The debate over the role of fossil fuels in today’s world is following a path we’ve seen before. Some critics of fossil fuels — and some supporters of ‘renewable’ sources — are seeking to break the fossil fuel industry’s back through lawsuits and settlements. If it sounds familiar, it’s because we saw this approach with the tobacco industry. But in progressive Denver, the editorial board of the Denver Post is pushing back against the lawsuit approach.

Climate change is real, but so is the reality that fossil fuels continue to underpin modern civilization, even as our reliance on them is slowly,  steadily — and appropriately — reduced.

Without fossil fuels, transportation would stagger to a halt, agricultural productivity would plummet, millions would suffer from cold, heat and hunger, and untold legions would suffer premature death.

That’s why any comparison between fossil fuel companies and the tobacco industry, whose product is a health disaster with no redeeming economic value, is so wide of the mark.

The editorial board also points out a key economic fact.

Such lawsuits are especially unfortunate in a state like Colorado where tens of thousands of people work in a vibrant energy industry and understandably do not consider themselves engaged in a malignant occupation. And yet when the companies they work for are stigmatized and even demonized for engaging in commerce still critical to our economy, by extension so are they.

A sensible critique, in my view.

To be clear, I don’t have a problem with the development of renewable energy sources. In fact, it makes sense to me that, just like in so many other sectors, we are on the lookout for ways to build a better mousetrap. My issue with today’s push for renewables is that it is so heavily subsidized. If/when private investors deem the risk bearable in the quest to find viable renewables, they will do so. Until then, other sources, including natural gas, are powering our lives, and market forces are driving down emissions. It’s great news.

What is indisputable is that low-cost available energy is critical to every North Carolina household, business, and industrial enterprise. At the John Locke Foundation, we’re urging lawmakers to address the state’s onerous renewable energy mandate, which forces utilities to purchase a certain percentage of their power from renewable sources. That’s a mandate to purchase higher-cost energy when lower-cost energy is available. The result? Higher power bills for every one of us.