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  • Short-Circuiting America’s Green Energy Nightmare

    Humanity faces a genuine battle for its future at least as significant as the Cold War, and perhaps as crucial as World War II.

    As documented in prior Trends issues, the environmental policies the Biden Administration and the EU are promoting to address the allegedly “existential” threat of climate change, paradoxically, represent the true existential threat to modern civilization.

    It’s not that a net-zero global economy is bad; we’ve previously documented how to get there over the next 40 years, while rapidly raising global affluence.

    The problem is using today’s technology to implement panic-driven policies. And this leads to “solutions” which are wildly out-of-step with society’s needs, now and for the foreseeable future.

    In short, “we can’t get there from here” without sacrificing the health, happiness and freedom of people around the world.

    Elon Musk, a centi-billionaire who sells electric cars says, “Realistically, civilization will crumble if we don’t continue to use oil and gas in the short run.” Musk also recommended “continued drilling and exploration for oil and gas,” because he understands that producing and fueling electric vehicles will require substantial fossil fuel electricity generation, for years to come.

    Unfortunately, most so-called “experts” in academia, government, and ESG-obsessed finance, refuse to run the numbers.

    They are also unwilling to acknowledge that genuinely “existential” issues like war & peace, economic vitality, jobs and living standards all have the same critical driving force: energy!

    That means access to affordable, abundant energy in all forms to transport people and goods, to run farms and provide food, to heat and cool homes, to power manufacturing, and to fuel ships, planes and vehicles for our military.

    Furthermore, natural gas is essential for fertilizers to feed a hungry world. And hydrocarbons are the indispensable building blocks for plastics, pharmaceuticals, synthetic fibers, paints, and thousands of other products.

    Today, these vital, almost-taken-for-granted benefits come almost entirely from oil, gas and coal. Those who have it will be powerful; those who don’t will not. China and Russia know this well.

    On the other hand, Europe made a “deal with the devil” by trusting its energy supply needs to Vladimir Putin and energy-rich Russia - while crippling its own energy future with anti-fossil-fuel climate change policies.

    Europe closed many of its coal, gas and nuclear power plants, while building expensive, unreliable, and weather-dependent, solar and wind facilities. In retrospect, anyone can see that without his dominance over gas, oil and coal supplies to Europe, Putin would have never had the funding and geopolitical leverage that made him confident enough to launch his war in Ukraine.

    And where were the Biden and Obama Administrations? They copied Europe, with vast green energy subsidies and an unrelenting “whole of government” regulatory war on fossil fuels. And that has led America to adopt perhaps the most irrational stance possible for a country awash in hydrocarbon reserves.

    Today, America should be telling an energy-insecure world, “We will do everything in our power to increase the supply of energy,” using an all-of-the-above approach. That means not only using fossil fuels and renewables but harnessing nuclear and hydroelectric power to the fullest extent possible.

    Instead, we beg dictatorships, like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, that pay no attention to human rights or ecological values – to increase their production, because we refuse to increase our own.

    That’s absurd and self-defeating! We could be the “gas station of democracy,” reaping a windfall as we prop up our allies around the world. But Green New Deal climate change policies stand in the way.

    Simple arithmetic tells the story.

    Fossil fuels still provide roughly 80% of the world’s and America’s energy consumption. The rest comes from hydro, nuclear, solar, wind and biomass. In the USA, solar and wind provide less than 5% of our total energy consumption - and less than 2% of what’s needed to power our 290 million cars, trucks and buses. For airplanes, the percentage is zero.

    Meanwhile, coal still constitutes about 33% of total energy consumption in the U.S. and 37% worldwide. Nevertheless, it is being prematurely withdrawn from global energy supplies by climate change policies. This is devastating, especially for poor countries.

    Instead, developing economies need expanded coal mining to produce electricity, to create jobs and to lift billions out of abject poverty. Yet they are denied access to capital by the climate-obsessed bureaucracies at international financial institutions and government aid agencies like the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and USAID. This is truly hypocritical, especially because the West industrialized predominantly with coal, which they are now withholding from today’s emerging economies.

