By David Holt
Last year was the latest in a string of bad years for energy proposals. Before we continue down this path, it’s time to add a healthy dose of reality to the national conversation about energy and environmental policy.
Make no mistake, we are in an exciting, evolutionary moment for energy and the environment. Wind and solar power are coming onto the grid at a breakneck pace, carbon capture and storage is taking off, emissions are continuing their rapid decline. America is helping lead the world in carbon reduction, and innovations in energy technologies are improving performance and efficiency.
Our national issue with all this is how to properly capture these advances in a smart, consistent and reality-based way, so we can meet our economy’s growing energy demands without hurting families by making energy less affordable and reliable. This is a scientific and engineering challenge at a grand scale, something America has traditionally excelled at solving.
The great disconnect is how our energy discussion is framed.
For too many years, the fact-free, illogical and ideological demands of extremists have played an oversized role in our energy policy dialogue. The modern form of extreme activism is rarely about the stated goal – in this case environmental protection. It is increasingly designed to block economic activity, thwart responsible solutions, and scold people into making radical changes.
The simple fact is we can, must and are marching toward a lower carbon future, while producing more oil and natural gas than ever, and diversifying our energy economy with more wind, solar and soon, nuclear.
I’ve often wondered why the marketplace of ideas is not where extreme activist groups want to make their case. They prefer creating villains and false choices, pitting energy progress and environmental progress against each other, stoking emotions, or turning to ad hominem attacks.
Tiresome and solutionless, disaster strikes when their false furors hold too much sway: In 2022, we got a year of near-record energy prices that fueled the highest inflation in 40 years, dozens of states warning of electricity brownouts or blackouts, and declining emissions performance.
Rather than following this false narrative, data, economic impacts and rigorous, continual testing (i.e., the scientific method) should be central tenets of our energy and environmental conversation.
If they were, no one would entertain attempts to ban natural gas, as has been proposed in New York, California and other states. Nor would anyone consider attempts to ban gas stoves and appliances based on discredited studies, as has been proposed in dozens of jurisdictions as well as by the current Administration.
Add in the labyrinth of regulatory hurdles for domestic oil and natural gas production, failure to fix energy project permitting and sudden activist opposition to removing carbon from our environment via carbon capture and storage – long seen as one of most indispensable paths to help manufacturers, steelmakers, cement producers and other energy-intensive industries cut their carbon footprint at scale and speed.
Similar contradictions abound. A day after Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm tooled around in an all-electric Ford pickup, the Biden Administration blocked mining on one America’s largest combined copper and nickel deposits. EVs require three times as much copper as traditional vehicles, so why not have American workers mine it under our strict environmental protections? Why not “Make It in America” as the president urged in successive State of the Union Addresses?
The usual anti-everything gang that wants to replace internal combustion vehicles with electric also oppose U.S. development of the metals including an important EV component mineral, cobalt. It’s mainly sourced from Chinese-owned mines in Congo that use child labor. At the same time, they urge the U.S. government to take it easy on China while supporting policies that give China control of our future energy.
Where we live, how we get around, the energy we choose to use are all freedoms improving our quality of life. No one – least of all those living at or near the poverty level who feel it the most when energy prices skyrocket – should support policies that raise prices by limiting energy choice and supply.
European nations did, enacting production bans and retiring functioning, always-on energy assets too early. These energy policies failed at a catastrophic cost to taxpayers, a familiar feeling to Californians.
European Union nations and the UK have budgeted at least $756 billion – roughly last year’s U.S. defense budget – to offset record energy bills. Still, some elected leaders want us to accept this intentional economic self-harm in America.
It’s time for consumers everywhere – families, farmers, truckers, organized labor, manufacturers, retailers, environmentalists – to demand a consumer recall for any idea that makes energy less affordable, available, reliable or environmentally responsible.
This article originally appeared at Real Clear Energy
- David Holt is president of Consumer Energy Alliance, a U.S. consumer energy and environment advocate supporting affordable, reliable energy for working families, seniors and businesses across the country.