Energy Policy Statement

2016 Book of Resolutions, #1001

Humankind enjoys a unique place in God’s universe. We are created in the very image of God, with the divine Spirit breathed into us, and entrusted to “take charge of” God’s creation (Genesis 2:7; 1:26, 28; see Psalm 8:6). Yet, we are simply one of God’s many finite creatures, made from the “topsoil of the fertile land,” bound in time and space, fallible in judgment, limited in control, dependent upon our Creator, and interdependent with all other creatures. We are simultaneously caretakers with all creation and, because of the divine summons, caretakers with God of the world in which we live.

The Values Involved in Energy Policy

The decisions that humans make will either enhance or degrade the quality of life on the planet. We live in an era of energy inter- dependence. Confronting global issues such as climate change, energy inequity, and pollution will require international solutions based upon the values of justice and sustainability.

Scripture provides an imperative for our action and lays the foundation for the values that we seek to realize. These values underlying the policies we advocate are justice and sustainability.

  1. Justice. As God’s covenant people, with Noah, Abraham, Jacob and the prophets, we bear a special responsibility for justice. “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24) is a cry echoed in hundreds of contexts throughout the Old and New Testaments. Biblical righteousness includes a special con- cern for the least and the last: the poor, the prisoner, the oppressed (Luke 4:18; Isaiah 61:1-2). As people of the Christian covenant, we support energy policies that seek to actualize the multifaceted biblical vision of justice. Just energy policies: close the gap divid- ing wealth and poverty, rich nations and poor; liberate and do not oppress; fairly distribute the benefits, burdens, and hazards of energy production and consumption, taking into consideration the living and those not yet born; and give priority to meeting basic human needs such as air, water, food, clothing, and shelter.

  2. Sustainability. We recognize that creation entails limits to the resources entrusted to us as stewards of the earth. While God has created an economy of abundance with sufficient resources to meet all human need, our inclinations toward greed and over- use too often have transformed sufficiency into scarcity. In addition, we recognize limits to nonrenewable fuel sources available for our consumption and limits to our environment’s capacity to absorb poisonous wastes. Energy policy decisions must be mea- sured by sustainability as a criterion in addition to justice. In terms of energy policy, sustainability means energy use that will: ensure adequate resources and opportunity for present and future generations to enjoy a healthy quality of life; enhance local environmental and economic vitality while minimizing impacts on the health of both human and non-human creation; and promote social and intergenerational equity.

Technological advances have created an increasingly sophisticated and industrialized world community. As we pursue an energy policy that is just and sustainable, it is not a realistic option to ask all global citizens to return to an era where wood and candles provided the only sources of heat and light. Also, we should be aware of the tragic effects that steadily increasing energy costs will have, especially upon the aged and those living in poverty. Furthermore, some cleaner energy options available to wealthier nations are not available to peoples in all parts of the world; hence, we should endeavor to develop just and equitable energy policies.

We must creatively explore all sustainable energy options avail- able to us. There are environmental and social problems connected with certain energy options. We believe that the economic, environmental, and social implications of each energy source should be fully assessed.

Today, the leading source of global energy consumption is fossil fuels including oil, coal, and natural gas. From extraction to end- use, the life cycle of energy produced from fossil fuels has led to severe strain on both the local and global environment.

Underground mining of coal, in addition to operational acci- dents, causes disabling illness or death from black lung. Strip- mining and mountaintop removal despoil lands and ruin them for further use if restoration measures are not practiced. Hydraulic fracturing, commonly called “fracking,” has opened vast new deposits of oil and gas for exploration but with serious consequences for communities’ water quality and geological stability. Deep sea extraction presents consequences and risks we do not yet fully understand, including destruction of aquatic ecosystems and pollution from leaks and spills. The burning of fossil fuels causes large-scale pollution and seriously alters the environment by increasing the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere, con- tributing to climate change.

In addition to fueling regional instability, the use of oil resources poses significant environmental dangers. Tankers and offshore wells have created spills that have devastated seacoast areas often with long-lasting or permanent ecological damage. The emissions produced from the use of oil as fuel are a leading source of air pollution, particularly in centers of dense population.

