Dr. Jay Lehr and Tom Harris
An October surprise is quietly percolating in Congress that, if many people learn about it, could sway them from voting Democratic on November 3. While the country is focused on Supreme Court nominees, the election and dealing with the China virus, a new lobbying heavyweight has hijacked a proposed Senate energy bill, turning it into what North Carolina physicist Dr. John Droz calls, “the most problematic, far-reaching energy legislation in U.S. history.” In short, it will sign a death kneel for the oil, gas and coal industries in America.
Here is the story:
Late last year, Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski proposed energy bill S.2657, “Advanced Geothermal Innovation Leadership Act of 2019.” It was good legislation in that it boosted deep-drilling geothermal, a solid energy source that, with further development, can contribute significantly to our energy needs. A U.S. Department of Energy report praised the potential of this energy source.
As there was no strong geothermal energy lobby in Washington D.C., the bill went nowhere and was presumed dead. But the aforementioned new powerful lobby group, misleadingly titled the American Clean Power Association, got into the act. The main power sources they are promoting are anything but clean (see our past America Out Loud articles on this here, here and here). Speaking at the 13th International Conference on Climate Change held in Washington, D.C. on July 25, 2019, Dr. Ben Zycher, Resident Scholar of the American Enterprise Institute, emphasized that, “’Clean’ Power Is Not Clean.” It is primarily wind and solar they are supporting, both of which require massive land use and creates “heavy-metal pollution, noise, flicker effects, solar panel waste, wildlife destruction,” among other negative impacts.
Nevertheless, the American Wind Energy Association is planning to merge with the new lobby group with the goal of propelling “renewables to be the dominant power source in America,” it said in a letter to its members on September 3. If this comes about, it will be an unmitigated disaster to America’s economy. Wind and solar power cannot provide the reliable, inexpensive, base-load power requirements of any large, industrial society. Climate Change Reconsidered II: Fossil Fuels, produced by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, explains:
“Achieving “100% decarbonization” in the United States would require a 14-fold increase in wind, solar, and hydroelectric capacity additions versus the U.S. historical average every year from 2015 to 2047 and beyond. That expansion of capacity is not just unprecedented in the United States history, it is six times as much as has ever been added in any one year in U.S. history.”
Convinced that the over $100 billion of federal subsidies the sector has already received was not enough, the lobbyists injected wind and solar power benefits into S.2657. The wording of the now-over-220 amendments to the bill (which has been renamed the “American Energy Innovation Act”) gave wind and solar power not only the same benefits originally slated to apply to deep-drilling geothermal but, in fact, much more (do a search on wind and solar in the Congressional Record to see for yourself). Dr. Droz writes:
“…in addition to $600 Million in new U.S. taxpayer handouts for wind, and $1.3 Billion for solar, this S.2657 amendment requires that:
- “…the Secretary of Agriculture, through management of public land and administration of Federal laws, shall seek to issue permits that, in total, authorize production of no less than 25 Gigawatts of electricity from wind, solar, and geothermal energy projects no later than December 31, 2025.”
Droz points out that the initial geothermal bill contained no mandate at all, let alone this HUGE amount. He concludes:
“they added geothermal into this requirement, even though no consequential amount of geothermal will likely be available by 2025, so this is strictly a national wind and solar mandate — the first ever!”
In “American Energy Innovation Act Is Dangerous Green Virtue Signaling,” energy analyst Tom Shepstone explains that the bill is “unnecessary,” “wastes money,” “picks winners and losers designated by lobbyists writing the bill,” and, in the final analysis, “is profoundly dangerous.” Shepstone gives several examples; here is one of them:
Commenting on the following excerpt from the bill:
The Secretary, in consultation with building science experts, shall ascertain “code and standards improvements that would require that buildings be designed, sited, and constructed in a manner that makes the buildings more adaptable in the future to become zero-net-energy after initial construction, as advances are achieved in energy-saving technologies;”
“The intent here … is to make us design our buildings to accept non-economic renewables in the future on the theory they might be economical in the future. It could mean strengthening your roof to support solar even though you don’t want solar …… It could mean duplicating your electrical and plumbing systems to accommodate appliances that don’t use gas or propane, even though those are more efficient, more economic and more environmentally sound when considering full effects in the real world…
Concerning another section of American Energy Innovation Act, Stepstone writes:
“Innocuous though it may sound, there is enough power in this short section for a Democrat Congress to destroy the natural gas industry that has made us strong and energy independent.”
