President Joe Biden’s efforts to turn “America First” into “Blame America First” in less than 100 days took a dangerous turn into the energy realm over the past several weeks with his remarks at a hastily assembled climate summit on Earth Day.
The president promised to halve U.S. emissions of greenhouses gases by 2030. This is on top of previous commitments by the president to remove all carbon from the U.S. power sector by 2035 and reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
And that’s not to mention the promise of his climate czar, John Kerry, to eliminate CO2 entirely from the atmosphere once zero net emissions are achieved — a proposition that would be dangerous if ever taken seriously.
Never mind that these proposals will drive up energy costs — Americans already are paying nearly $1 more per gallon of gas in part because of Biden’s executive order that ended oil and gas leases on federal land and his revocation of the Keystone XL pipeline project.
Never mind that during the Trump administration, the only country in the world to meet its emissions reductions targets under the Paris climate agreement was the country that withdrew — the United States.
Never mind that to cut half our emissions we must eliminate 80 percent of the power sector’s emissions, which would effectively eliminate the use of coal in the United States and likely would force the rest of the country to experience the blackouts for which California has become known.
“Green” politicians would say this is the whole idea — get rid of that dirty fuel and replace it with something cleaner. But aside from natural gas, which the Biden administration also opposes, there is not yet a viable energy resource to take the place of coal. And in a demand crisis, there is nowhere else to turn. That won’t change as the result of any government program over the next nine or 14 or 29 years.
When other sources strained to deliver during the deep freeze in February that caused widespread power outages in Texas and elsewhere, coal use nearly doubled.
Natural gas use increased during the crisis, but it still produced at only 40 percent capacity. Wind power’s capacity factor was cut in half to just 17 percent. Solar obviously was of no help. But coal increased its output of electricity by 92 percent and performed at 84 percent of capacity.
Coal is not the most common fuel used in the U.S. anymore. It’s down to 20 percent, about the same as nuclear. But replacing a fifth of the U.S. electric fuel mix, plus another third that’s derived from natural gas, is not realistic.
Perhaps the most deluded comment came from Antony Blinken, Biden’s secretary of state. “It’s difficult to imagine the United States winning the long-term strategic competition with China if we cannot lead the renewable energy revolution,” Blinken said in the run up to the climate summit.. “Right now, we’re falling behind.”
The job-creation power attributed to green energy always has been oversold. And it’s not clear who Blinken thinks is leading the “renewable energy revolution” right now. But it’s not the country he says we’re trying to defeat.
China is going gangbusters in the other direction. It’s now the world’s leading consumer of fuel. Its coal fleet is larger than all other coal fleets in the world combined. It produces more coal-generated power than the U.S. generates from all sources combined. It’s even funding 100 gigawatts of coal power to be built outside of China.
A decade ago, the U.S. consumed a fifth of the world’s energy. Now that figure is down to 13 percent, but China’s has grown to 28 percent, and it uses five times as much coal now as the United States. The U.S. has decreased emissions 12 percent overall and a full third on electric power generation just since 2005. China now says its CO2 emissions output won’t stop increasing until at least 2030.
So while we are proposing to cut emissions in half in nine years, China proposes to continue to grow them at least until then and probably beyond. Its coal-fired generating capacity is expected to grow again this year, and it has enough coal-fired plants under construction now to increase its coal energy capacity another 25 percent.
And yet our president is ready to plunge us into energy uncertainty with no assurance that the reliability and resilience of the grid won’t be compromised, without even a projection of what this will do to energy costs, and with no attempt to hold China responsible.
The United States is not the problem here. Its emissions have decreased. Its use of fossil fuels has decreased. Its use of coal in the power mix has decreased. All this even as it achieved energy independence in 2018 for the first time in decades.
The problem is an administration that wants to play nice with China while fitting us all for mohair shirts and condemning us to a life of energy uncertainty and increased expense. “America First” has become “Blame America First.” And as the Texas freeze established, and California’s numerous blackouts before that showed, the consequences can be deadly.
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Author: Brian McNicoll