The recent “Group of Eight,” or G8, summit of the world’s leading economies produced a pledge to cut global greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050. G8 leaders also “called for an increase in oil production and refining capacities . . . .”
As a newspaper editorial-from, ironically enough, the Middle East-noted, there was a seeming contradiction in these statements: Burning what are called fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; so calling for increased oil production while pledging to cut “greenhouse gas emissions” in half is a little like pledging to lose weight while doubling the number of pizza deliveries to your home.
Contradiction or not, the G8 leaders got it right.
Many discussions of energy policy treat two somewhat related-but separate-issues as if they were inescapably intertwined: the need for energy security, and the campaign against man-made, or “anthropogenic,” global warming.
Many environmentalists insist that our energy independence must be achieved in a way that does not increase greenhouse gas emissions. So, increasing domestic oil and gas production and building cleaner coal-burning plants are depicted as backward thinking.
Instead, we are told, $150-a-barrel (or higher) oil should be replaced with renewable sources of energy like wind and solar. From this perspective, the G8′s call for an “increase in oil production” shows a lack of seriousness or commitment to combating man-made global warming.
Actually, what it shows is the ability to distinguish between a real threat and a hypothetical one.
No serious person denies the threat posed by high oil prices. But the same cannot be said for man-made global warming. While you have probably heard that the “debate is over” about global warming, in many ways it is just getting started-at least, in earnest.
For example, back in March, hundreds of scientists endorsed a declaration that read, in part, “There is no convincing evidence that CO2 emissions from modern industrial activity has in the past, is now, or will in the future cause catastrophic climate change.” In the absence of this “convincing evidence,” they declared that the notion of a consensus among climate experts is “false.”
For their trouble, these scientists are scorned and compared to Holocaust-deniers. Still, their conclusions are based on real world observations instead of predictions made by climate models.
Even among scientists who believe that man-made global warming is real, there is no agreement on its extent, or what best to do about it.
So while that debate goes on, there is one debate that is clearly settled: We need more oil. For America, as I said yesterday on “BreakPoint,” the choice is very clear: Start offshore drilling, or risk destroying our economy and endangering the national security.
That brings me back to the G8 summit. Even greener-than-thou Europeans are protesting the high price of fuel. Their leaders, like ours, are rightly worried about oil prices destroying the world economy-the kind of worry that should, and must be, first priority.