Time and again, environmental activists have suggested there is no real down side to the United States pursuing a "clean energy" agenda.
They have tried to convince the country that we can have all the "green" energy we need at an affordable price, and without the objectionable emissions of traditional energy sources such as coal and oil, nor the radioactive waste produced by nuclear power. Not only that, they claim green energy initiatives will produce lots of great jobs and will be a boon to the economy.
And yet, despite all the optimistic assertions about alternative energy such as wind, solar and ethanol, we see Congress repeatedly providing those industries massive taxpayer-funded subsidies to prop them up in a free market that has not enthusiastically embraced them.
So Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas, is challenging the Obama administration, which wants to impose harsh environmental rules on oil refineries and power plants, to back up its claims. He has proposed legislation that would force the Environmental Protection Agency to consider the economic effects of the restrictions it plans to place on energy production.
The EPA would have to specify the net jobs that any new environmental regulation would produce or destroy, directly or indirectly, and it would have to explain in detail how it arrived at those figures. Vague claims of job creation would not do.
As Olson told Hearst Newspapers, that would "make EPA go on record." Then, if rosy job-creation estimates didn't pan out, Congress and the American people could hold the EPA accountable.
Such an accountability effort is plainly reasonable. After the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration harshly clamped down on deep-water oil exploration. It said job losses from that moratorium would be minimal - but various private analysts found the losses would be far higher than the administration estimated.
If in fact a proposed EPA regulation will not destroy jobs, there should be no objection to requiring a detailed analysis to demonstrate that. If, however, the EPA or its allies in Congress balk at performing such an analysis, it will show that they realize the potential economic harm of the new regulation.
It is perfectly reasonable to ask for verification when the administration claims that strict - and sometimes dubious - new environmental rules will be economically neutral or will even promote job growth.