The problem with environmental extremists is that they are not really pro-environment, they’re anti-energy and anti-progress, and for years these groups have been some of the most influential people in U.S. policy circles. Walter Williams reminds us that they “are well organized, loaded with cash and well positioned to be a disobedient congressman’s worse nightmare. Their political and economic success has been a near disaster for our nation.”

As Dr. Williams explains, two energy sources that we could have readily available today if not for the environmentalist movement is oil from offshore and federally restricted lands and more nuclear power.

When gas prices were near $1 a gallon around the year 2000, it was easier for Members of Congress to listen to environmental activists’ pleas to restrict domestic land that has approximately 30 years’ worth of imports from Saudi Arabia and enough natural gas to power America’s homes for 17 years. Even as prices continued to escalate, the environmentalists worked Congress over to keep the restrictions in place. And here we are today, with the national price of gas at $4 a gallon, and Nancy Pelosi is still shutting the door on the drilling debate.

The second major source of power that environmentalists have stymied is nuclear power. Although 104 reactors provide 20% of the nation’s electricity, it could have been much more. Heritage Research Fellow Jack Spencer writes,

Anti-nuclear groups used both legal intervention and civil disobedience to impede construction of new nuclear power plants and hamper the opera­tions of existing units. They legally challenged 73 percent of the nuclear license applications filed between 1970 and 1972 and formed a group called Consolidated National Interveners for the specific purpose of disrupting hearings of the Atomic Energy Commission. Today, activist organizations determined to force the closure of nuclear power plants, such as Mothers for Peace, continue to use the legal process to harass the nuclear energy industry.”

To make matters worse, Members are using the tried and failed policies of the past to make amends for conceding to the environmentalists. Then there’s the cap-and trade legislation that has been proposed to combat global warming where companies would receive allowances to emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. While it’s often marketed as the free market solution to global warming, Dr. Williams illustrates how it could be one of the largest command and control policies of our time:

Much worse than that is the massive control government would have over our economy and our lives. Congress might decide that since tobacco use is unhealthy, it might not issue allowances to tobacco companies. While many Americans might applaud that, how many would like Congress to refuse to issue allowances to companies that produce foods that some people deem unhealthy such as French fries, sodas, canned soups and potato chips. Congress might deny, or threaten to deny, allowances to companies that in their opinion didn’t hire enough women and minorities. The possibilities for control over our lives would be endless and could include nuisance-type edicts such a requiring us to buy a permit to barbeque in our backyard.”

Scary, isn’t it?