Whether environmentalists know it or not, there is a strong, “Environmental Justice Case for Domestic Oil Production.”
From an environmental justice perspective, it makes little sense to import our oil from countries like Venezuela and Iran.
Besides the fact that doing so will mean enriching the regimes of brutal dictators ruthlessly suppressing the people they claim to represent- rather than improving the lives of working-class Iranians or Venezuelans- there are other reasons.
Working-class people in Venezuela and Iran do not enjoy the same level of labor laws and environmental regulations as U.S. workers.
From an environmental standpoint, and from an environmental justice standpoint, does it make more moral sense for wealthy nations to produce their own fossil fuels? Or does it make more sense for wealthy nations to foist that work on emerging nations which lack robust labor and environmental standards?
Considering impoverished people in developing nations, there is a good, practical, environmental and social justice case for producing more cheap, plentiful fossil fuel energy; not less. And the faster, the better.
In the long-term, which is really the short-term, the faster emerging nations can fully emerge and grow their middle class, the less petroleum we’ll need.
It’s simple: The larger a country’s middle class, the lower the birthrate. The lower the birthrate, the fewer people. Fewer people use less petroleum.
Keeping emerging nations impoverished longer by depriving them of access to cheap fossil fuels means a larger population, still dependent on petroleum plus perpetuating global poverty by favoring nations already wealthy.
There is a moral argument against depriving emerging nations of the very sources of cheap and plentiful energy the world’s wealthiest nations used to swell their GDP’s in the first place.
What gives wealthy nations the right to do so?
Our dependence on fossil fuels isn’t a failure of the working-class; the proletariat toils within the framework it inherits, unfair as it always is.
It’s the reason the working classes periodically rise up against their ruling elites; geopolitically, as in Great Britain where the monarchy was bloodlessly relegated to ornamentation, and even sometimes violently, as when the Committee of Public Safety became the Reign of Terror, the French Revolution and the guillotine.
Our continued dependence on fossil fuels is a byproduct of two lofty-sounding ideals, “globalization” and “free trade”. Both were used as an excuse to off-shore American manufacturing to countries with lower labor standards and fewer environmental regulations in order to widen profit margins.
In trade, we got a 10,000 mile supply line dependent on petroleum, a gutted domestic manufacturing center, a wider wealth gap, and more forced laborers worldwide than at any other time in history.
People in America’s breadbasket and the Rust Belt have to drive 20 miles for work everyday because there aren’t any jobs in their hometown anymore, and haven’t been for a long time. Worse, they are forced to buy essential goods with the already baked-in cost of shipping everything via the petroleum-fueled supply line circumnavigating the globe which is becoming more expensive and unmanageable by the moment.
They have no choice.
Only a fraction of the manufacturing, production, and food-growing operations remain anywhere nearby. There is nothing they could buy more cheaply. They can’t opt out of globalization; they can’t even sort for American-made products on Amazon- let alone anywhere else.
Domestic oil and gas production is not the wave of the future. Far from it.
Fossil fuels is a wave which, as we all learned in primary school, must eventually crest however much wealthy nations depend on it.
There is, there always has been, an extremely finite amount of fossil fuels in existence. Fossil fuels were created millions of years ago; it’s why they call them, “fossil” fuels.
As in, they aren’t exactly making any more. Humanity’s relationship with fossil fuels was destined to end the moment it began. When that supply will run dry is a matter of great debate. Improving technology, mostly fracking, has allowed for the extraction of previously unreachable resources.
With that same level of ingenuity, the wealthiest corporations in the world and their managers, scientists and entire nations are dedicating themselves to solving the renewable resource puzzle.
So far, every renewable source has fallen short. Currently, even most of the electricity we are using to charge our electric cars is coming from coal, natural gas and…petroleum.
Our dependence on fossil fuels isn’t a problem we can tax or legislate away: Not when one of the largest coal mines in the world just opened…in Australia. Outsourcing our dirty work isn’t fair to emerging nations and it isn’t fair to American workers, either.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)