Michael Swartz / June 29, 2022

The Long Hot Summer … of Blackouts?

Energy trouble isn’t speculation when Americans have prime examples of what not to do.

The headlines are ominous. Do a quick search of recent news and you’ll find these among the lead items:

“Prepare for 2022 summer blackouts: The best generators and batteries for your home in 2022”

“Blackouts Could Be Coming to Your State. Here’s How to Prepare”

“Farmers Warned of Possible Rolling Blackouts This Summer”

“Amidst Soaring Summer Heat and Electricity Prices, Rolling Blackouts are Coming”

“Heavier Demand on the Grid Could Lead to Rolling Blackouts, Summer Power Outages”

The last headline is perhaps the best — though still incomplete — description of the issue our nation is having with adopting a “clean and green” energy program. Truth be told, given the appropriate land area, we could theoretically create enough energy through wind and solar power to satisfy demand on our electrical grid, but the problem with relying on renewables is that not all of it is available at the same time. Peak demand generally occurs as the sun is going down — thus, solar is not as effective a generator at that hour as it is around midday, at solar noon. And wind speeds tend to die down in the evening, making turbines less effective. Moreover, many areas of the country aren’t well suited for wind turbines because the air is too still, including much of the Southeast.

Fossil fuels, particularly natural gas, cannot be phased out in the near-term future because they provide some stability to the electrical grid.

Yet in a country blessed with enough oil, coal, and natural gas to fulfill our needs for decades to come, as well as advanced enough nuclear technology to satisfy almost anyone concerned about the effects of burning carbon-based products, somehow our government’s favored approach is to eschew all those reliable sources for the capriciousness of wind blowing and the sun that’s going down when demand is at its highest. To see where this all could be headed, we need only look at the situation in Germany, which a decade ago threw in its lot with renewables to the extent that this year the Germans planned to shut down their last three of a onetime cohort of 17 nuclear reactors.

German dependence on Russian natural gas to fill in the gaps, however, has obviously proven problematic. As Hans-Werner Sinn, a professor emeritus of economics at the University of Munich, observed: “Green politicians in Germany always hoped that other countries would emulate this energy agenda once they saw how well it was working. But, in light of the war in Ukraine, the world is instead witnessing how Germany’s approach has created a policy disaster.”

It’s a disaster to the point where the country is being forced to reactivate mothballed coal-burning plants so it can conserve natural gas for this coming winter — meanwhile, German citizens pay an astounding 34 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity, well over double our 14 cent per kilowatt hour national average for residential usage. (Worth noting: per the cited EIA graph, those in California and Hawaii are already paying German-style prices.)

Germany should be a case study on what not to do. Unfortunately, we Americans seem to be following their lead, as our energy independence of a few short years ago has been quickly reduced to going hat in hand to nations that don’t like us to beg them to produce more oil. Meanwhile, the push by the Biden administration to crush the oil, coal, and natural gas industries with regulations, restrictions on exploration, and threatened windfall profit taxes means we pay higher prices at the gas pump and perhaps endure rolling blackouts in the heat of the summer.

So when energy “experts” like Senator Elizabeth Warren suggest that “now is the moment to double-down, triple-down, and quadruple-down on clean energy,” it’s appropriate to remind her what author David Harsanyi noted: “No nation has anything approaching a clean energy economy. And those that have promised to build one are all struggling.”

Why do we need to struggle when we can take care of the problem with a solution we already know from recent history works quite well? Here’s an inconvenient truth: We weren’t panicking over rolling blackouts three years ago.

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