Climate Action

Is Environmentalism Killing the American Dream? 

The second 2024 Republican debate took place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library last night in Simi Valley, California. Candidates wasted no time in discussing energy and environmentalism- but what did they say and how much of it passes the truth test?

Drilling, Fracking, Coal, and Nuclear Energy

Successful businessman, Vivek Ramaswamy, believes our country’s economic revival lies in American energy, stating: “Fracking, drilling, burning coal, and embracing nuclear energy. This is how we make America great again.”

In 2022, the United States of America was the number one oil producing and consuming country, with 21 and 20 percent of shares, respectively, worldwide. And, according to the American Petroleum Institute (API), the oil and natural gas industry is responsible for 9.8 million jobs for the American people. It accounts for 80 percent of our country’s energy and is expected to provide $1.6 trillion dollars (only 12% of our country’s debt) in federal and state tax revenue by 2025. 

South Carolina State Senator, Tim Scott, believes 3.5 million jobs could be created “if we unleashed all our energy resources.” An impressive notion given oil and gas extraction, which refers to job opportunities specifically for removing crude oil and natural gas from the ground, accounts for just 118,700 jobs

Nonetheless, there is a significant discrepancy in the estimates. The oil industry argues further restrictions on fracking and federal leasing for oil and gas extraction could jeopardize up to 7.5 million American jobs. However, a 2020 study conducted by Food & Water Watch revealed a different reality, indicating the oil and gas industry collectively employed approximately 541,000 individuals directly.

This notable contrast in figures most likely stems from the API’s’ inclusive approach’, which combines direct, indirect, and induced positions to assert the fossil fuel industry supports a staggering 9 million jobs.

Renewable Energy: Good or Bad?

One side of the ‘American Energy’ story seemingly less popular with the candidates on the stage last night was renewable energy. 

The shift towards renewable energy creates more jobs compared to fossil fuel extraction, primarily due to technological advancements.Only 20 percent of energy in the US comes from the renewable sector. Yet it has seen a 3.8 percent job increase from 2021 to 2022, employing 8.1 million Americans with numbers only expecting only to increase

Notably, since 2021, jobs related to electric and hybrid vehicles have seen significant growth, increasing by 26.2 and 19.7 percent, respectively. Similarly, solar energy (5.4 percent), wind energy (2.9 and percent), and energy efficiency (2.7 percent) jobs are all experiencing steady growth. 

In Texas alone, wind and solar power have outpaced all other states in electricity generation since 2006. According to the U.S. Energy & Employment Jobs report, Texas’ clean energy sector accounts for 880,692 jobs statewide, constituting 10.8 percent of all U.S. clean energy employment. And since 2020, energy jobs in the state have increased by 30,903 jobs, or 3.6 percent. 

This data, combined with the fact Texas currently holds the second-strongest economy in the US, highlights the critical contribution of renewable energy to economic expansion and employment opportunities. One can’t help but imagine the immense economic possibilities ahead as we further invest in the flourishing clean energy industry.

Going Green is an Existential Threat?

North Dakota governor, Doug Burnum, went as far as to state, “climate policy is an existential threat to America’s future.” 

The fact of the matter is climate change is not a conjecture, but a scientifically substantiated reality. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states,  “Since systematic scientific assessments began in the 1970s, the influence of human activity on the warming of the climate system has evolved from theory to established fact.”

Global temperatures and sea levels are rising, our oceans are warming, ice sheets are shrinking, and weather patterns are becoming increasingly erratic. The urgency to address these challenges cannot be overstated. 

It is hard to understand how climate policy represents an existential problem. But even former governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, suggested going green is a ‘serious threat to national security’. 

Renewable energy production and manufacturing fosters energy independence, bolstering national security by reducing global reliance on Russia for energy and China for manufacturing. Embracing sustainable practices and transitioning towards renewable energy sources is not a threat. In fact, evidence strongly suggests renewables as our key to national security. 

$20 Billion Green New Deal and Bidenomics

For former Vice President, Mike Pence, both “Bidenomics” and the twenty billion dollar green deal need to be kicked to the curb. He claimed those two things, while good for Beijing, are bad for America. 

The $20 billion green deal was announced  as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. This initiative aims to establish a clean energy financing network, significantly boosting investments in projects combating pollution on a national scale. The green deal is set to be funded through the Inflation Reduction Act, demonstrating a commitment to fighting climate change while stimulating economic growth. 

The deal promises job creation to build renewable energy infrastructure, market expansion into clean energy projects, and much more – all which would seem to help our economy. But can it promise more for the American people than the expansive energy bill our chambers passed this March? This opposing bill, which all presidential candidates from the Republican party voted in favor of,  would promote speedier approvals of oil, gas, and coal developments.

Where Does This Leave Us? Energy Independence

In the pursuit of economic prosperity and energy self-sufficiency, the discourse on the influence of oil and gas in shaping America’s future is complex. As mentioned by former Vice President, Mike Pence, the strategy for America to ‘reclaim our energy independence’ involves the utilization of federal lands and adopting a comprehensive energy approach. However, it’s crucial to acknowledge the United States’ reliance on foreign oil is primarily driven by the refining industry’s demand for heavy crude oil. This underscores the point that if we relied on energy sources abundant in the US (like wind and solar energy), we could and would already be an energy independent nation.

Overall, it was a confusing debate leaving the audience to believe fracking and expanding the fossil fuel industry may be how we create jobs and ensure national security. But perhaps the New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie summed it best, “we need to be pro-innovation and pro-progress” if we want to see the US thrive. Renewable energy and migrating away from fossil fuels is a way for these things to happen harmoniously for not only our economy, but also our environment.