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James Pinkerton is one of our side’s most original thinkers. I’ve known Jim since the George H. W. Bush Administration, and he’s never failed to make me think, and think hard, about America’s future.
Here he is at Breitbart.com looking back at America from a (mythical, possible) 2064. He ties some things together —North Dakota’s natural gas boom, the feckless Obama Administration’s foot-dragging on the Keystone XL pipeline, federal land grabs, anti-progress environmentalists, Chinese competition, and American entrepreneurship — and delivers a pretty optimistic summation of what he calls the great Abundance Revolution. It starts in Nevada, on the ranch of Cliven Bundy. From Breitbart.com:
…as we look back and study the events of 2014, we can see the results of the Green elite’s ideologically-driven effort to squelch even the relatively small amount of prosperity that Americans were then enjoying. That is, it was the Green elites who unwittingly opened the door to the Abundance Revolution and the fantastic increase in wealth that Americans have since realized over the last half-century.
We can point to three events, all occurring in April 2014.
The first triggering event, now the stuff of lore and legend, was the incident in Bunkerville, Nevada, in which Cliven Bundy, then an anonymous citizen, joined by several hundred supporters, faced down a federal army led by an ally of then-Sen. Harry Reid. The incident began on April 5, 2014, when the federal government attempted to seize Bundy’s property; that attempt, which struck many as overkill, led to a series of confrontations that ultimately inspired national news coverage.
What highlighted the incident further were the comments of Sen. Reid, who referred to Bundy and his allies as “terrorists.” That seemed such an excessive reaction that observers grew curious as to why Reid felt so strongly.
Some clues as to the government’s behavior were found in an opinion piece on Fox News by Wayne Allyn Root, the future national leader, in which Root asked, “Why is US Senator Harry Reid so concerned with a local Nevada rancher?” Presciently, Root noted that Reid allies were involved in “green energy” efforts, which required vast tracts of land for solar facilities. As Root opined:
Reid and the BLM [Bureau of Land Management, a now-defunct federal agency] needed a “cover story” to take the land away from the ranchers. So they claim it’s about protecting the “endangered” desert tortoise.
But if the protection of the desert tortoise was so important to the BLM, why did the same BLM kill hundreds of desert tortoises last fall?
If protecting the tortoises was so important, why has the BLM constantly waived rules protecting the desert tortoise for multiple solar and wind projects? If cattle are a danger to tortoises, why are solar panels and wind turbines not a danger?
Root concluded, “There’s much more to this story.” Then he added:
My educated guess is that someone in the government already has big plans lined up for the Bundy Ranch. Someone is going to make a financial killing with this forceful land grab. Someone powerful in government wants the Bundy family off their land (after 140 years).
Exactly. Root’s suspicions were vindicated, as we know, in surprising ways that made Root famous and left Reid’s career and reputation in ruins.
I hope it all does, in fact, turn out this way. Because we do need that kind of revolution in America:
Yet we must also note a larger trend, which had been building for decades prior to the events of April 2014. And that trend was the greater scientific and technical knowledge that led to a deeper understanding of how to exploit natural resources and use them for ever-accelerating wealth creation.
That lack of appreciation for the value of natural resources did not change, of course, until the fracking boom of the early 21st century. Once fracking started happening on a large scale, and once North Dakota grew to be one of the richest states in the union, people across the country began to realize that fracking could make them rich, too.
Still, it took a while for the political system to absorb the idea that America could be truly rich. In 2009, for example, President Obama launched a “stimulus” program for the economy that completely ignored the idea of expanding energy production—even as a study from the Congressional Research Service found that the US had the greatest energy resources of any country in the world; the study found that American possessed greater energy reserves than Saudi Arabia, China, and Canada combined.
Yet the Obama administration, focused on “climate change,” chose to ignore this data; indeed, it did everything it could to oppose greater energy production. The administration instead pursued such nostrums as printing money through the “quantitative easing” monetary process.
Meanwhile, during the Obama presidency, Americans could see that North Dakota wasn’t unique in its energy abundance; it was simply early. News reports began to notice that huge reserves of energy were to be found all through the Midwest and Northeast, in California and everywhere offshore, everywhere, period.
Here’s where, for me anyway, this future-past scenario gets complicated:
The Republicans, meanwhile, although receptive to the idea of greater energy production, were slow to fully champion the idea, because they were locked into their priority of cutting federal spending; it seemed that the Abundance Revolution was a threat to their idea of shrinking government. And so it took time for Republicans to realize that rapidly enriching the private sector was a better way to “starve the beast,” at least on a relative basis, than the familiar frontal attack on entitlement spending. It was the prospect of tens of trillions in new wealth in the private sector that eventually motivated the GOP to embrace a truly comprehensive “all of the above” energy strategy.
In addition, both parties contained a group of well-meaning centrists who worried about “climate change.” Half a century later, the debate over whether climate change was happening back then has never been settled, but as we know, the climate-change issue was mooted by the Carbon Sequestration Revolution of the teens and twenties. And so we could freely burn not only natural gas and oil but also, in addition, coal—and coal added many trillions more to national wealth.
In other words, technology once again changed the game: Today, when we think of carbon dioxide, we think of such wondrous carbon sinks as high-rises built of carbon nanotubes, thousand-yard-high “Avatar Trees,” and the new Carbon Islands archipelago in the Pacific, which now vies with the Hawaiian Islands as a resort destination.
Okay, maybe that’s a little too “Tom Swift.” But then, so are iPhones. And what Pinkerton is sketching out may be fuzzy in the exact details, but anyone betting against technology and American engineering knowhow is probably betting a losing hand.
Prosperity, as Pinkerton sees it, will follow an energy first policy. But what we’re really talking about, when we talk about “energy first” is an “America first” policy, which would be a sea-change from the prevailing sentiment in Washington, on both sides of the aisle.
Energy independence doesn’t make much free-market, free-trade economic sense, but it does carry a rock-solid national defense logic. So, yes, betting against American energy resources and American entrepreneurialism is probably a loser, but the sense I get from the progressive elites is that they don’t mind America’s losing. In fact, they look forward to it.