Fighting for civil rights with affordable, secure, and clean energy
Review of: Energy Keepers Energy Killers: The New Civil Rights Battle
By: Roy Innis, Chairman, Congress of Racial Equality
Merril Press, 2008, 103 pages
Review by: Jason Hayes, M.E.Des., Communications Director, American Coal Council
Orifinally web-published: Sun, 2009-02-15 14:53
Abundant/secure, affordable, and clean energy has suddenly become a whole lot more than just an energy issue.
In his latest book, Energy Keepers Energy Killers: The New Civil Rights Battle, Congress of Racial Equality Chairman, Roy Innis demonstrates convincingly how energy supply issues are moving into the area of civil and human rights.
In this book, Innis has focused more than six decades of experience in the civil rights arena, his indomitable spirit, and an unfailing commitment to the cause of working class and minority rights on the issue of energy production. After demonstrating that much of the energy we use in the U.S.A. comes from reserves on public (federal and state) lands , Innis argues that the owners of those resources – the citizens of the country – have every legal and moral right to see their energy resources developed. He argues that the supply of secure and affordable energy is the basis upon which our entire economy flourishes. Therefore, if we are to maintain a thriving economy, it is essential that these valuable national resources be developed.
To the extent that those resources are developed sustainably, he recognizes that all citizens (especially minorities and the poor) benefit from the stable supply of energy. Where these resources are locked up in “Energy Graveyards” (or protected areas), or their development is hampered by a never-ending string of legal challenges, environmental regulations, and legislative hurdles, energy prices increase, harming all citizens (but, once again, especially the poor and minorities). Innis argues that an elite group of politicians and environmentalists – the “Energy Killers” – have made blocking the development and supply of affordable, abundant/secure energy into a multi-national and multi-billion dollar business.
In one example of their effective anti-energy campaigns, Innis describes the off limits supplies of natural gas locked up under the Rocky Mountains. Some 167 trillion cubic feet of “recoverable natural gas … enough to heat 64 million homes for 40 years” exists under the mountains. However, over 40 percent – 69 trillion cubic feet – of that resource “has been put off limits by environmentalists lobbying and legal actions.”
He continues by describing the convoluted politicking and ideologies that were involved in the creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. While the preservation of this 1.7 million-acre landmass certainly protected valuable natural landscapes, it also locked up some 7 billion tons of valuable bituminous coal. Innis writes that, against the wishes of the elected representatives of Utah, the creation of this protected area locked up essentially seven years worth of the nation’s coal demand, trillions in economic benefits, thousands of jobs, and countless other economic and social development opportunities with the stroke of one presidential pen.
Since their actions have so profound and disproportionate an impact on the poor and minorities, and since the majority of the Energy Killers do little to nothing to reduce their own gluttonous consumption of energy and resources or to stem their production of greenhouse gas emissions, Innis is convinced their actions are the latest form of institutionalized racism and class warfare. He is further convinced that it is up to the rest of the people to stand up and stop the Energy Killers from making affordable energy a thing of the past.
In the early part of the book, Innis describes the makeup of our energy consumption and supplies. He asks the reader to consider what life without “abundant, reliable, affordable energy” would be like and then suggests that our supply of “energy transforms the civil rights enshrined in our Constitution into civil rights we enjoy in reality.”
While most simply take our well-being and rights for granted, Innis contends that unless the energy and policy options offered by politicians and environmentalists 1) provide more energy, and 2) lower the cost of energy, Innis argues they are not realistic solutions. Their polices will, in fact, damage our ability to survive by forcing people to choose between energy and food, or “heating and eating,” as Innis puts it.
Innis provides a wealth of energy-related statistics, such as the fact that fossil fuels currently provide almost 85 percent of all American energy . He notes that the remainder of our energy use is powered by nuclear supplies (~8 percent) and renewables (~7 percent). He also takes a poke at the politics and science (and politics and politics) surrounding global warming by pointing out the historically variable nature of the Earth’s CO2 levels and climate and the “almost unanimous” fear of global cooling that plagued scientists just three decades ago. With a solid array of examples, he demonstrates that much of the debate surrounding climate change has moved into the realm of hyperbole and scare tactics. He provides science and statistics on global climate, questions our increasing reliance on computer models over real-world data, and likens the heightened state of climate change rhetoric to ads for upcoming horror flicks – complete with fire, flood, famine, and fatalities.
While we hear many concerned calls to remove fossil fuels from our energy supply as a means of stopping “human-caused catastrophic climate chaos,” Innis demonstrates that we cannot simply replace 85 percent of our energy supply without extensive costs and social/economic/environmental disruption. Additionally, he argues forcefully that were we to somehow accomplish this titanic goal, few of our competitors and customers around the world would follow in our footsteps.
Projections for fossil energy use around the world continue to grow. So, by restricting our own energy use and abandoning the development of more efficient fossil fuel technologies we would effectively hamstring our industry and ensure our inability to compete in world markets. Innis’ thesis is, therefore, that the “Energy Keepers” must “keep and protect” fossil fuel use from the activities and plans of the “Energy Killers.”
In “Energy Keepers Energy Killers,” Innis has put together a strong argument for giving the issue of energy development a long, hard second look. While many previous works have dealt with the science, or the economics of changing energy policies, few have seriously considered the impacts of our energy choices on civil rights, or the rights of the poor or minorities, or the fact that the middle class majority – already stretched thin in the current economic downturn – will foot the bill for most of the green energy policies being bandied about various capital cities.
Innis clearly has the background and experience to address the issue and his in your face call to action has the potential to motivate the silent majority of citizens and energy users into the public policy realm.