Misguided Energy Policy: Alone, Enough to Cause American Failure

In the interests of full disclosure: even though I was born, raised, and have always lived in Canada, I am staunchly pro-America to the point that I sometimes wonder if I am living in the wrong country.

My pro-U.S. sentiments started during childhood, when our family always spent summer holidays in Maine. To us, the U.S. was synonymous with good times, friendly people, magnificent scenery, and great shopping due to a (then-) favorable exchange rate. One summer, I even had an American girlfriend. The fact that America’s astronauts were walking on the Moon and my heroes, fellow Canadians Gordie Howe and William Shatner, were making it big in the U.S. made your country just that much more appealing. I would have spent my career as an aerospace engineer in the U.S. were your laws not so strict about hiring non-citizens for such jobs.

I came to eventually appreciate the U.S. for many other reasons as well -- most importantly, to quote Canada Free Press: “Because, without America, there is no Free World.” In particular, there would be no Canada.

Our country is far too large to keep to ourselves if we did not have the defense of a strong U.S. military. You are also our major customer for many of our most important products: oil, gas, electricity, uranium, car parts, maple syrup, hockey sticks (and hockey players), and hundreds of other items. America is still the world’s leader in science and technology, foreign aid, sports, music, and practically everything else that really matters to Canadians. If the U.S. goes down the tubes, Canada, indeed most of the developed world, is doomed.

So it is not just for altruistic reasons that we were dismayed as we witnessed the U.S. in rapid decline -- from being the world's greatest creditor nation to the world's greatest debtor. We are naturally frightened when we see America quickly retreat from being a strong, confident superpower to a nation so afraid of its own shadow that its government lets official representatives abroad be tortured and killed by your enemies, even when you have the military might to easily save them. Who will fill the vacuum as America, shackled by insecurity, weakness, and eventual poverty, is forced to withdraw from being the free world’s defender? I shudder to think.

Nowhere is the threat to America’s future more clear, and more easily avoided, than in the energy sector. Therein, fairytale fears about climate change have grown to the point that the U.S. is now on the verge of committing suicide by turning off many of its most important energy sources to appease loud, misinformed climate activists. It is no exaggeration: without vast quantities of reliable, high quality, inexpensive energy, your country (and ours) is finished. Game over. Just ask the Ukrainians what happened when Russia shut off the gas in the winters of 2006 and 2009.

The frighteningly naive reaction of some of America’s leaders to this month’s tragic tornadoes is a case in point. Instead of promoting coal, the cheapest and most abundant energy source available, to help provide the power the U.S. needs to prepare for such deadly events, Democratic Senators Barbara Boxer (CA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) took advantage of the tragedy to boost their nonsensical climate change plans.

More “green” energy from wind and solar power is needed if we are to avoid dangerous global warming and increasing extreme weather events, they say. This makes no sense, no matter what you believe about the causes of climate change.

First, studies show that strong to intense tornadoes have actually decreased markedly over the past fifty years, despite a warming climate and rising carbon dioxide levels. When the period from 1954 to 2003 was analyzed in a 2008 paper published by the American Geophysical Union, it was found that the most damaging tornadoes were about twice as frequent in the first half of the record than in the second half.

This is not surprising. Contrary to the assertions of Boxer and Whitehouse, the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events decrease as the planet warms. It is during cooler periods, not warmer ones, that such phenomena increase. Strong to violent tornadoes actually peaked during the 1970s, when concerns about global cooling dominated.

If extreme weather events were actually on the rise, then Boxer and Whitehouse would be even more wrong. In that situation, they should be boosting America’s most affordable and reliable energy sources to prepare for such hazards, not wind and solar, the most expensive and least reliable available. After all, more electricity would be needed to handle greater demands for air conditioning and heating. More power would be required to irrigate lands, to build dikes, to strengthen public infrastructure, and to relocate populations living on flood plains or at risk from tornadoes and hurricanes.

Moving to flimsy, intermittent wind and solar power and away from the inexpensive, steady power that sources such as coal provide because of extreme weather fears is analogous to a ship captain ordering his crew into lifeboats when a severe storm is approaching. It would be suicide to abandon ship exactly when the protection of a sturdy vessel was most needed.

Similarly, it is suicide for America to try to quickly end its use of coal, currently the source of about half the country’s electricity, in favor of wind and solar. Extreme weather events aside, modern industrialized societies need massive quantities of reliable, high-quality power to run steel mills, internet servers, and transportation systems, even when the wind drops or a cloud passes in front of the sun. While natural gas and nuclear power obviously have important roles to play in our energy future, nothing competes with coal when it comes to providing inexpensive power from plentiful domestic sources. Indeed, more than any other fuel, coal made America great.

Boxer and Whitehouse apparently do not know that, although wind and solar power have had decades to mature, they still cost between three and ten times the price of electricity from coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear. The Energy Information Administration shows that even though non-hydroelectric renewable electricity generation received 53.5% of all federal financial support for the electric power sector in 2010, it produced only 3.6% of all generation.

Even if there were a human-caused climate crisis happening, and increasing numbers of experts doubt that there is, the energy policies promoted by Boxer and Whitehouse would have little climatic impact. China, which derives 80% of its electricity from coal, is planning to build 500 coal-fired plants over the next ten years, easily swamping the impact of changes in America’s energy sources.

The only result of a radical change in U.S. energy policy would be one of mass unemployment and millions of Americans joining the billions of people throughout the world already mired in energy poverty. And severe tornadoes and other extreme weather will continue to occur as they always have, with the climatic effect of America’s sacrifice immeasurable in the real world.

Getting American energy policy right will not, by itself, stop the country’s decline. Many problems now weighing you down must be corrected. But following the dangerous approach to energy advocated by Boxer, Whitehouse and other climate propagandists would ensure that the U.S. fails.

For all our sakes, don’t let it happen!