02.14.2022

The West’s Climate Policies Invite Third World Conditions

By Vijay Jayaraj – February 14, 2022

When was the last time you were stuck in an elevator due to a power blackout? Or patients at your local hospital were put at risk for the same reason?

These are very common occurrences in the energy impoverished Third World. And they could become a reality for many in the West if deluded leaders there continue down the path of “green-energy” decarbonization.

A rare inconvenience usually associated with bad weather in the West, power blackouts are everyday events in the East. In my southern India hometown, I recently had to climb the stairs of a multi-story apartment not once but many times for lack of electricity.

I am among the lucky to live in a building that provides sufficient power backup to allow me to work for at least three hours during outages. However, others do not have backup and spend nights in complete darkness for hours at a stretch. Many small-scale industries suffer due to intermittent electricity supply — losing profit and sometimes damaging machinery.

Even worse, power interruptions put at risk pregnant women and other patients at local health care centers and destroy medicines such as vaccines when storage coolers shut down. Other everyday challenges include loss of running water supplied by electric pumps, making the simple act of washing clothes difficult if not impossible, and a loss of home refrigeration and air conditioning.

The causes of Third World intermittent electricity include poor grid infrastructure such as outdated transformers and inadequate fuel supply to power plants. Now, unreliable so-called renewable energy sources — based mostly on wind and solar — are being added as a further risk to reliability.

At small scales, the intermittency of wind and solar can be addressed with backup power, either in the form of batteries or from conventional energy sources. However, at a large, commercial scale backup is difficult and inefficient. As leaders in renewable energy installations, Germany and the UK depend on fossil fuel plants when the wind drops and the sky clouds, and their consumers have paid with high energy prices.

But even backup fossil fuel plants are threatened by systematic shutdowns of conventional plants while the percentage of renewables in the grid is increasing to unprecedented levels. This is a recipe for a man-made energy crisis where there would not be enough backups when unreliable wind and solar fail. Don’t be surprised if “green” political leaders tell their citizens to sacrifice the basic modern necessity of electricity to save the planet.

The U.S. situation looks grim as the Biden administration calls for abandonment of coal and oil and looks on natural gas as a necessary evil to bridge the nation to a “green” nirvana. The administration would be well advised to draw lessons from the UK where utility companies have asked people to keep themselves warm by cuddling their pets instead of turning up the heat in winter. Except that the progressive response might be government subsidies for ownership of cats and dogs.

Pioneers of the industrial era would have never imagined their hard-earned technological revolution being erased by irrational energy policies aimed at solving an imaginary crisis. But that appears to be the current trajectory of the West.

Vijay Jayaraj is a Research Associate at the CO2 Coalition, Arlington, Va., and holds a master’s degree in in environmental sciences from the University of East Anglia, England. He resides in Bengaluru, India.

This commentary was first published on February 14, 2022 at Real Clear Energy

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