Bush Institute offers real energy approaches

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By Harold Morgan

George W. Bush is doing some good things. He is gathering thoughtful, incredibly qualified people to pose substantive ideas about the American economy. New Mexico needs the same approach.
The vehicle is the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, home to the George W. Bush Institute and its economic growth initiative, in particular The 4 percent Growth Project. The project premise is, “If the economy grew at 4 percent per year, we would create 10 million additional jobs during the next decade, returning the economy to full employment through growth alone, with no rise in government spending.” See bushcenter.org/bush-institute/economic-growth.
A few weeks ago some worthies—governors, economists, business people and even an environmentalist or two — gathered in “a bold effort to determine the cost that misguided regulation imposes on growth and to suggest more sensible policies that could benefit America.” The conference proceedings were passed along by the Property and Environment Research Center (perc.org), one of the chief good guys in my environmental policy world.
PERC’s Dino Falaschetti considered “Hidden Costs: The Precautionary Principle and Risks of Clean Energy Policy.” The precautionary principle has only recently wandered into my consciousness. My cluelessness aside, the principle seems basic to the enviros’ religious fervor. Essentially, the argument builds a radical “what if” to some situation. For a street-level view, it is possible to be killed crossing a street. To “solve” that problem might require creating a force field around pedestrians, or stopping all vehicles or something.
Climate change radicals led by President Barack Obama pitch a “grim alternative” to not capping carbon emissions. Falaschetti’s view is that “publicly supporting clean energy may instead be exacerbating the very problems it claims to solve.”
In “The Energy Wealth of Indian Nations,” Terry Anderson, PERC president, and Shawn Regan, begin with, “Currently Native American reservations are unable to develop their vast energy resources due to poorly defined property rights.” Anderson and Regan rhetorically wonder, “Given the energy wealth of Indian nations, why do reservations remain poor? The answer has to do with the structure of the economic and legal institutions on reservations.”
The institutional structure matters because it determines the relationship to the non-reservation world. A concise history of tribes’ awful relationship to the U.S. government lends insight.
Religion also matters, specifically Native Americans’ theological relationship to the land. Anderson and Regan don’t deal with religion, an omission, I think. A question worth considering is whether, if the legal institutions, especially property ownership, posed less hassle, might economic matters find accommodation from the spiritual world?
A regulatory situation that must draw inspiration from the Dodd-Frank financial morass is reviewed in “The Energy Logjam,” by Bernard Weinstein and Nicholas Sallba. We lack a “sound, comprehensive energy strategy,” they say. Relatively little is asked: fossil fuel exports, fracking reality, the Keystone pipeline, slowing rulemaking, including Native Americans in the answer, nuclear and telling the truth about energy, the latter being part of the mission for the 4 percent project.
States are reviewed. The North Dakota tale requires eight pages. New York and California have opted out. Economic historian Amity Shales, author of “The Forgotten Man and Coolidge,” directs the projects.
Lest anyone think the opinions and numbers lack substance, Weinstein and Sallba close with a four-page, 56-item bibliography that appears to be a comprehensive literature list, unless one wants citations of business immorality.
If you’re not one for conspiracy theories, it may be inappropriate to wonder if the regulatory situation is on purpose. Images appear of gnomes gathering in Washington, D.C., bars frequented by environmental elites. No, that can’t happen.