In the early 1960s, President Kennedy challenged America to make what would be a giant leap for mankind by putting a man on the moon within the decade. Offering his own version of this challenge in a recent speech, former Vice President Al Gore called on America to transition all electricity production to “renewable” energy sources within ten years through the imposition of a tax on the burning of fossil fuels. According to Gore, all the problems currently facing America—notably the alleged “threat of climate change”—are the result of some pathological need for an expensive commodity that Gore thinks we can do without. His solution is simple: force people to forgo fossil fuels by carbon-taxing them out of existence. While Gore calls this alternative energy plan “achievable, affordable, and transformative,” it actually represents a giant leap backward for mankind.
Consider the consequences of implementing the carbon tax when renewable sources like solar and wind currently account for less than 9% of all electricity production, despite decades-long government subsidies. The alternative energy industry would wither without the government feeding tube; but with it, the industry has achieved output levels best described as comatose. Adding more taxpayer funds to the fodder, as Gore plans, will not fuel growth in the alternative energy industry. In other words, while we certainly can transition from oil and coal, the alternative fuel industry will not offer us anything to transition to.
Al Gore knows this. It is why he has not called for an outright, immediate ban on oil and coal, something one would expect from a man whose messianic message foretells imminent global destruction at the hands of fossil fuels. Gore understands that our use of oil and coal will more likely increase in the foreseeable future, and so a carbon tax is a surefire means of funding the alternative energy industry—costing taxpayers trillions in the short-term. Gore wants to have his cake and eat it too. He aims to destroy the fossil fuel industry while cashing in on its destruction, and he stands to make a killing (literally) in the process. The carbon tax is, essentially, a scheme to transfer wealth from individual and corporate taxpayers to “socially responsible” companies in which Gore and his cronies have personally invested. This is what Gore really means when he refers to the “green movement.” In the long run, however, this myopic scheme will actually yield diminishing returns for Gore—and everyone else. As the carbon tax bleeds the fossil fuel industry dry, the alternative energy industry will lose its primary source of funding and eventually vanish, as well. The demise of all electricity production will grind the motor of American life to a halt. The carbon tax may quell Gore’s concerns in the present, but it will more loudly proclaim the death knell of the future.
But suppose Gore’s call for total sacrifice to save the planet does not belie a more sinister motivation. Even then, on what facts does Al Gore conclude that a marginal change in temperature warrants the government-mandated execution of our fossil fuel industry and, with it, our way of life? Earth’s dynamic climate has changed over its 4.5 billion-year history from periods of intense heat to all-out ice ages, despite the fact that human beings only appeared on earth in the past 40 thousand years. President Kennedy did not call on men to reach for the moon by sacrificing their modern lives on earth, but that is what Al Gore would have us do now, in spite of whether his goal of creating viable alternatives to fossil fuels is desirable, practical, or necessary. His diktat-driven challenge bears the hallmark of a Soviet five-year plan, not a constitution enshrining man’s right to life, liberty, and property, including his right to produce and consume fossil fuels.
If global warming really is a problem, throwing our modern civilization and rights on a sacrificial pyre to Al Gore won’t solve it. Instead of drastically transforming the fundamental nature of our civilization, we should investigate the facts underlying the problems Gore claims fossil fuels cause and then leave individuals free—financially and politically—to solve them as required. Coercive taxation only has the power to destroy, and no matter how much Gore stands to gain in the short-term, his plan will certainly leave a path of destruction where a vibrant, fossil-fueled economy once flourished.
We must resist this, else that cynical old maxim will ring anew: death is carbon taxes.
The Undercurrent is a magazine distributed at college campuses and communities across the country. We release a print edition once per semester, and in the interim, regularly post additional articles, blog entries, and campus media responses reports to our website.
The Undercurrent's cultural commentary is based on Ayn Rand's philosophy, Objectivism. Objectivism, which animates Ayn Rand's fiction, is a systematic philosophy of life. It holds that the universe is orderly and comprehensible, that man survives by reason, that his life and happiness comprise his highest moral purpose, and that he flourishes only in a society that protects his individual rights.
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