Five Things I Truly Don't Understand About The "Inevitable Energy Transition
This list could be closer to 50 but let’s just stick to a handful of them. I literally live in this business every day, and I’m just so confused.
Further, good wind and solar spots are finite, based on geography, so new builds, naturally, will be forced into areas that are less windy and less sunny, lowering their already very low 35% capacity factors. And because they devour immense swaths of land, interrupting a whole host of things, that Renewable Rejection Database is mounting very quickly. If wind, solar, and electric cars too are as effective and low-cost as so many keep promising us, there would obviously be no need for government subsidies for broad adoption. Yet, there is, gigantically so. Huge amounts of taxpayer money going into this, what I call “the holy climate panacea triad,” are vulnerable to changing politics and bound to become politically untenable at some point: “Ford Is Losing $66,446 On Every EV It Sells.” Our limited financial resources are obviously very precious, so these NEVER CONSIDERED and wasted opportunity costs forcing wind, solar, and electric cars into the energy complex are truly catastrophic. Schools investing in electric buses over STEM? The $200 Billion Electric School Bus Bust. How can any of this be justified? I’m so utterly confused.
So, it becomes very obvious very quickly that no energy policy in northern California has any relevance in terms of changing the climate. The region could literally disappear and there would be no discernable impact on climate change. Even our climate czar John Kerry, loving the CO2-devouring life in a private jet and $250 million, has been forced to admit that the U.S. could even go to zero emissions and it would make no material impact on climate change. Talk about all pain, no gain. The real science is that incremental global emissions are “not here but over there” U.S. CO2 emissions are in structural decline regardless of what policies we pass (save 2021 and the rebound from Covid-19’s devastation in 2020). So, where is the climate benefit for Americans when it comes to U.S. climate policy? Because we’re continuously told to “believe science,” any positive answer to that question can only be deemed as anti-science. In fact, common sense and science itself tell us that unilateral climate policy can actually be really bad for climate change because it encourages carbon leakage (e.g., climate policy in the U.S. increases costs and just pushes a manufacturing firm to re-locate to coal-devouring China).
And this one I’m really confused on. President Biden promotes his climate agenda as a way to create jobs. Besides lacking in economic literacy (i.e., jobs are costs not benefits), the truth is that electric cars, for instance, entail far less jobs because they, for one thing, have far less moving parts. And there’s all kinds of evidence that electric car life-cycle emissions could be way worse than advertised, mostly because of the massive amounts of mining required to make them. We all know about child labor and your electric car, but even pro-EV outlets are being forced to report on the mounting problems from mining, the latest on how bauxite for the aluminum needed is destroying the Amazon. And about our President’s we’ll need oil for “another decade” claim? The U.S. Department of Energy just modeled that our oil demand will actually slightly INCREASE, not decline, to over 21.1 million b/d by 2050. Reality check: planes, industry (petrochemicals), heavy trucking, and sheer Energy Inertia will have oil dominating way longer than you’re being told.
Germany and California have shown us what these climate policies bring: Germany has the highest electricity prices in the world; and California’s are the highest in the continental U.S. and soaring out of control (Figure). How the heck can we push for “deep electrification” to fight climate change if we are going to follow policies that surge the price of electricity, while also lowering grid reliability? And rich Westerners, spare us the judgments, demands, and hypocrisy on climate change: Germany thrives on a GDP per capita per year of $51,200, compared to a horrifically sad $2,260 for India.
5. But, perhaps I’m most confused about the whole air quality thing. The obsession over it gets attached to all energy policies. But there’s clearly a strawman to the “we need cleaner air now” demand. First, the air quality conversation in the U.S. reminds me of Voltaire’s “the perfect is the enemy of good.” Americans seem completely unaware how drastically our air quality has improved. Check data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), our criteria pollutants have been plummeting over the past many decades. The risks seem exaggerated. Let’s just take Los Angeles, which for a big city notoriously has the worst air quality in the country. Tell me, please, if air quality is such a problem and such a health concern for Americans, why is it that Angelinos have a life expectancy of 82 years, a hearty three years above the national average. Just think of all the coal that China has devoured since 2000 (I figure around 70 billion tonnes), yet the country’s life expectancy, apparently shockingly to so many, is up a very impressive six years to nearly 78 since then. Maybe it’s because Chinese GDP per capita per year has skyrocketed nearly 9-fold to over $18,500. Even for rising asthma rates in the U.S., smoking is way down, coal usage is way down, and criteria pollutants are way down. So what gives?
“Better air quality and environment” are not free, as attaining government standards cost businesses hundreds of billions of dollars per year. These costs are ultimately paid by Americans in the form of higher prices, lower wages, and less choices. And at some point, the cost of the regulation to achieve better air outweighs its benefit. We’ve won on water too: the water in your toilet is cleaner than what the vast majority of humans on Earth drink. For every time that we hear “environmental justice” we need to say “economic justice” 100 times. In this country for all Americans, Blacks and Hispanics/Latinos make 30% less money than Whites and Asians. Too many politicians focus on the endless pursuit of “better air quality” and other abstract, seemingly impossible to measure benefits because they have no clue on the real ways to help communities of color and other low-income Americans: help them get a better education, help them get a better job, and help them make more money. Career politicians love bottomless, money-devouring pits the most: “America's $100 billion climate change flop.” And although its entire existence is based on never being able to declare victory (imagine a football game with no time and no keeping score), EPA should consider that it’s wealth that matters most for health equity.
But, that’s not its business, is it?
Jude Clemente is the editor at RealClearEnergy.
I am Principal at JTC Energy Research Associates, LLC. I hold a B.A. in International Relations from Penn State University, with a minor in Statistical Analysis. I got my M.S. in Homeland Security from San Diego State University, with a focus on Energy Security, and an MBA from St. Francis University, with a focus on Energy Economics. My research specialization includes North American and international trends in liquid fuels, natural gas, coal, renewables, electricity and GHG emissions – and their connection to human development. I have over 400 professional publications in a variety of energy-related media, notably Pipeline & Gas Journal, Carbon Capture Journal, Journal of Energy Security, Power, World Oil, Public Utilities Fortnightly, and the Journal of Energy and Development. I have also been a writer and editor for reports commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy, International Energy Agency, and other major energy research organizations.
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