    Worst of all, climate zealots in government and the private sector are creating a new and unworkable energy economy based on vast subsidies for solar and wind, enabling the replacement of coal, oil and gas. And if continued, their efforts portend disaster, for Europe and North America, because they are doing it prematurely - before the replacements are anywhere near ready for prime time.

    The Biden Administration’s so-called “Inflation Reduction Act” contains over $370 billion in new green energy subsidies, purposely skewing massive private investment into solar and wind, and away from fossil fuels that are still practically, economically and geopolitically essential.

    Before governments provide such enormous subsidies, they need to analyze all the environmental impacts of producing and installing massive wind turbine, solar panel and backup battery facilities.

    On national and global scales, those technologies will require materials mining and processing on scales unprecedented in human history; and indeed, at levels impossible to reach for decades to come. And that mining and processing will unavoidably require the use of massive amounts of fossil fuel.

    Furthermore, wind, solar and battery facilities on the scale envisioned will adversely impact vast amounts of land including wildlife habitats, croplands and scenic areas.

    They will kill birds, bats and other wildlife. And without expensive, resource intensive and fire-prone battery backup, they require inefficient hydrocarbon “peaker” facilities to fill in the frequent gaps when the wind isn’t blowing, and the sun isn’t shining.

    That’s not all. As we’re already seeing in Europe, demonizing conventional energy sources brings the risks of blackouts, factory shutdowns, and freezing people in the dark during long winters. “Clean, green, renewable” energy is simply not yet able to meet the growing electricity needs of the United States and the rest of the world.

    Notably, substituting natural gas for coal in electricity generation is the primary reason America has been leading the World in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Natural gas should be seen not as a pariah, but as the “bridge fuel” to any fossil-fuel-free future. And fortunately, the United States is unique among the world’s countries in having both vast natural gas reserves and the need to consume it.

    What’s the bottom line?

    The Biden Administration’s Green New Deal priorities are putting exaggerated climate change fears above the security of our European allies as well as America’s own affluence and national security. In fact, forcing the world to go prematurely “green” represents the true “existential threat” to the survival of modern western democracies, developing nations, and the planet’s biosphere.

    Fortunately, soaring energy prices, geopolitical events, and the continued failure of any climate cataclysm to materialize are calling green priorities into question and causing people to increasingly challenge the underlying assumptions.

    Given this trend, we offer the following forecasts for your consideration.

    First, by the end of 2023, censorship of the climate and energy debate will largely collapse.

    Over the past three decades, media, government, and academia have, for the most part, promoted the lie of “settled climate science.” But this will largely come to an end when SCOTUS acts to disable social media censorship, as explained earlier in this issue. And the resulting “wave of truth” promises to shock independent voters.

    For example, a recent analysis using the same climate sensitivity model as the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that, even if the U.S. eliminated all its emissions, the world would only be 14%-of-one-degree cooler by 2100. Such revelations regarding the futility of the Green New Deal will unleash burning anger against the greens in 2024.

    Second, beginning in 2023, Congress will conduct hearings to reveal the malign implications of the administration’s actions related to the energy sector.

    This represents the perfect pocketbook issue for the new Republican majority to emphasize if it wants to build momentum for 2024. From oil and gas leases to pipeline cancelations to regulatory constraints on refinery capacity to biofuel mandates, the Democrat agenda has increased energy prices and created shortages.

    And because of their political entanglement with green activism, it will be impossible for the administration to reverse course except in response to court orders or legislative coercion.

    Three, jurisdictional competition will play a major role in addressing the current energy crisis.

