Muddled Approach Could Jeopardize U.S. Energy Future
By Vijay Jayaraj
Presidential candidate Joe Biden has introduced a $2 trillion Clean Energy Plan.
Besides missing out on providing information about how the proposed transitions to “clean technology,” the extreme shift towards a fossil-free energy sector reveals the volatility in Biden’s approach.
Fossil Fuel, Economy, and Radical Environmentalism
Energy sectors are the backbone of any economy. In the U.S., fossil fuels have been singularly responsible for fueling American industries, which in turn played a key role in making the country the superpower it is today.
But the recent panic surrounding climate change has caused deep-seated fear in policymakers and leaders. Many believe the global temperature has risen to perilous levels and that fossil fuel emissions are the primary driver of climate change. But that has not been the case.
Yet, this ideology attained global significance with the introduction of the Paris Climate Agreement by the United Nations, which the United States joined in 2016. Though President Donald Trump decided to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement, a process due to be completed just after the presidential election in November, lawmakers in Congress continue to pursue its tenets.
In 2019, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) introduced the Green New Deal (GND). Now, in 2020, Biden has drafted a Clean Energy Plan based on the GND. His plan is equally radical in calling for an end to all fossil fuel-based energy sources by 2035.
Biden proposes renewable energy technology as a replacement to the existing energy sources in the U.S. (80% of which currently comes from fossil fuels), but his position has not always been the same.
Biden’s Unclear Approach Towards Energy
There has been significant confusion when it comes to U.S. policy on fossil fuels.
Former President Obama supported natural gas exploration yet joined the anti-fossil fuel Paris agreement, which actually calls for an end to fossil fuels.
During Obama’s second term, then Vice President Joe Biden supported the natural gas industry. But today, Biden opposes the same industry.
It is also ironic that Biden wants natural gas out despite its being the single major reason behind U.S. greenhouse gas emissions falling drastically in the past few years. If his primary aim is to reduce GHG emissions, he should support natural gas.
Instead he has called for an end to all fossil fuel use. Yet he fails to explain how currently available alternatives will replace them and meet the nation’s total energy demand.
So, there is a definite lack of clarity regarding the justification for proposing such radical policies.
Biden’s Plan Will Cost America Dearly
Contrary to its selling point, the Clean Energy Plan offers no real benefits. Wind and solar are neither green nor clean. They emit toxic pollutants and kill wildlife by the millions.
Besides, they are limited in their functionality: Wind turbines can’t generate electricity on days without wind, and solar panels cannot produce power when there is no sunlight.
Even when functional, they are intermittent and have to be backed up by conventional energy-generation sources like fossil. Otherwise the grid becomes unstable, and brownouts and blackouts ensue, costing billions of dollars and potentially thousands of lives. To make things worse, they have a proven track record of increasing electricity prices.
As per the current state of affairs, renewable energy sources like wind and solar cannot power even a small city in the U.S. without depending on conventional backup. To expect them to power the entire country is unrealistic.
Beyond Partisan Ideologies: America Needs Fossil Fuels
Extreme climate policies are not necessarily a partisan issue. Rather, we’re observing a war between those who subscribe to radical environmental policies grounded loosely in unproven futuristic claims about climate vs. those who recognize that climate change is not a big threat and fighting it slows the economic development essential to lifting the remainder of the world’s poverty into health and prosperity.
While Biden’s plan recommends huge investments in research projects that target strategies for a fossil fuel-free power grid, it does not necessarily mean that the findings will be fruitful or even applicable to the real-world power grid scenario.
His push for the new plan stems more from unfounded fears on climate and less from scientific understanding about the energy grid, generation systems, and the economy.
A secure energy future can be achieved only by embracing all available forms of energy, especially fossil fuels. Partisan wars on climate change must not and should not risk the lives of millions and the nation’s very future.
Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England) is a research contributor for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.