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The Regulators Need to Be Regulated (by Common Sense)

As Congress considers regulating the regulator—in this case the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—it should dispense with a commonly articulated misconception that this agency’s regulations on carbon emissions will create more jobs than they cost in the short-term. “Green” energy is presented in the mainstream media as though it were the next engine of our economy, but Jeffrey Taylor and Peter Van Doren point out in Forbes that this is not the case.  Wind turbines have not significantly changed in design or concept since they were first used for electronic production in the late 19th century. Today’s machines might be slightly more streamlined and efficient than their ancestors, but not nearly as efficient as fossil fuels (and also, unlike fossil fuels, they rely upon the weather).

Advocates of "green" technologies never tire of saying that their policies will create thousands of jobs, but because these technologies are less efficient, the incentives or programs which would supposedly finance these jobs would need to be paid for either in higher taxes, more borrowing, or less spending on other initiatives—a long way of saying they would cost jobs also. The third option for financing these programs—less government spending in other areas—is definitely more welcome than taxes or borrowing, but whether the government should spend less on defense or education to pay for “green” technologies is a dubious assertion.

It is unlikely that the government would take this course anyway. Most of the cost of promoting “green” technologies would probably come through energy taxes or regulation which would pinch Americans both through less employment as companies tightened their belts and through higher prices as companies off-loaded their production costs. Regardless of one’s position on the effects of carbon omissions in the atmosphere, it is not progress when regulations make citizens (who are already struggling to cover their basic needs) pay for more expensive heating and gasoline at governmentally-inflated prices.

Defenders of such policies claim that this is the only means to make alternative fuels economically viable; this will be necessary, they say, if these technologies are to ever become a credible alternative to conventional fossil fuels. The correct response to this claim is that, if such technologies cannot become economically viable on their own, they will never be a credible alternative to fossil fuels. Those concerned about the environment should instead concentrate on making the most efficient technologies more efficient: building lighter cars and more dynamic engines which can run farther on less oil, as manufacturers have been able to do in the past.

And, yes, if individual consumers want to spend their money on “green” technologies, they should not be prohibited from doing so in a free market. But they should not need a subsidy from a taxpayer or a goading from a regulator to make this decision. This is a common sense principle which should guide Congress as it considers reigning in the ability of EPA to destroy jobs through regulation.