Renewable-Energy Standards Are Climate Policy in Disguise; Renewable-Energy Standards Are Climate Policy in Disguise

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 15, 2010 | Go to article overview

Renewable-Energy Standards Are Climate Policy in Disguise; Renewable-Energy Standards Are Climate Policy in Disguise


Byline: E. Calvin Beisner, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Just when you thought you were safe from economy-crushing climate legislation with the death of cap-and-trade in the Senate, a new threat looms. It's climate legislation in disguise: renewable-energy standards.

The House version of carbon dioxide cap-and-trade passed narrowly last year and would have raised prices for electricity 90 percent, gasoline 58 percent and natural gas 55 percent, driving up the average household's annual direct and indirect energy costs by about $3,600; reduced average annual employment by about 1.2 million jobs between 2012 and 2035, when the number of jobs lost would reach 2.5 million; added $28,000 in federal debt for every American; and reduced gross domestic product by $9.4 trillion. All that for a tiny fraction of a degree's hypothetical global temperature reduction a century from now.

After the American public got a good grasp on it and had a bellyful of Obamacare, cap-and-trade became too hot to handle in the Senate.

But the war against carbon dioxide (a natural element vital to all life) continues unabated. Opponents switched hats. Now they want to fight CO2 emissions by mandating a switch from low-cost, high-efficiency conventional fuels to renewable energy, and in the wake of Climategate and other revelations of fraud and incompetence among global-warming alarmists, they just keep mum about the climate connection.

The pressure for renewables isn't new. Ever since before World War II, people have warned - wrongly - that the world is running out of conventional energy sources such as oil and have urged substitution of renewable fuels. In 1973, renewable fuels (excluding hydro) had become the source of a whopping 0.6 percent of total electricity generated around the world. By 2006, that had grown to an anemic 2 percent. By 2008, in the United States, renewables provided about 3.1 percent of all our electricity.

There are reasons why that's so - rooted not in politics, ideology or the pressure of giant oil and coal companies, which would be just as glad to make money from renewable fuels - but in basic physics and what that means for the comparative cost of electricity generated from renewable versus conventional and nuclear fuels.

As Robert Bryce points out in Power Hungry (PublicAffairs, 2010), renewable fuels simply don't have the power density - the amount of power that can be harnessed in a given unit of volume, area or mass - of conventional and nuclear fuels. …

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