Our Government Has a Responsibility to Act Responsibly
By Natasha Anbalagan
Its the government’s responsibility to protect the rights of all people. And as such, it's their duty to protect the environment for future generations. In “ The Price of Everything “ focus group at the Redesigning Our Future Summit, we learned how government can protect the environment.
One of the tools that government has to do this with is regulation. There are two types of regulation that government can take advantage of: direct and market based. Direct regulation would involve restricting certain things like products or techniques. Market based regulation would involve measuring the costs of the unmeasurable.
Market based regulation tends to be less forceful than direct. I also think its more interesting to look at.
A particularly interesting type of market based regulation is subsidy reduction. Our government subsidizes oil by spending $10 billion to $52 billion annually. I can’t imagine spending that much taxpayer money to encourage oil drilling when there are alternatives that could use the funding instead.
Removing oil subsidies has its costs and benefits.
On one hand the removal of subsidies will increase fuel prices which in turn will make most goods and services very expensive. Goods that are shipped all over the country will become expensive, putting a damper on interstate trade. Food and health care will become more expensive.
However, there are also many benefits. The increase in fuel prices will drive overall consumption down. People will drive less and rely on public transportation (such as the Amtrack, bus system), biking, and walking which is good for the environment.
People will also avoid the expensive goods shipped from other states. Instead they will be forced to purchase local products. This is great for the local economy.
An America where people are walking and biking more often as well as eating local healthy food is a healthy America which means fewer people will be needing expensive health care. This change in lifestyle will have positive effects on local economies and the environment.
Even the greatest of lifestyle changes won’t affect our need for energy. After the subsidies are removed, fossil fuels will become more expensive and not as profitable to produce; oil companies will have an incentive to find a different energy source.
They also would have the money need to fund research and development in renewable energy. This research doesn’t have to be funded by the government so that is one less burden on the taxpayer.
Throwing oil companies into the mix of researchers searching for the next sustainable fuel source also creates competition. Competition leads to cheaper and better quality products. The extra competition from oil companies will streamline the search for renewables and make sustainable energy more widely available.
In addition, the transition from fossil fuel to renewable is made even easier by the change in our lifestyle (as a result of removing oil subsidies).
Ultimately, the costs associated with removing oil subsidies such as the increase in the prices of goods and services will be covered by the many benefits such as the change in lifestyles and the widespread use of renewable energy.
Government can remove oil subsidies to be more environmentally friendly, but it's more than that.
Government must also ensure that the prosperity of future generations remain intact. Sustainability, in addition to being a major part of environmental stewardship, is our government’s civic duty. After all, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children” (Native American Proverb).
Note: Natasha Anbalagan, a high school student enrolled in Dr. Eric Hake's "The Price of Everything" summit focus group, has written for ACE.