03.18.2022

Unrealistic energy policy vs. people’s needs

By David L. Debertin – March 18, 2022

Joe Biden ran a campaign in 2020 based on the idea that fossil fuels are bad for everyone and that the companies producing such energy sources are, therefore, comprised of terrible people. That is, people who should be attacked on a constant basis because of the awful things they have been doing to the environment.

The campaign also stressed that wind and solar were far superior to any other form of electric generation and that these would soon be the dominant way electricity would be made both here in the U.S. and around the world. The advocacy for wind- and solar-sourced electricity became the second leg of the three-legged campaign.

The third leg was to double down on the idea that people should be employing fully electric vehicles powered with electricity from wind and solar. This was going to be simple, inexpensive, and so superior to fossil fuel-powered vehicles that consumers would hardly notice the transition. After all, the public moved from fixed telephone landlines to cell phones and from bulky old CRT TVs to flat panels without so much as a whimper.

For there to be widespread adoption of a new technology, there has to be the widespread belief that the new technology is at least as good in all respects as the old — not just in some ways with other ways inferior. Further, the inflation-adjusted cost of the new technology needs to be declining. However, EVs and wind and solar technologies are not like cell phones and flat panels.

The high cost of the specialized batteries needed to power EVs and to store wind- and solar-generated energy pose huge barriers to their adoption and lead to rising — not falling — inflation-adjusted costs. The fact that these batteries must be produced in huge quantities if the technologies are to be widely used is a major constraint as well. Another is that these batteries all require rare earth metals or other metals such as nickel that are in short supply.

Yet, the apparent belief is that anything being done as a low-volume experiment in the domain of so-called green energy can be quickly scaled up by a massive amount in the space of a few years. Never mind what the experiments say, because… Well, because this is the only way the planet can ever be saved from fossil fuels! Don’t argue!

This is total lunacy. This utterly naïve grade-school assumption of rapid deployment of any new technology in an early experimental phase exhibits ignorance of the role that costs play in the speed of adoption. The solution”? Subsidize EV buyers — with taxpayer dollars, of course!

So long as the government issues four and even five-figure subsidies to buy an EV, people will be happy! Somehow consumers will overlook shortcomings such as shortened range of travel (no more one-day motor trips to Disney World 500 miles away). Rolling blackouts — caused by the intermittency of solar and wind — will be treated as the norm. Such assumptions ignore that people have taken for granted certain conveniences for decades and disrespect fundamental needs of the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” — which constitute most of us.

The administration’s first twelve months were spent blaming the domestic fossil fuel industry and the people who work in it for killing the planet while implementing executive orders and new regulations to impede the production and transport of coal, oil, and natural gas. Then suddenly the U. S. desperately needs more fossil fuels to address rising prices, shortages, and Russian aggression in Europe. But rather than encourage the development of domestic sources, foreign supplies from hostile regimes in places like Venezuela and Iran are pursued.

In some warped policymaking minds, all this somehow makes sense. News flash: It doesn’t.

David L. Debertin, Ph.D., is a member of the CO2 Coalition, Arlington, Va. He has written three books on applied economics and more than 60 refereed journal articles on economic policy, statistics, energy, and other subjects.

This commentary and short bio was first published on March 18, 2022 on the American Thinker website.

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