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Energy Producers Must Target Radical Environmentalists, Not Each Other

Banding together to oppose powerful enemies is never easy or without risk. But there is strength in numbers, and the alternative — being picked off one by one — is far worse. Think of the Founders’ wisdom: in July 1776, Benjamin Franklin told the delegates discussing whether they dared sign the Declaration of Independence:

We must all hang together or most assuredly we will all hang separately.

Today, America’s primary energy suppliers — coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, and hydro — must band together to fight environmental extremists. They need to recognize the activists intend to destroy each and every one of them.

Consider the Sierra Club, which boasts of being “the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization — with more than two million members and supporters.” Their “Energy Resources Policy” includes the below list, titled “Resources Opposed by the Sierra Club”:

  • Coal-fired power plants
  • Coal-bed methane
  • Oil shale
  • Oil sands
  • New offshore oil drilling
  • Synthetic natural gas
  • New natural gas electricity generation
  • Hydraulic fracking
  • Nuclear power plants
  • New large hydroelectric plants

In other words, they oppose the suppliers of almost all of the world’s energy.

In their place, Sierra support unreliable, expensive wind and solar power, immature technologies such as ocean power, and insufficient sources such as geothermal and small hydroelectric. None of these can replace our primary energy sources any time soon, or ever.

The climate scare is environmental extremism’s latest weapon. President Obama is planning to impose severe carbon dioxide emission regulations on the electricity sector through his Clean Power Plan (CPP). State and foreign governments are doing the same, having been pressured by sympathetic media and groups like Sierra Club which believe we are now capable of both forecasting future climate states and — even more outrageously — controlling them.

This puts coal-fired electricity — America’s least expensive and most reliable power — directly on the firing line, as it emits more carbon dioxide than do other sources. Largely as a consequence of the climate scare, more than 50% of the mines and miners in Central Appalachia are now idle. At least 50 U.S. coal companies are currently bankrupt: Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal, and Patriot Coal all filed for bankruptcy in 2015; Peabody Energy Corp., the world’s largest private-sector coal company, filed for Chapter 11 on April 14. Over the past five years, the coal industry has lost 94% of its market value, dropping from $68.8 billion to $4.0 billion.

As a result of the CPP, 49,000 megawatts of coal-fired electricity will be eliminated at an increased wholesale power cost of $214 billion between 2022 and 2030.

Electric power grid operators are very worried about the reliability of America’s power supplies if the CPP proceeds as planned.

The power producers we rely upon to prevent catastrophe must fight back — but they have taken the wrong path to defend their interests.

Capitulating to popular but scientifically dubious climate change concerns, many in the natural gas, nuclear, and hydroelectric power sector now promote their products as “green solutions” to global warming and extreme weather. Natural gas producer Chesapeake Energy even donated some $26 million to the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign between 2007 and 2010.

Did this “save yourself” strategy pay off? No, it paid for their own execution. The Sierra Club turned on them later with a “Beyond Natural Gas” campaign.

Many in the hydroelectric and nuclear sectors are equally misguided. The National Hydropower Association states:

Using hydropower — our leading source of renewable energy — avoids the emission of approx. 200 million metric tons of carbon pollution in America each year.

Grade school students know that calling CO2 “carbon pollution” is nonsense. It is carbon dioxide, not dirty-sounding “carbon.” It’s plant food, and is no more of a “pollutant” than water vapor, the main greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.

In 2014, members of the French Nuclear Energy Society, the American Nuclear Society, and the European Nuclear Society launched “Nuclear for Climate“: a global initiative claiming “nuclear energy is a key part of the solution for limiting climate change.” In their position paper, Nuclear for Climate asserted:

We urge negotiators at the Paris COP21 Conference to come up with an achievable agreement that will reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to levels which will limit the rise in the average temperature of the planet to no more than 2°C.

Agneta Rising, director general of the World Nuclear Association, proclaimed:

The nuclear industry stands ready to deliver more to help tackle climate change.

These groups seem to believe they can get a pass from activists since their products produce less carbon dioxide emissions than coal. Trying to appease environmental radicals is obviously a dead end for nuclear power, as radical environmentalists oppose nuclear even more fervently than they oppose fossil fuels. But playing this game with radicals is also a serious mistake for natural gas and hydro.

The CPP treats natural gas merely as a “transitional” fuel, providing incentives for power producers to eventually move away from gas to renewables. The Environmental Protection Agency’s latest moves to regulate methane because of climate concerns will severely impact the industry.

Hydroelectric companies should also do nothing to boost the climate scare. Vast quantities of methane are released when wetlands are flooded for hydroelectric dams, and far more water vapor is generated when water is held high above sea level in large reservoirs than when it is allowed to drain naturally to the ocean. If governments continue to yield to environmental extremism, draining reservoirs may be next on their wish list.

Because America’s founders were united in their rebellion, England was unable to isolate and destroy them, so a new nation was born providing opportunities only dreamed of before. Now, actualizing the opportunities that liberty provides requires a strong and prosperous economy, which necessitates plentiful, inexpensive energy.

For America’s sake, the civil war between conventional energy providers must end.

Coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, and hydro must band together to defeat the well-funded green machine threatening to hang them all.

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