Venezuelan store
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Socialist state control of energy production has contributed to food shortages and power outages in Venezuela, where some have eaten zoo animals in a struggle to survive.

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democratic socialist rock star du jour, made her latest pitch for socialism Saturday at the South by Southwest music festival in Texas. She was all the rage, overshadowing the hottest musicians.

“Capitalism, to me, is an ideology of capital,” she said. “ … it means that we seek and prioritize profit and the accumulation of money above all else, and we seek it at any human and environmental cost. … But when we talk about ideas for example like democratic socialism, it means putting democracy and society first, instead of capital first.”

The “Green New Deal” forms the centerpiece of AOC’s socialist vision, meaning she understands energy as the economy’s foundation. The plan, the new big thing among the Democratic establishment, would deemphasize profits that fund energy production. It would nationalize energy and convert the U.S. economy to 100 percent “renewables” within 12 years.

The new deal would “fix” an economy that has driven so much diverse energy production Americans never think about life without power for cars, homes and businesses. Profits have funded so much energy exploration, innovation and production the International Energy Agency this week determined the U.S. will surpass Saudi Arabia as the world’s top oil exporter within five years.

Our diverse and competitive energy portfolio consists of oil, gas, wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric and nuclear. No disruption of a single source would leave us in the dark for long.

Our country’s innovative production has never derived from warm feelings that put “democracy and society first.” It results from pursuits of profits that fund additional pursuits of profits and the blessings of surplus.

A net export of energy means human stability. It means no need for oil wars and weird alliances with hostile countries. It means the heater always works and the lights come on when we flip the switch. It means hospitals keep loved ones alive when tragedy strikes. It means supermarket shelves are stocked with food, even as the magnum opus of blizzards approaches.

We don’t need to predict the outcome of nationalizing energy, in pursuit of the left’s unicorns-and-lollipops objection to profits. Just look south.

A for-profit energy sector made Venezuela the richest country in South America at the turn of the 21st century. Competitive, profit-driven energy made the country an oasis of education, clean water and surplus goods funded by the world’s largest oil reserves.

Venezuela’s last economic surge peaked in the 1990s, after the country opened oil exploration and production to competitive private investment. The policy, Apertura Petrolera, facilitated 32 operating agreements with 22 companies producing oil. Profits motivated and funded production that created jobs, government revenues and the stability of energy independence.

Oil revenues provided 50 percent of the Venezuelan government’s revenues in 2001. They comprised 30 percent of the country’s GDP and 80 percent of export revenues.

Socialist president Hugo Chávez, elected in 1999, campaigned on a promise to share the energy sector’s wealth. He attempted to fulfill the pledge with a sweeping hydrocarbons law in 2001 that increased taxation of oil profits by 80 percent.

The socialist seizure of profits quickly stifled energy production, as private-sector oil producers could not afford the overhead. Chávez tried to reverse the ensuing financial downturn by fully nationalizing the oil industry in 2007. It didn’t work. Devoid of tax revenues previously provided by for-profit energy, the government had no means of funding production.

The near death of the energy sector played a major role in Venezuela’s devolution into today’s hellhole of despair. Government control of private property, imposed by Chávez and socialist successor Nicolás Maduro, suppressed food production by eroding farming incomes.

The lights don’t come on in Venezuela. Lacking a diversified energy grid, the country has been dark since the moment one electrical substation went down March 7.

Hospital patients die for lack of electrons to power life-saving equipment. Annual inflation of more than 2.7 million percent means the country has no currency for trade. Some Venezuelans, eating zoo animals to survive, contemplate eating other humans. Monday’s New York Times describes it like this:

“Sporadic looting and spontaneous protests. Desperate patients begging doctors to be kept alive. Residents bracing for wider attacks on markets and restaurants after the sun goes down.

“Sunday was the fourth day since Venezuela’s power system went down, plunging most of the country, including Caracas, the capital, into sporadic darkness and dampening hopes of imminent resolution to a devastating blackout that has brought the country to the verge of social implosion.

“ ‘We’re going to arrive at a moment when we’re going to eat each other,’ said Zuly González, 40, a resident of Caracas’s Chacao neighborhood.”

Societies need energy for food, clean water and all other components of public health, safety and survival. Energy is not free, regardless of anything politicians claim. When they starve production they starve humanity. See Venezuela, where socialist rock stars demonized profits, nationalized property and promised to make things free.

The Gazette editorial board

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