Assessing Energy Policy

As the year ends and we look forward to 2013, it’s time to assess the extent to which fear of CO2-induced global warming is affecting energy policy. It’s probably also worthwhile looking at the latest thoughts concerning CO2 emissions.

Generation of electricity

Every method for evaluating the cost of electricity has established that electricity from wind and solar is more expensive than electricity generated from coal, natural gas, hydro, nuclear, or geothermal power plants. The cost of electricity from wind and solar is substantially higher than from these other methods.

The only reason for adopting wind and solar is to cut CO2 emissions. They have no other benefits, except possibly not emitting NOx, SOx, etc., but, in fact, have some negative environmental consequences, such as killing bats and birds as well as noise pollution.

They also result in additional “other” costs, primarily the cost of building transmission lines whose only purpose is to transport electricity from remote areas, where wind and solar plants are installed, to where the electricity can be used. These unnecessary costs are very large, as much as $90 billion. This money could be put to better use upgrading and strengthening existing transmission lines.

The reliability and resiliency of transmission lines are impaired by the unreliable and inconsistent generation of electricity from wind and solar.

Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS)

RPS has been adopted by over twenty states to force the use of electricity generated by renewables. Since “renewables” refers primarily to wind and solar, RPS is forcing the adoption of wind and solar, whose only justification is to cut CO2 emissions.

Fossil Fuels for Generating Electricity

The primary reason for eliminating the use of fossil fuels is to cut CO2 emissions.

EPA regulations have made it virtually impossible to build new coal-fired power plants, even though they are substantially (i.e. 40%) more efficient than those built in the past and have emissions that are nearly as low as those from natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plants.

These regulations have damaged an entire industry and are depriving the United States of using a low-cost fuel for generating electricity.

Oil is rarely used for generating electricity, with only 1% of all electricity being generated from oil in the United States. Wind and solar, therefore, do not eliminate the use of oil.

Transportation fuels

Two reasons have been put forth for eliminating oil in transportation … cutting CO2 emissions and eliminating the United States’ dependency on foreign oil.

Ethanol and other substitutes have been introduced as alternatives to oil. These so-called biofuels, e.g., ethanol, algae, and biodiesel, are all more expensive than gasoline or diesel fuel; but their use has been forced upon the country through regulation. It’s also impossible to produce enough of these biofuels to eliminate more than a small fraction of the oil we use.

Electric vehicles (EVs and PHEVs) are far more expensive than traditional vehicles because of the $10,000 battery cost. Even if there were large numbers of these vehicles on the road, they wouldn’t cut CO2 emissions by very much, perhaps 15%. Their effect on oil imports is not known since many of these vehicles would still be using gasoline for an unknown number of miles driven.

Natural gas is a viable alternative to oil; but it emits CO2, which has incited the wrath of the Sierra Club.

Building the Keystone pipeline has been delayed, possibly prevented, because it transports oil produced from Canadian tar sands, which emit CO2 during the production of oil.

Fracking, which has created a surplus of low-cost natural gas, is under attack for several reasons, one of which is the emission of methane, a green-house-gas (GHG). Regulations eliminating the surplus of low-cost natural gas would prevent using natural gas as an alternative to oil in transportation.

If CO2 is not a threat, the only possible reason for developing alternatives to oil is to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Yet because of fracking, we have the potential for producing all the oil we need from North America, thereby largely eliminating the importing of oil from Venezuela and the Mideast.

Restrictions placed on fracking would be where the fear of global warming from GHG emissions could actually prevent our becoming independent from these foreign countries.

CO2 Emissions and Global Warming

There is now strong, if not nearly overwhelming evidence that CO2 emissions are not causing global warming or climate change.

Temperature rise, if it continues, will be the same as it has been over the past hundred years, around 1.50 F, over the century.

Temperatures have not risen at all for the past fifteen years, which should make it clear that there is little linkage between CO2 atmospheric concentrations and temperatures.

The December 18 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, titled Cooling Down the Fears of Climate Change, by Matt Ridley, who has written on climate issues for a quarter century, establishes that there should be little fear of global warming due to CO2 emissions.

There have been seven international conferences on climate change, held by the Heartland Institute, where dozens of scientists have presented papers demonstrating that CO2 is not a threat. Many of these papers have been published in Climate Change Reconsidered.


It’s clear that the fear of global warming from CO2 is seriously distorting energy policies. These distortions are hurting Americans with higher costs and misapplication of investments.

The EPA is poised to place even greater curbs in 2013 on the use of coal to generate electricity. David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has threatened to sue the EPA if it doesn’t force the reduction of CO2 emissions.

If CO2 is not a threat, there is no reason to distort energy policies and hurt Americans.


Read more of Donn’s columns at his blog, Power For USA.

© Power For USA, 2010 – 2013

Photo credit: Laura Emily (Creative Commons)


  1. Fossil fuels are finite. Their extraction damages the local environment. Their combustion pollutes large areas and is largely responsible for the current rapid global warming and ensuing climate chaos. The *costs* of using fossil fuels are not reflected in their *price*.

    However, 'renewables' as we have them now are not the answer. Though their source of energy is inexhaustible, they still require fossil fueled machinery in their manufacture, installation, maintenance and renewal. They typically exploit very low density energy, so they require large land areas and large quantities of materials, some of which is in short supply.

    Unfortunately with technology as it stands, we can't live with fossil fuels and we can't live without them. That is our predicament.

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