Since the Senate is immersed in other matters right now, there will be a powerful temptation to simply pass the bill to clear the deck to allow focus on the Supreme Court vote. Americans must speak out so this does not happen. Please contact your U.S. Senator today and ask them to return the “American Energy Innovation Act,” S.2657, to its original focus on geothermal energy only. All reference to expensive and unreliable wind and solar power must be removed from the bill.
If you think S.2657 is too ridiculous to pass, then think again. Not only have some Republican senators already been swayed to support impractical renewable energy sources (the GOP have a slim majority in the Senate), but the Democrats already succeeded in passing, on September 14, a counterpart to S.2657, the House of Representatives bill H.R. 4447, the “the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act.” On September 21, the Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget, issued a well-founded statement which asserted:
“The Administration opposes passage of H.R. 4447…H.R. 4447 would lead to higher energy costs and discourage innovation and entrepreneurship…To support the substantial costs of these programs, the bill would authorize billions in new annual spending. It would also create a “green bank” that would subsidize projects similar to well known failures like Solyndra…H.R. 4447 would interfere with how we have been designing our own energy and environment destiny free from the reins of the Paris Climate Accord and international agreements or organizations that ignore the clear lessons that have led to American energy independence.”
Those who have gained the most from the economic growth brought on by inexpensive fossil fuel energy have not been the wealthiest of a century ago, but the poorest. For the first time the economy performed for the people instead of mainly the privileged. The average worker and the most impoverished have all benefitted from the industrial revolution brought on by inexpensive energy. Most green energy policies undermine human progress. They are regressive, disproportionately hurting low- and middle-income families by driving energy prices higher, thus eroding their standard of living.
If the new Senate bill, S.2657, does pass, a reconciliation committee will be set up to try to work out, behind closed doors with lots of the usual horse trading, a “middle ground” version of the legislation. Since both bills are alarmist extremes, the final bill will undoubtedly be equally dangerous. Then that version would be submitted to, and probably passed by the Senate and House, following which it would be sent to President Donald Trump to sign, which, given the many pressures he is currently under, he could reluctantly endorse.
All of this is just a part of a frantic global movement to eliminate fossil fuels, the foundation of modern life, in favor of renewables. Suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels is almost equivalent to believing in the Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy. Energy expert Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute put it well:
“You can build windmills with steel, but you can’t build steel with windmills.”
Yet, anti-fossil fuel activists have now achieved comprehensive power throughout the developed world at the very moment when the supply of these resources, especially in the U.S., has exploded. America has more recoverable energy supplies than any nation – by far. We have more oil and natural gas than all the OPEC nations along with Russia, China and Iran COMBINED. Thanks to the shale oil and gas revolution due to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing we likely have many, many centuries of reserves. No documented environmental problems have ever resulted from these revolutionary technologies.
Fossil fuels have vastly improved human life across the world, releasing whole populations from abject poverty. But now that this energy is more abundant than ever, it has come under severe and unrelenting assault. Europe has started deindustrializing. The governments of many of the most developed countries in the world have mandated as rapid a transition as possible from carbon rich energy to zero carbon. The inherent limitations of wind and solar power are nothing less than the physical laws of the universe. We are therefore facing a regression to the limited energy horizon of preindustrial societies.
Space engineer Dr. Robert Zubrin explains (see his book “Merchants of Despair”) that the anti-human forces aligned against us are working to limit “the right to use those resources [fossil fuels],…therefore human aspirations must be crushed, and authorities must be constituted that are capable of doing the crushing.”
Never before have the rulers of a society intentionally worked to drive it backwards to scarcer, more expensive, and less efficient energy. It’s time to speak out before it’s too late. Contact your Senator at https://contactsenators.com/ now!
Dr. Jay Lehr is Senior Policy Advisor with of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition. Tom Harris is Executive Director of ICSC.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.