People all over the world are basically the same. We all want better living conditions for ourselves, our families, and our communities.
And in fact, our living standards have improved dramatically. A new chart from Max Roser’s Our World In Data project illustrates that the number of people worldwide living in extreme poverty has gone down significantly. “In 2011, the most recent year represented in the chart, the extreme poverty rate had been cut to half its 1999 level: 14.4 percent,” Vox notes.
What’s been the key to lifting people out of poverty? Access to adequate energy. Between 1990 and 2008, world energy consumption has increased 30 percent, according to this first chart.
Without energy services — spanning the range from oil and natural gas to coal, nuclear, solar, hydro and more — the United States and the rest of the world would be harsher, less healthy and far less convenient. All of our daily endeavors to live, to be mobile, to prosper — to simply boil an egg — would be infinitely more difficult without energy.
But there’s still much more work to be done. More than 1.2 billion people around the world have no access to electricity, according to the International Energy Agency. Even more people — an estimated 3 billion — still cook and heat their homes using open fires and leaky stoves.
It’s no coincidence that every single one of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals depends upon adequate energy. By 2050, the world’s population will exceed 9.6 billion people and over two-thirds will live in cities, requiring vast amounts of power, steel, cement, transportation modes and the other commodities for modern life.
Meanwhile, here in the U.S., we seem to be backtracking on the gains energy has made in lifting people out of poverty. As noted in a the Wall Street Journal, the Obama administration’s new Clean Power Plan includes several new programs to offset the plan’s potential harms to the poor, including subsidies for renewable and efficiency projects that are built in inner-city neighborhoods and disadvantaged rural areas, installing more solar generation on top of or around public housing, and retraining laid-off coal miners.
As WSJ notes: “U.S. economic growth is already much slower than it should be, and the new EPA climate-change rule will make it worse by subtracting billions of dollars every year from potential GDP by misallocating capital and undermining business confidence. This will result in few opportunities and smaller wage gains, with damage to the poorest Americans in particular.”
A revolution in American energy production — brought about by fracking — has made the U.S. the number one producer of oil and natural gas, and makes it possible for the U.S. to be energy secure here at home while also providing an opportunity to stabilize international energy markets. By adding to global energy supplies, American fracking has helped drive world energy prices down, and put us in the position to export natural gas. Opening federal lands to oil and gas development, allowing exports and infrastructure improvements, and stopping regulatory overreach will greatly expand U.S. energy production, put more oil on the world market, and reduce the power that foreign suppliers have over our allies.
We need to seize the moment and embrace policies that will allow us to develop more of the energy we use right here at home — greater access to energy reserves, commonsense regulation and permitting rules and the export of U.S. energy that will help stimulate more domestic output and gives our country the chance to positively impact global stability.