The CRCNA’s Office of Social Justice (OSJ) recently communicated its unequivocal support for proposed federal legislation that would impose an array of assessments (taxes) against carbon (CO2) emissions, both directly and indirectly.
OSJ’s explanation of the legislation it is advocating, also sent out by email blast, is here: http://justice.crcna.org/energy-innovation-and-carbon-dividend-act-action-alert-background-and-rationale, and its invitation to you and me to personally lobby our respective congressional representatives, complete with the text of an OSJ suggested email to do so, can be found here: https://p2a.co/hMhDs8I
For anyone interested and wanting to spend the time and effort, the actual text of the proposed federal legislation can be reviewed here:
Presumably, OSJ’s support of this legislation is in response to its sense of a mandate from Synod to advocate about “creation care.” OSJ claims this legislation, if passed, would “drive down American’s carbon pollution,” but also “unleash American technology innovation,” “put money in the pockets of Americans,” and be “revenue neutral.”
But would the legislation in fact do all of that? I don’t think so, as to any of the claims made. Why? Although explaining my disagreement in detail would require a very long article (or short book), here is a summary: The proposed legislation suffers from a fundamental misunderstanding about a variety of energy issues, about tax policy, about the bureaucratic nature of government, and about the economic realities generally involved. The central misunderstanding is about energy, in particular, renewable energy. Those who support the legislation assume that existing renewable energy sources like solar or wind will become much more abundant—to the point of making carbon based energy sources unnecessary—if the price of carbon based energy like oil or natural gas is increased (as this legislation would artificially do, on an annually increasing basis). That assumption is wrong. Even if renewable sources of energy increased some, they could not be increased anywhere close to the level required to supply American energy needs (and thereby replace carbon based energy sources). It is a near unanimous scientific consensus that renewables cannot come close to replacing carbon energy sources in the near future. The only non-carbon emitting source that could come close to filling the “energy gap” that reducing carbon sources would leave is nuclear. But the current political opposition (and regulatory disincentives) to nuclear energy are impediments that will keep that from happening. Ironically, the same people who generally favor this kind of legislation also oppose building any, let alone a lot of, new nuclear power plants.
Thus, the likely (even if unintended) consequences of this kind of legislation would be a significant contraction in the economy without meaningful reductions in CO2 emissions. The carbon based fuels will still be bought and used because there would be no choice (and the increased costs thereof resulting from this legislation passed on), but the artificially increased price would negatively impact the economy generally, in some ways that are predictable and others not. When all was said and done, I firmly believe the intended “cure (this legislation) would be worse than the disease.”
I suspect the OSJ, ‘spokesagency’ for the CRC as to such matters, would disagree with my assessment. My point in this blog is not so much to persuade anyone that I am right on this issue and OSJ is wrong, but rather to suggest three things: First, this proposed legislation involves an “economic fundamental” (energy) and so would may significantly impact (I think negatively) the US and world economies; Second, competently predicting the effects (bad and good) of this kind of legislation requires significant expertise in multiple fields; and third, the CRCNA doesn’t have the expertise required to competently predict the effect of such legislation. And so it shouldn’t lobby for it (or against it).
Should Christians (whether individually or via groups they associate with) talk about this sort of proposed legislation? Of course. Should CRCers (by themselves or with others they choose to associate with) politically advocate about this kind of legislation, whether for or against? Certainly, although to be responsible, a serious amount of time should be invested in understanding the many issues involved, or at least one should defer to the judgment of an organization who has their confidence and has the expertise to evaluate these issues. If a voter doesn’t do that, he or she just becomes a pawn in someone’s lobbying strategy.
Finally, should the CRCNA, as a denomination (essentially, in behalf of its members) politically advocate—whether for or against—about this legislation? I think not. Aside from the reason of the matter not being ecclesiastical (see Church Order Article 28), the CRCNA doesn’t have the expertise needed to responsibly do so. I don’t know of any church denomination that does.