Some of the Environmental Restriction Movement Is Lunacy

The movement has done a lot of good, but some policies are irrational.

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This is my Creators Syndicate column for this week. I hit pretty hard on the environmental restriction groups, who like to portray themselves as pure representatives of the public interest. But, in fact, the people who run these organizations, just like the people who lobby for oil companies, have an economic motive: They want to keep their jobs. Presumably they aren't paid as well as the oil lobbyists, in some cases not nearly so well, but they're far from starving. They live in comfortable houses or condominiums in one of the nation's most expensive housing markets, they have (or many of them do) children bound for college, they (I'm presuming) eat out in nonfast food restaurants more than once a month. The environmental restriction movement has done a lot of good for this country. It helped build support for clean air and clean water legislation that, with perhaps the exceptions of some provisions, has been brilliantly successful public policy.

An affluent democracy acts wisely when it devotes resources to maintaining an ever cleaner environment. But some policies that the environmental restriction groups have pushed for operate irrationally. The Endangered Species Act is a gift for litigators who seek to stop economic activity; the current project is to have the polar bear declared endangered, and then have the Ninth Circuit prohibit any economic activity that produces carbon emissions on the grounds that it will melt the ice floes and endanger the current far-from-endangered polar bear. Lawyer/radio talk show host/blogger Hugh Hewitt has done a definitive job of setting out the environmental restrictionist strategy—and has suggested how to stop it. But there wasn't any room in my column for this.