Energy and Climate Wars

A Review of Energy and Climate Wars by Peter Glover and Michael J. Economides

The title of Peter Glover's and Michael J. Economides' Energy and Climate Wars: How Naïve Politicians, Green Ideologues, and Media Elites are Undermining the Truth About Energy an Climate fails to do the work justice. While the subtitle accurately reflects the book's fast-paced, biting tone, underneath Energy and Climate Wars is a smart and philosophically principled exposition of the ideological origins of the allegedly scientific climate discussion, freshly identifying the fundamentally unfounded and utopian aspects of the left's attempt to remake the world to their liking.

The book, intentionally or not, serves as a quick, 250-page, comprehensive guide to the current energy and climate debate, filling the first few chapters with many of the basic conservative talking points against renewable energy and so-called green jobs. The attacks, while well-defended, merely reinforce information that is well-chronicled and readily available from a myriad of other sources, including the arguments set forth by Economides' co-editor of Energy Tribune, Robert Bryce, in his books Gusher of Lies and Power Hungry. One looking to disparage what the authors call the left's "Wishful Thinking Syndrome" will find thorough refutation of wind power and of the failure of green jobs initiatives and other government subsidies of renewable energy projects in both the United States and Europe.

The authors also exhaustively explore the two dominant myths pervading the public's thought and discourse on energy policy: global warming and peak oil, the latter referring to the notion that we have reached the peak of oil production and that we will potentially face severe shortages of the non-renewable resource in the future. The authors' brash tone shines through clearly as they heatedly, and desperately, plead for intellectual honesty in the non-renewable debate. Nonetheless, they convincingly present the case that a peak of oil production is not in our indefinite future and that a peak in demand is more likely to arrive first as energy technology improves. Their case for peak oil and energy transition skepticism is similar to the clear-eyed approach offered by Vaclav Smil.

The true value in the book lies not with their analysis of energy and climate science, but with their examination of the political and ideological wars that lie at the root of the policy debate. It is here that they make their contribution certain to please the Burkean conservatives among their readers: radical environmentalism is not about objective review of science, but instead is a component of an ideologically motivated, fantastical attempt to remake the world into a global, centrally planned green community, one without the evil Big Oil. In this way, the book provides a very useful response to Eric Pooley's popular 2010 work, The Climate War, which offered an unreflective exaltation of Al Gore, Fred Krupp, and the entire environmental movement while denigrating any climate skepticism as disingenuous scholarship motivated solely by fossil fuel dollars.

There is a religious character to this radical form of environmentalism, and it begins with the emerging guilt attributed to Western capitalism for polluting the planet. Despite objective facts to the contrary, the left has managed to establish carbon dioxide emissions as the "Great Satan," as the authors term it, elevating its defeat to the highest of moral causes. One can see the attractiveness of this premise in the alternative narrative that forms in this religion: unregulated capitalism is the culprit and, more significantly, the solution is to defeat this culprit through centralization and cooperation. In this narrative, environmentalism is a class struggle between the enlightened and the polluting capitalists.

The authors extensively expose this nexus between central planning and environmentalism which leftists in both the European Union and the United States government are seizing upon as an opportunity to promote their economic and political agendas. Borrowing Thomas Sowell's ideological classifications, it is then the unconstrained nature of this environmental religion that becomes its most easily identifiable flaw.

In what the authors term the "energy disconnect," those who possess the enlightened knowledge of the need to remake our economy, and the limitless estimation of the capabilities of renewable energies, are consistently revealed to have ignored the reality of the environmental and political facts. Renewable energy cannot hold the key to solve whatever crisis may exist, and coerced cooperation at an international level -- as the failure of Kyoto illustrates -- is a pleasant-sounding yet fruitless endeavor. But in the left's unconstrained vision for a greener world, such realities cease to matter; it is indeed a hallmark of leftist political culture that, as the authors write, these things "are simply a matter of political will."

Drawing upon the skepticism of F.A. Hayek and Margaret Thatcher, the authors expose the folly of attempting such a grand scheme through political will while ignoring the basic essentials necessary to make it work. The legitimacy derived from national sovereignty, which the EU and trans-nationalism generally seek to destroy, is left out of the political calculation.

The authors present the essentials of this analysis in the chapter titled "Trans-Nationalism and the New World Order: a Warning," the most uniquely valuable chapter of the book. The remainder focuses on the future of energy and climate struggles, revealing the implications of an unrealistic, utopian narrative dominating our thought: it distracts from the true problems that will arise in the world as viewed through the lens of our realistic constraints.

Our livelihood depends on energy, specifically the dense and efficiently harnessed energy found in non-renewable resources. With these resources available in abundance in areas of the world not yet fully tapped, such as Antarctica, this is unlikely to change in the indefinite future, and international political struggles could focus on competing national sovereignties laying claims to these resources.

The authors discuss the political conflicts already underway for these resources and make the compelling case that it is to our detriment to forge ahead with utopian international efforts to collectively wean ourselves off nonrenewable energy. For too many countries, the incentives point them in the opposite direction.

For those readers uneasy about such an ostensibly pessimistic worldview, the book's conclusion helps to put these concerns to rest.   

Upon the revelation that environmentalism and centralization are unnecessary obstacles both to economic development and to free-market improvements in clean energy technology, one is liberated from the burdensome alternative narrative written by the left. In the true narrative, the energy economy is not a class struggle between Big Oil and the enlightened; the nonrenewable sector is not anti-human, but rather a force for bringing millions out of poverty.

To speak again of moral causes, it then becomes an imperative that we rewrite the narrative in the public mind and dispense with the dangerous myths.