March 8 2012
When Environmental Laws Backfire
Carrie L. Lukas
It's hardly a surprise that environmentalists, including the U.S. Interior Department, are reluctant to acknowledge when a darling member of the green energy industry is actually harming mother nature.
As the Manhattan Institute's Robert Bryce writes in today's Wall Street Journal, environmentalists have long ignored the wind industry's affects on the bird and bat populations. A record of deaths that would result in major fines and possible jail times for other industries are swept under the rug in the name of protecting the “green” energy source, which is supposed to be a key element of fighting global warming.
For years, environmentalists similarly ignored the dark side of ethanol's production process. They liked to herald the idea of ethanol as a replacement to those twin villains of oil and coal, and ignored that subsidies for ethanol were encouraging the cutting down of rain forests and other natural resources, resulted in the use of vast amount of water, and, since ethanol isn't a very efficient as an energy source, wasn't meaningfully reducing the release of green house gases.
The public should take note though, and remember to be skeptical of those who claim to act on behalf of the environment. Sometimes their dictates are well meaning, and they simply don't anticipate some of the consequences of their actions—like that giant wind farms might massacre endangered bird populations. And sometimes there are political and money interests that undoubtedly come to play a role in creating different standards for different industries.
Americans want environmental laws that truly protect our natural resources. The rules shouldn't change depending on the players involved. Right now, it seems clear that the dream of a “green economy” has colored how environmentalists and their government allies apply the law—that's not fair to industry, to the public, or to the environment.