The energy-environment marriage can work, but not this way
Sometimes the breezes don’t blow.
Sometimes the sun doesn’t shine.
Sometimes the wind turbines freeze.
When “sometimes” happens in Pennsylvania in 2035, if we have eliminated fossil fuels and their 750,000 jobs (75,000 in this state) from our energy diet, what will happen? Consider Texas recently, where wind and solar provide 40 percent of the energy. A deep freeze and sunless days disabled the alternative supply, reducing its capability to 8 percent. People died.
Texas should have been better prepared for a once-in-a-century weather event, but fossil fuel energy averted more tragedy.
The Biden administration was handed this energy/environment landscape: Greenhouse gas emissions at 1993 levels, a thriving natural gas industry (with Pennsylvania second in the nation in production), continued development of alternative sources, energy independence and gasoline prices near $2 a gallon. It took President Biden about 12 minutes to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, abort completion of the Keystone XL Pipeline, nix fracking on federal lands and get the price of gasoline up to about $3 a gallon.
The pipeline passed multiple environmental reviews during the Obama administration. Materials to complete it were purchased. Communities and workers invested futures in it. Now, joblessness and ghost towns loom, thanks to this bow to the Green New Deal god. The transportation of oil from Canada will be less environmentally safe. Welders, pipe layers, truckers, restauranteurs, motel owners and a host of others are being told by John Kerry to go make solar panels.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are fewer of those jobs, they pay half as much, and half of them are in China. Was that information not available on the internet feed of Kerry’s private plane? Does he have any idea what relocating to another state – or country – to work at another job at half the pay means?
Fact: Each windmill uses 500 gallons of oil, which must be changed regularly. There is no place to recycle waste when windmills need replaced.
Fact: Solar panels use toxic chemicals, with a similar recycling quandry.
Fact: Electric car battery supply is no match for demand if that is the only future car we drive. Materials to manufacture them are not prevalent in the United States. The batteries are recharged on a “dirty” grid.
Fact: It is impossible to build any “clean” energy facility without fossil fuels.
The bottom line: There is an environmental impact with every source of energy.
Scaring everyone, as Kerry and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez do when they say the planet is in its last decade, won’t change realities. Putting families on a guilt trip won’t make unemployment easier. A revenge tour against coal, oil and natural gas that includes heartless elimination of thousands of jobs won’t improve our standing with elitist fanatics jetting to environmental conferences.
Under the previous administration, carbon emissions were less than the countries in the Paris Climate Accord. So why are we rejoining them and what are they doing to change China – the world’s top polluter and burner of half its coal? The United States has the world’s toughest environmental standards. Why do we need an empty accord to validate our environmental consciences?
Why do we have to transition from a net exporter of energy into a beggar nation buying from countries that do not like us, sacrificing prescious foreign policy capital?
The Department of Energy says 80 percent of America’s energy comes from oil, gas and coal and less than 5 percent from wind and solar. I love wind farms. I love solar panels. But there is no evidence they can heat all our homes and drive all our cars in the future. And experience tells us that’s not necessary.
Just as evil Big Pharma keyed development of a COVID vaccine, so it will be that evil Big Energy perfects carbon capturing of coal, continued evolution of safe fracking of natural gas, clean production of nuclear power and improved efficiency of alternative energy. We know this because they are the biggest investors in those initiatives.
Consider the progress of the past 30 years to make coal, natural gas and nuclear power environmentally safer. Factor in the economic survival reality of the private sector and its investment and payoff for research and development. History suggests the marriage between energy and the environment can work. If a vaccine can be developed in nine months, carbon capturing removing 95 percent of all coal emissions can be developed in nine years.
Does faith in science and technology only exist if it benefits certain political platforms, even if there is a 250-year record of American ingenuity solving every hurdle advancement has dealt it?
At a certain point – hopefully soon – the new leadership in Washington must stop being a weather vane selling out this country and start being a practical compass guiding it to a viable future.
David F. Troisi is retired as editor of the Sun-Gazette.