A Lesson From The Gun Lobby
By Gordon Tomb
A Wall Street Journal column by David Deming of the University of Oklahoma should be circulated among the management of every American energy company.
In “What the Oil Business Could Learn from the NRA”, the writer asserts that the fossil-fuel industry repeatedly cedes the moral high ground to the ridiculous claims of environmentalists, while the National Rifle Association consistently refuses to apologize for its position. The result is an energy lobby whose impotence is a stark contrast to the NRA’s reputation for effectiveness in influencing policy.
The column points to the experience of Pennsylvania’s Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show to illustrate the solidarity of the gun lobby. The withdrawal of hundreds of show exhibitors forced the cancellation of the show after sponsors announced that AR-15 rifles would be banned from the exposition.
Compare that reaction to how energy companies fall all over themselves to promote cosmetic “green” initiatives that pander to the political correctness of environmentalism.
A few years ago I argued as a citizen in a local Chamber of Commerce meeting against a proposed severance tax on Pennsylvania’s gas industry only to have an industry engineer say his company “expected” to pay such taxes as “a cost of doing business.” Energy executives, anticipating a beating, often calculate that passivity will minimize the severity of the assault.
Ultimately, the industry avoided a “severance tax” but got an “impact fee” that soaked Pennsylvania gas drillers for more than $200 million last year. Whatever qualifies as a business “cost”, I have no doubt that the money would be better spent paying royalties to property owners and developing new wells.
This acquiescence is not peculiar to fossil companies: When the global warming scare was initially advanced decades ago, one of the first to exploit it was the nuclear power industry, which mouthed much of the message of the same green crowd that had been trying to shut down nuclear plants. In short order environmentalists identified the plumes of water vapor rising from plants’ cooling towers as a contributor to the “greenhouse effect.”
The moral argument often is looked upon as naive by pragmatists in the public policy arena. The Journal column suggests that the credulous are those who adopt pragmatism as a defense against bad science and cynical politics.
Gordon Tomb is an energy writer and director of communications for the PA Coalition for Responsible Government. He has worked in the nuclear power and gas industries. You can email him at email@example.com
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