As Americans travel to and from work out of Union Station in Washington DC, they are bombarded with dozens of posters created by Clean Energy Works, an organization that promotes legislation for the expansion of clean energy jobs. The posters lay out what would happen if Congress passes climate change legislation in a very telling way. They communicate short phrases such as:

“Our farmers can grow energy in their fields”

“Our electricians can install solar panels.”

“Our engineers can create micro-fuel cells.”

“Our welders can build wind turbine towers.”

If companies decide to pursue renewable energy projects and hire Americans to build wind turbines and solar panels, it is their money to invest. If they deem the project profitable, they can do as they please.

The problem comes when the government instructs farmers to grow energy in their fields; when the government dictates that electricians install solar panels; and when the government insists that engineers create micro-fuel cells and welders build turbine wind towers. Under such a plan, Americans will not be free to choose their own energy jobs because the development and expansion of fossil fuels will be closed to them. They will not be free to develop cheap, reliable energy but forced to invest in energies that are expensive and unreliable.

Amid these posters in Union Station, President Reagan’s words are appropriately recalled. In his 1961 Operation Coffee Cup speech, Reagan warned against the pitfalls of policies that could erode personal freedoms. As he said,

“…once you establish the precedent that the government can determine a man’s working place and his working methods, determine his employment. From here it is a short step to all the rest of socialism, to determining his pay and pretty soon your son won’t decide when he’s in school, where he will go or what they will do for a living. He will wait for the government to tell him where he will go to work and what he will do.”

As the possibility of a massive government overhaul of the energy industry through cap and trade legislation comes to the forefront, Reagan’s words remind Americans of the price that must be paid for such policies. Let’s pay attention.