    The 2021 “red wave” in Virginia provides a leading indicator for what we’re likely to see in other states. The Youngkin administration is focusing on incapacitating the Virginia Clean Economy Act (or VCEA) which mandates

    - construction of the world’s largest offshore industrial wind facility,
    - construction of solar projects equal in aggregate to the area of 35 New York Cities,
    - implementation of currently unavailable grid storage technologies, and
    - retirement of Virginia’s natural gas power plants by 2045.

    Most importantly, implementation of the VCEA would “increase electricity costs levels by 53% by 2030 and 72% by 2035” from 2020 price levels. And these increases would be much greater were it not for the fact that Virginia will be forced “to rely on electricity imports from other states that are generated from coal, gas, and nuclear sources.”

    With Republicans controlling all statewide executive offices and the House of Delegates, the only impediment to this fix is a Democrat majority in the Virginia State Senate. Youngkin and his team will make energy prices and VCEA the cornerstone of their effort to take over that chamber on November 7, 2023.

    Fourth, the courts will reject local efforts to hold fossil fuel companies responsible for the alleged harm caused by climate change.

    In the current term, SCOTUS is being asked to decide whether claims alleging damages from climate change arise under federal law and, if so, must they be heard in federal court. Today, such claims are packaged as “state claims” in an effort to sidestep the Supreme Court’s 2011 ruling in AEP v. Connecticut.

    In that case, the Court said that deciding how to address climate change is not a liability question for the courts at all. As the Court explained in AEP, climate change is a by-product of modern society and needs to be meaningfully addressed, and judges simply do not have the institutional means to do so.

    Specifically, judges cannot assess and make decisions about the many causes of climate change or factors that go into setting national and international policies - including energy affordability for families and businesses and national security interests.

    Expect SCOTUS to rule that such cases are inappropriate for litigation at the state level, eliminating one more path for green zealots to undermine our energy security. And,

    Fifth, like Europe, parts of New England will “freeze in the dark” this winter as a result of green extremism.

    Older coal, oil and nuclear-fueled generators in the region have shut down in recent years, leaving the gas-fired ones to plug the gap and face the brunt of the increasing demand.

    Yet a shortage of pipeline capacity means that at least one-third of the region’s gas needs must be met using extraordinarily expensive LNG purchased on the world market. This may impact political realities in places like Maine, Connecticut and New Hampshire over the next few electoral cycles.

    Resource List
    1. CFact.com. October 19, 2022. Don Ritter. The real “existential” threat” to people and planet.

    2. RealClearEnergy.com. October 1, 2022. Kevin Mooney. Connecting “energy inflation” with “climate extremism.”

    3. New York Post. October 14, 2021. Daniel Turner. Big Tech censorship on climate change only hurts the nation.

    4. Townhall.com. October 15, 2022. Jennifer Schubert-Akin. Fighting Back Against Climate Change Censorship.

    5. CNSNews.com. October 12, 2022. Ben Shapiro. America’s Suicidal Energy Policy Has Very Real Costs.

    6. Townhall.com. October 21, 2022. Neil Patel. America’s Dumb Energy Debates.

    7. CFact.com. October 12th, 2022. Collister Johnson. Gov. Youngkin’s energy plan: Serious reform or public relations head fake?

    8. Townhall.com. October 10, 2022. Gabriella Hoffman. Governor Youngkin Goes Nuclear on Smart Energy Policy.

    9. Foxbusiness.com July 12, 2022. Thomas Catenacci. Dozens of Republicans demand Biden admin’s plan for nationwide power crisis.

    10. ADI-Analystics.com October 17, 2022. David Stolz. Natural gas crisis building in New England.

    11. Watts Up With That? October 19, 2022. Eric Worrall. Green Energy Fail: New England Facing Rolling Blackouts this Winter.

    12. RealClearEnergy.com. September 29, 2022. Phil Goldberg. All Eyes on SCOTUS With Climate Case on Deck.

    13. CFact.com. September 30, 2022. Peter Murphy. End-running democracy by forcing climate policies.

    14. Townhall.com. October 3, 2022. Paul Driessen. The Coming Green Electricity Nightmare.