Let the market decide the nation’s best energy options

December 2 2017  Opinion column  by Jim Probst, state coordinator for WV Citizens Climate Lobby
Charleston Gazette- Mail

Thank you to Daily Mail Opinion for its Nov. 20 editorial headlined “Tariffs threaten growing solar power industry.”

In it, the Daily Mail notes “that a free market better allocates resources and helps create jobs that thrive based on economics, rather than government imposed protections. The market, rather than the government, picks winners and losers.”

The editorial goes on to say that “if the United States is to employ an ‘all of the above energy policy,’ where every form of energy is allowed to compete on its own merits, then the Trump administration should not take steps to hurt the solar industry.”

A free-market approach is exactly what Citizens Climate Lobby has been advocating for the past 10 years now. The reality is that our government has allowed, and sometimes helped, to create a playing field that provides advantages for the use of fossil fuels over renewable forms of energy.

Coal, oil, and gas are allowed to pass on to our society the external costs of their damage to our air, water, roads, mountains, and to our health and are essentially subsidized by us in the form of increased costs.

The use of fossil fuels adds cost to our society at many steps along the way, from how they are extracted, transported, burned, and how their waste is ultimately disposed of. Burning them contributes to an increase in heart disease, cancer, stroke and lung diseases with an associated increase in missed work days, hospital visits, health care costs, and premature deaths.

A Harvard University study from 2005 estimated that our use of coal adds $74.6 billion annually to our national health care costs. A study from 2015 estimates that when we account for the true costs of burning fossil fuels, gasoline would cost an additional $3.80 per gallon, diesel fuel would raise $4.80 per gallon, and burning coal would add 24 cents to the cost of a kilo-watt hour of electricity.