Let technology lead the way

Let technology lead the way
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Heads of state are huddling this week in New York City for a mini-climate conference leading up to next year’s summit in Paris. Expect a lot of speeches but not much else.

Despite what the president may say in his speech, heavy-handed regulations and promises will do almost nothing to impact global climate change. The president’s friends in Hollywood might be impressed by his speech. But it’s the American people who are left with the tab. 

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By eliminating affordable, reliable power options, these regulations will increase energy prices for the majority of Americans. That means everything will cost more — from electricity to gasoline to food. Higher costs will drive companies out of business, kill good jobs and leave even more Americans unemployed. And for what?

Last week before the Science, Space and Technology Committee, both the acting assistant administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Air and Radiation and the president’s top science adviser, John Holdren, conceded that the EPA’s new carbon regulations will only have a small impact on climate change.

The EPA’s own data show these regulations would eliminate less than 1 percent of global carbon emissions. This would reduce sea level rise by the thickness of a mere three sheets of paper. The plan is all pain and no gain.

The EPA’s mandates will be difficult for states to meet, even under ideal circumstances. If energy prices or the demand for energy were to rise, the costs of these mandates will soar. But these regulations reach beyond just power plants. The EPA wants to control the entire electric system, including the amount of electricity Americans use in their homes.

Until this administration can propose a detailed strategy, tell us the total cost and show us exactly what we will get for the sacrifice, we are just asking the American people to waste their money. There are better, more effective ways to address climate change.

Our country is blessed with abundant natural resources, but this should not make us complacent. America’s energy history is full of innovative technologies that unlocked new possibilities. 

Coal led the industrial revolution in the United States. Thomas Edison’s electric light bulb displaced candles and kerosene lamps. Nuclear science catapulted America to superpower status. And recently, the shale revolution helped prevent the United States from falling into an economic depression. 

I can’t tell you what the next cutting-edge energy technology will be. But the government has no business picking winners and losers through regulatory fiat or market-distorting subsidies. Americas’ energy policy should rely on three fundamental principles: (1) reliability, (2) affordability and (3) balancing environmental impact. 

The government should not use its regulatory power to deliberately undercut one industry for the purposes of advancing another. Nor should the government give subsidies that overwhelmingly favor one technology and then claim success when that technology provides only miniscule gains. That would be a hollow victory.

The good news is that our national laboratories are working with the private sector and continue to conduct energy research and development to find the next breakthrough in American energy independence. We, as policymakers, need to maintain the commitment that the United States will always be a technology leader.  But it’s the scientists, researchers, engineers and inventors who turn this vision into reality.

The president wants us to believe that today’s antiquated regulatory structure will address climate change. The EPA continues to march forward with inflexible new climate regulations. But the administration has failed to fully consider all of the impacts these regulations will have on the electric system and the American economy. Regulatory red tape only increases prices. And the negative economic impacts will only hinder our efforts to reduce emissions by slowing the development of clean energy technologies. 

China and India have no interest in regulations that will slow their economic growth. They do want access to technologies for clean and efficient energy. Instead of a punitive regulatory structure, our focus should be on the technologies that will allow the U.S. and the rest of the world to use their resources, while decreasing emissions.    

America cannot afford to drive its economy over a cliff with the hopes that the rest of the world will make the same mistake. Harnessing the great American legacy of entrepreneurship and innovation will let technology lead.      

Smith has represented Texas’s 21st Congressional District since 1987. He is chairman of in the Science, Space and Technology Committee.