Greater economic freedom entails greater development, which in turn leads to greater environmental quality because consumers demand it. Furthermore, the protection of property rights ensures that environmental externalities are minimized.” – Daniel Fernández Méndez
Currently, the nation’s environmental policy is characterized by over-regulation, inefficiency, and cronyism. Our statutes do not always follow from science, some valid laws lack enforcement provisions, and the extensive rule-making process invites special interests to involve themselves in lawmaking, to the detriment of the free market.
I would refocus environmental law enforcement on those instances where an industrial facility or other polluter directly contaminates air, water, or soil on some other private or public property, which is a form of trespass and a violation of property rights. Punitive fines, paid to the government, have proven ineffective as a deterrent to illegal pollution. The consequences should instead be specific and targeted, geared towards remediation of actual damage caused, so that the wronged parties are made whole.
Environmentalism makes sense only insofar as it promotes a healthy environment for human beings to live in. Accordingly, I would relax regulations that preserve nature for its own sake, while reviewing and refining those that have merit. I would ask about each regulation: does it conserve our food sources, maintain habitability of developed land, or have other beneficial impacts on people?
Greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) are certainly a concern of mine, but I reject the premise that the government needs to regulate them. Many Americans and American companies accept the position that a reduction in GHGE will reduce the pace of climate change; thus, the free market provides an incentive to reduce GHGE because companies are eager to enhance their public image by promoting their efforts in this area, and many Americans feel motivated to reduce their carbon footprints. Further, we have GHGE because we have economic activity. That economic activity makes possible a quality of life and standard of living that are immensely better than those of our ancestors who predated modern levels of GHGE, despite environmental impacts both observable and theoretical. That same economic activity gives our society the potential to engineer modern solutions to any acute environmental crisis we may experience in the future.
Green energy has the potential to be a great economic boon, both by creating jobs in that sector, as well as by providing energy that can reduce the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels. But, for the time being, traditional energy sources are vital to our everyday lives. The government should not choose winners and losers in any economic sector. All relevant laws should apply equally to all businesses, including those that produce energy; there should be no subsidies or tax breaks for any company or any type of energy production. The energy sector should be free to innovate, since only through innovation can renewable energy rise to compete on an even footing.