We will never run out of energy as long as freedom-loving people are led and energized by the God of all creation. Human beings created in the image of God are gifted to be co-creators with our Father. There is no need that cannot be met by those who truly love God and others. Americans do not have an energy crisis; we have a knowledge-of-truth crisis. “My people perish for lack of knowledge.” Knowledge of what? Of liberating truth! We do not face one crisis that people committed to God cannot overcome. As faithful overseers of all God has entrusted to our watch care, we will find reliable solutions.
The extreme emphasis on the importance of dependence on the federal government as some sort of “nanny state” is in direct opposition to trust in God and concern for others. Excessive government control is tyranny. Lack of effective government oversight is anarchy. The fact is excessive and foolish government regulations along with poor national leadership decisions have contributed to our present energy issues. America’s founders clearly understood the primary role of government to protect the general welfare of the people, not provide for them. Protecting us is government’s role. Providing for the welfare of the people depends upon trust in God and assuming responsibility to share His love and compassion for our neighbors. However, most people are actually unable to identify or recognize the government’s unconstitutional conduct. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “It is in the regions of ignorance that tyranny begins.”
Consider the following realities Jay Richards and I share in the New York Times bestselling book INDIVISIBLE. Many Americans, including Christians, adopt zero-sum, even materialist, ways of thinking when it comes to resources. We will always fear that we’re running out of resources if we think of them merely as some finite amount of physical stuff. But resources aren’t just there in a lake or tank or the ground. We create resources.
We stopped using whale blubber for oil not because we killed off the last whale or that very salty harpooner suddenly developed a soft spot for all of those leg-chomping white whales roaming the seven seas, but because whale oil was pricey and creative humanity kept its eyes open for alternative forms of energy suitable for heating and lighting. And that’s just one page in the sprawling history of human innovation.
The alternative, of course, was petroleum. For centuries, humans ignored the stuff. In the mid-nineteenth century someone figured out how to refine oil into kerosene and someone else figured out that kerosene was useful for heating cold houses and lighting dark rooms. The discovery helped save the whales.
Black gold really took off with the invention of cars and the internal combustion engine. Since then, we have devised all sorts of ways to explore, refine, and use it more efficiently. Oil became a resource through the vision and ingenuity of man.
Most resources are only resources because human beings are involved in some way. This is even true for something as simple as water. Most of the water that we drink is mediated by human minds and hands. If it’s freshwater from a deep aquifer, someone had to dig and maintain a well. Other water is recycled and purified. Most of it has to be transported by pipes and plumbing. Since it’s pretty much odorless and colorless when we get it, it’s easy to imagine that the water is just there. But little of it would be there unless someone brought it from somewhere else.
We don’t create from nothing, as God does. We use the material world that God has given us. Nevertheless, over time, the matter in some material resources matters less than how human beings creatively transform them for some use – wolves are transformed into sheep dogs; wood into fuel, lumber, and houses; stones into walls and arrowheads; clay into pots, bricks, and ovens; fur into coats; fields into farms; manure into fertilizer; oil into gasoline and kerosene; iron ore into spearheads; cotton into clothing; copper into phone lines and electric generators; sand into computer chips and fiber-optic cables; light into lasers; plastic into DVDs bearing software read by lasers.
Consider the work of just one man, Norman Borlaug, who for years after his official retirement was a professor at Texas A&M University. Most Americans have never heard his name. He died with too little fanfare in 2009 at the age of ninety-five. In an obituary, science writer Gregg Easterbrook called Borlaug “arguably the greatest American of the twentieth century.” Borlaug received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2007 – one of only six people ever to receive that triple honor. Why? He was the father of the Green Revolution.
“As a young agronomist,” Easterbrook explained:
Borlaug helped develop some of the principles of Green Revolution agriculture on which the world now relies including hybrid crops selectively bred for vigor, and “shuttle breeding,” a technique for accelerating the movement of disease immunity between strains of crops. He also helped develop cereals that were insensitive to the number of hours of light in a day, and could therefore be grown in many climates.
Green Revolution techniques caused both reliable harvests, and spectacular output. From the Civil War through the Dust Bowl, the typical American farm produced about 24 bushels per acre; by 2006, the figure was about 155 bushels per acre.
Borlaug’s methods have allowed much farmland to revert back to forests.
A billion or more people may be alive in India and other parts of the developing world today because of the work of this man, and others who gave us the Green Revolution. On news of his death, the prime minister of India Manmohan Singh and the president of the India Pratibha Patil said, “Borlaug’s life and achievement are testimony to the far-reaching contribution that one man’s towering intellect, persistence, and scientific vision can make to human peace and progress.” Ah, how the image of God is reflected by such men who are given the grace to transform humble seeds and soil into historic and bountiful harvests!
The men and women of the dim and distant Stone Age were acquainted with the raw materials of Borlaug’s Green Revolution, but the innovations occurred in the blink of an eye in the twentieth century A.D. In other cases, we do not find new ways to harness old resources, or to use them more efficiently; we discover, and create fundamentally different types of resources. This is especially true with energy. The Stone Age did not end for a lack of rocks, and the oil age will not end for a lack of oil.
An ancient proverb says, “If you want one year of prosperity, grow grain. If you want ten years of prosperity, grow trees. If you want a hundred years of prosperity, grow people.” This is what happens when we fulfill Christ’s great commission to make disciples of the nations. Our real crisis is not with energy, fossil fuels, global warming, or any other external condition. It is with people, who lack the knowledge of themselves and our God to reach their full creative potential and wisely solve the problems that plague mankind.