The last several months have been greatly encouraging for climate advocates. From the administration’s efforts to regulate power plants, to the Pope’s visit, to the international agreement in Paris, there is growing impetus toward a low carbon economy. At the same time, through a series of technological breakthroughs, America is producing dramatically more energy and using far less than anticipated only a decade ago. The result is that America is once again an energy superpower poised to confront economic, security and climate challenges from a position of strength.
Despite these significant changes, the right and left are stuck in a caricatured debate in which some of the loudest voices express disinterest in science while others openly disregard economics. Executive branch action is meaningful in the short term, but it is not possible to achieve effective energy and climate policy absent broad-based congressional support. Rather than capitalizing on the opportunity to build a forward-looking coalition that supports energy abundance and climate action, many continue to invest time and resources in symbolic battles that are irrelevant to climate change. These needless conflicts deepen the political divide that must be bridged to develop policy that respects both science and economics.
The current example of unnecessary discord is the oil export debate. Allowing U.S. companies to compete in the global oil market does not impact the amount of oil used or carbon emissions. Global oil use and the resulting carbon emissions are determined by the demand for oil. Crude oil exported from the United States will displace crude oil produced in other places. Simply put, lifting the anachronistic crude oil ban is not a climate issue.