Hydroelectric dams, particularly those in areas with consider- able seismic activity, pose dangers to nearby communities and the environment. Furthermore, the building of hydroelectric dams and reservoirs destroys communities, wildlife habitats, and natu- ral scenic beauty.

There are considerable concerns with regard to the nuclear energy option. The destructive potential of a catastrophic accident involves a great risk of irreversible damage to the environment and all living species. Nuclear waste remains active and dangerous for thousands of years. Additionally, the development of nuclear energy possibly has masked ambitions for nuclear armament.

Today, cleaner alternatives to traditional energy sources are available and increasingly cost-competitive. Harnessing solar and wind power can produce energy with far fewer net emissions. Facing increased global demand for energy resources and ever- increasing strain on the global environment, we must chart a new course rooted in our shared principles of justice and sustainability. To this end:

  1. We support strenuous efforts to conserve energy and increase energy efficiency. A transition to energy efficiency and renew- able energy sources will combat global warming, protect human health, create new jobs, and ensure a secure, affordable energy future. Economists have concluded that a greater increase in end- use energy can be gained through conservation and energy efficiency than through any single new source of fuel. Furthermore, conservation is nonpolluting and job producing. We include under conservation: insulation, co-generation, recycling, public transportation, more efficient motors in appliances and automobiles, as well as the elimination of waste, and a more simplified lifestyle. The technology for such steps is already known and commercially available; it requires only dissemination of information and stronger public support, including larger tax incentives than are presently available.
  2. We will be models for energy conservation. United Methodists, including churches, annual conferences, general boards and agencies will model energy conservation by doing such things as: installing dampers in furnaces, insulating adequately all church properties, heating and lighting only rooms that are in use, using air circulation, purchasing energy efficient appliances, and exploring alternative energy sources such as solar energy. Local churches, camps, and agencies are urged to become involved in programs such as the Energy Stewardship Congregation and Interfaith Power and Light programs, thereby witnessing our shared values of justice and sustainability.
  3. We will model sustainable and just energy values. United Methodist Church programs and mission projects must model our sustainable and just energy values. We particularly urge the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) to support and fund renewable and energy efficient mission projects; and we urge the Church Architecture Office of the General Board of Global Ministries to make energy conservation and the use of renewables a prime design feature in new building design and renovations.
  4. We support increased government funding for research and development of renewable energy sources and elimination of fossil fuel subsidies. We encourage the development and deployment of renewable energy technologies and government incentives to speed the application of the resulting technologies to our energy needs. The greatest national and international effort should be made in the areas of conservation and renewable energy sources.
  5. We support local, regional, and national efforts to provide transition assistance for communities currently dependent on old energy fossil fuel economies. Honoring the contributions and sacrifices these communities and workers have made, often for generations, The United Methodist Church commits to being in ministry with and supporting these individuals, families, and communities as we seek a healthier and more equitable energy future.
  6. We encourage international lending institutions and aid agencies to promote sustainable and just energy policies.
  7. We oppose any energy policy that will result in continuing exploitation of indigenous peoples’ lands. Oil exploration, hydro- electric projects, the mining of coal, and the milling of uranium despoil indigenous peoples’ lands and increase health and socio-economic problems.
  8. We support national energy programs that do not increase the financial burden on the poor, the elderly, and those with fixed incomes. Energy policies must guarantee universal service to all consumers, protecting low-income and rural residents.
  9. We support full cooperation of all nations in efforts to ensure equitable distribution of necessary energy supplies, the control of global warming, and rapid development and deployment of appropriate technologies based on renewable energy resources such as solar, wind, and water energy generation.
  10. We urge transparency in global energy market transactions. Market manipulation can disrupt pricing and access causing harm, particularly to poor and marginalized countries and communities.
  11. We exhort The United Methodist Church at all levels to engage in a serious study of these energy issues in the context of Christian faith, especially the values of justice and sustainability.

AMENDED AND READOPTED 2000, 2008, 2016

See Social Principles, ¶ 160B.

To purchase the Book of Resolutions, click here.

Copyright © 2016, The United Methodist Publishing House, used by permission