Before Conservative naysayers begin to celebrate, they need to consider the adverse consequences of their theory if it is in error. Even business-oriented Republicans recognize that the recurrence of an Ice Age would significantly damage the tourist industry and be bad for GDP.

Conversely, for those Liberals who may be laughing at the last comment, you cannot regulate Global Warming on a provincial basis. For example, tightly regulating greenhouse gases in the United States may theoretically slow Global Warming, but the impact is likely to be so infinitesimal (if even measurable) that it would fall within the margin of error. The reality is that EPA regulations do not impact China, India, etc.; countries whose unbridled industrial growth is likely to offset any impact that EPA regulations might provide.

It also is imperative that we distinguish “controllable” from “non-controllable” with respect to issues such as Global Warming. To the degree that we can “control” outcomes, we should err on the side of caution and take well-reasoned steps to protect and preserve our environment.  To the degree that we cannot control the outcome, we should not impose meaningless regulations that negatively impact other relevant policies (as can be explored through the use of  The FREEDOM Process).

From a “control” perspective, most environmental regulations should be geographically and temporally constrained. Water and air regulations, specific to a defined geographic area (before natural dissipation renders such regulations irrelevant), have merit; pretending such regulations have sovereign impact beyond our borders does not.   

Another rule we should follow is to preclude the use of environmental regulations as tools of political fiat. Let’s allow the Constitution to remain the “law of the land.”

For example: by proclaiming carbon dioxide to be a greenhouse gas that must be regulated, the EPA is able to indirectly incorporate “cap and trade” restrictions that the United States Congress failed to endorse. This flies in the face of President Obama’s recent comments that suggested the Supreme Court would be participating in judicial activism if it were to take the “unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.” Surely, a Cabinet-level agency cannot be exempt from a similar concern.

We also should apply common sense to temper our regulatory zeal. Let’s use carbon dioxide once again as an example.

The EPA is working diligently to control the expulsion of this troublesome greenhouse gas.  However, there is something even more troublesome about carbon dioxide: it is necessary for life on this planet. It is the byproduct of breathing. Oxygen goes in; carbon dioxide comes out. If we took a poll, most of us would have a favorable opinion of breathing.

Correspondingly, it is important to realize how oxygen is created in our atmosphere. You guessed it: carbon dioxide is involved. Plants use the carbon dioxide we exhale (in combination with water) during the process of photosynthesis. The resultant byproduct is oxygen. So, let’s not regulate carbon dioxide out of existence just yet.

Our Nation’s Resource policy should also address our energy needs in a cogent manner. There are two essential categories of energy to consider: renewable and non-renewable.

Renewable energy offers the extraordinary advantage of self-replenishment.  Its sources are theoretically unlimited (i.e., biomass, geothermal, solar, water, wind), and its environmental impact is comparatively non-existent. The challenge is that our current level of technology generally does not convert these sources into usable energy in an efficient manner and at a competitive price.

Non-renewable energy is more efficiently harnessed and consumed by our existing technology. This provides a considerable economic advantage to these sources in the near term. Given our current economic climate, this short-term advantage is of considerable importance. However, because such sources are by definition non-renewable, they are disadvantaged in the very long term because they may ultimately be exhausted.

The four most utilized non-renewable energy sources are oil (and petroleum products), natural gas, coal, and uranium according to the DOE (after all, we should get something for $25 billion a year). Each of these familiar energy sources also creates potential environmental hazards, to wit: oil (air, water, and ground pollution associated with spills); natural gas (water pollution associated with fracking); coal (air pollution); and uranium (air, water and ground pollution associated with failed containment and the collateral consequences of nuclear threats).

The key is to develop a comprehensive energy policy that is attentive to near-term needs and capabilities while being mindful of our long-term obligation to provide a safe and resource-rich environment to future generations.  It is irresponsible to pretend that there are no countervailing forces that must drive our short and long-term strategies when it comes to energy and the environment. Party politics must be put aside, and the People must be told the truth. Legitimate options exist to create a sophisticated Resource policy that will ensure everyone’s best interest rather than pandering to the needs of a few.  We will explore such options in the next article in this series by using The FREEDOM Process to vet the issue of oil.


T.J. O’Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States and the first nominee of the Whig Party in over 150 years.

This article first appeared in T.J. O’Hara’s recurring column, A President for the People, in the Communities section of The Washington Times.