News & Politics

Sanders' Energy Policies Would Actually Increase Global Warming

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during the CNN Democratic Presidential Primary Debate with Hillary Clinton at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on Thursday, April 14, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Bernie Sanders has been traveling around the country bragging to the voters about how, if he’s elected, he will do more to address climate change than any other candidate.

But as Keith Johnson and Molly O’Toole point out in an article in Foreign Policy,  Sanders’ policies may actually increase emissions, leading to more global warming.

His call to ban fracking and to phase out nuclear power, in particular, could throw U.S. progress on climate change into reverse.

“Wouldn’t those proposals drive the country back to coal and oil, and actually undermine your fight against global warming?” Errol Louis, one of the debate moderators, asked Sanders during Thursday’s debate in Brooklyn, New York.

“No, they wouldn’t,” Sanders shot back. He called for a massive increase in the use of renewable energy, especially solar power, and said that if the United States took the climate threat as seriously as it did the Nazis in World War II, the country could in a few years radically transform its entire energy system.

Energy analysts, if not Sanders supporters, view askance his proposals that could undermine the twin pillars of the progress that the United States has made. Fracking for natural gas has helped utilities mothball dirty coal plants. And nuclear power provides 20 percent of U.S. electricity — and all of it is emissions free. Both energy sources would be targeted by Sanders, yet very hard to replace.

“There is a basic reality here, which is that nuclear energy is the single-largest source of zero-emissions electricity in the United States,” Josh Freed, vice president of clean energy at Third Way, a centrist think tank, told Foreign Policy. “If you care about climate change, that should be a very significant influence on your policy.”

Third Way crunched the numbers and found that getting rid of nuclear power means U.S. carbon emissions would “go up dramatically,” and in the worst-case scenario, could “wipe out a decade’s worth of progress” and return U.S. carbon emissions to levels last seen in 2005. That’s because retired nuclear plants would almost always be replaced by natural gas or coal. Freed said that when the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant was shuttered in 2014, the electricity shortfall was largely made up by burning more coal.

It’s a question that bedevils countries around the world. Germany is phasing out nuclear power as part of its ambitious energy transition, and is betting it can power one of the world’s biggest economies largely with renewable energy. But Germany’s greenhouse-gas emissions rose in the years after the phaseout was reaffirmed in 2011.

How idiotic are Sanders’ policies? Recall in 2008 that candidate Obama promised to massively increase the percentage of electricity generated by “renewable” sources. Today, solar power accounts for only one percent of the electric grid. Wind power is responsible for 5%. Despite tens of billions of dollars in grants and loans given to these “renewable” energy companies over the last 8 years, nuclear power still generates more than twice the electricity as solar and wind put together. And Sanders wants to destroy the nuclear industry.

Liberals like this kind of “vending machine science” where you put the money in and out comes the result you desire. It never works that way. There is no doubt that solar and wind power hold much promise for the future. Unfortunately for the taxpayer, that “future” is a decade or more away. Solar and wind power are still massively inefficient in generating electricity on an industrial scale compared to fossil fuels.

Sanders’ “energy” policy is non-existent. His policies are not designed to deal with energy as much as they’re supposed to impoverish us by reducing output for reasons having nothing to do with generating electricity or fueling our cars. His ideas present a lose-lose-lose scenario for consumers, industry, and our future.

Let’s hope he doesn’t get the opportunity to implement his crackpot ideas.