There is a long history demonstrating that free trade promotes economic growth and that as nations move up the economic latter and become wealthier they invest more in environmental protection. Opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership is very short sighted. The basic objective of the agreement is to remove barriers to trade, improve investment opportunities, and improve intellectual property right protection among the eleven participating countries: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Future economic growth potential is in the Asian region and opening up more opportunities for trade means more export opportunities for US manufacturers that have experienced a renaissance in recent years. While the economy since the great recession has been growing at anemic rates, job creation resulting from dramatic growth in oil and gas production has been one of the few economic bright spots. Opposition to the export of oil and gas would further hamper an industry that is confronting the challenge of low prices and create conditions that would lead to higher energy prices.
Opposition is driven by mindless zealotry that carbon based fuels are adversely impacting the climate system. The lack of merit to this assertion aside, the International Energy Agency, along with our own EIA, has made clear that the world will rely on fossil fuels for decades to come—still 80% in 2030. If the environmentalists were successful, the impoverished in the poorer members of the trade pact would become even worse off. Poverty, especially in emerging economies, is associated with malnutrition and high disease and mortality rates. To be blunt, denying these people the opportunities for a better life is immoral. Abundant, affordable, and high energy density fuels are the life blood of economic development and growth. As a nation, we should applaud opportunities for others to develop and share the blessings of prosperity even if it takes decades to achieve.
It also is the poorest countries that have the worse environmental records. When you don’t have enough to eat or access to commercial energy, survival is your first and only priority. As basic needs are met and standards of living improve, so does environmental quality. In 1999, a landmark study from economists by Princeton University economists Gene Grossman and Alan Krueger found that “economic growth brings an initial phase of deterioration followed by a subsequent phase of improvement.” They found, for example, that air pollution increases until a country per capita income reaches about $9,000. After that air pollution declines as countries become wealthier. “Contrary to the alarmist cries of some environmental groups, Grossman and Krueger found no evidence that economic growth does unavoidable harm to the natural habitat.”
In addition to the improvement in in the human condition and environment, freer trade builds better relations among nations, even though there are exceptions. Strengthening the interconnections among nations helps to reduce tensions because of interdependency. A better world is one where there is more trust, more collaboration, and restraint in attempting to impose our values on others.
This article appeared on the National Journal’s Energy Insiders blog at http://www.nationaljournal.com/policy/insiders/energy/will-obama-s-trade-deal-impact-his-legacy-on-energy-and-environment-20150422