Last year, the U.S. become energy independent for the first time since 1957. Americans accomplished this after decades of relying on foreign energy, which threatened our economic and national security and entangled us in conflicts in the Middle East. The U.S. is the largest natural gas producer in the world and it is our largest source of electrical generation. While this should be a moment of national celebration, presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee Joe Biden has outlined a proposal pledging to eliminate carbon dioxide from power plants by 2035, spending some $2 trillion over four years on “clean energy,” using taxpayers’ money indiscriminately while putting a stop to the U.S. energy miracle that has enabled the country to become a net exporter. It is unclear exactly how Biden would pay for the new spending, and it was also unclear how he would accomplish the goal of 100-percent non-carbon dioxide emitting electricity by 2035. Nonetheless,
Biden’s move to eliminate carbon dioxide from power plants by 2035 would require massive construction of intermittent wind and solar plants. A task force recommended that Biden embrace plans to dramatically expand solar and wind energy, including the installation of 500 million solar panels and 60,000 wind turbines within five years. The climate panel of the task force is co-chaired by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a leading proponent of the Green New Deal, and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, the architect of the Obama administration’s negotiations on the Paris Climate Accord. To make these new renewable energy plants would require enormous imports of critical elements of which China has majority control, a massive land area for their construction, and a mountain of waste after their 25-year life, much of which is difficult to dispose of because of size or construction material. China is also the world’s largest producer of solar panels and inverters necessary for the systems, as well as the battery backup systems they require.
Biden’s plan calls for the creation of a “climate conservation corps,” an idea modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corps established by Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) during the Great Depression. His plan also calls for rapidly turning over the nation’s automobile fleet, with taxpayers enticed by cash vouchers to trade in their gasoline-powered vehicles for plug-in electric, hybrid, or hydrogen fuel cell cars. The initiative also would spend tens of billions toward building charging infrastructure including in rural communities.
Biden indicated that he would issue executive orders on his first day in office to rescind those that President Trump issued to block the Obama administration’s efforts to cut back on carbon emissions.
Biden’s current plan is even more expansive and expensive than his first plan, which was based on a 2050 compliance date, but which did not go far enough for the liberal left of the Democratic Party.
What It Would Take to Go Green
To go “green,” the United States will have to stop using vehicles powered by gasoline and diesel; remove fossil fuels from our electricity mix, which make up almost two-thirds of U.S. electricity generation; retrofit buildings that use natural gas for cooking and heating to use electricity to heat, cool, and cook; invest in new bio-based fuels for aviation and carbon capture technology for cement factories and chemical refineries, which require technologies that are not yet fully developed, tested, or deployed; and eat a lot less beef.
Investments of over $1 trillion would be required annually by 2050, according to several studies, and the U.S. economy would be severely constrained, while China and other carbon dioxide-emitting countries would be allowed to increase their carbon dioxide emissions, making the U.S. reduction seem negligible, achieving very little toward global greenhouse gas concentration reductions.
The transportation sector, the largest carbon-dioxide emitter in the United States, would need to be electrified and converted to renewable energy—electric cars, trucks, and buses. Cities would need to be redesigned with denser development centered around mass transit, which people are now avoiding due to spreading the coronavirus, and walking and bike riding would need to be incentivized. With only about 1.2 million electric vehicles on U.S. roads today and 272 million light duty vehicles in operation in 2018, the task would be enormous.
Air travel would also need to be overhauled. Aviation, which is now responsible for about 15 percent of worldwide oil demand, has been testing biofuels on some commercial travel, but only five airports in Scandinavia, Australia, and Los Angeles have regular distribution. Making fossil fuel-free synthetic jet fuel from hydrogen and carbon dioxide, which is technically possible, is currently prohibitively expensive and requires further development. Airlines hard-hit by coronavirus are unlikely to purchase super premium fuel after the losses they have suffered.
The electricity sector, the second-largest source of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, would need to stop using coal and natural gas, replacing them with renewable fuels, mainly wind and solar plants. Carbon capture systems could be added to the coal and natural gas plants, but they are expensive and have not been widely tested. The nation’s power grid will need to double in size and complexity to accommodate more power from intermittent renewables and will also require enormous new battery storage for back-up when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. New technologies, such as advanced nuclear power generation, if commercialized, could supplement renewable power, but would also be an expensive undertaking. Replacing efficient and low-cost operating coal and natural gas plants with new renewable plants will not only be wasteful, but will also increase electricity prices
Drastic changes would be required of the agriculture sector, which accounts for about 9 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, due to farting cows and factory farms. People would need to eat veggie burgers and forgo beef, lamb, and dairy products. Farmers would have to undertake “transformational land use changes,” including tree planting and restoring soil and peatland. Other measures targeting livestock emissions, such as improved breeding and diets, also would be needed. All these changes in agriculture will cause food prices to rise, in addition to cost increases related to energy necessary for inputs for agriculture, including transport, sowing and reaping harvests, and processing.
The amount of emission reductions needed also would require carbon removal in industrial processes such as the manufacture of steel, cement, and other products that are heavy greenhouse gas producers. As much as 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide would need to be removed from the U.S. industrial sector. To do that, the federal government would need to spend $181 million to $240 million per year over 10 years to research carbon capture and removal technologies.
Joe Biden plans to set a 100-percent non-carbon dioxide emitting electricity mandate, if elected, and spend $2 trillion on “clean energy” over four years. But, this spending will be a drop in the bucket to what will be required to accomplish a foolish mission while China and other countries continue to emit carbon dioxide to fuel their economies and provide a higher standard of living to their populations. To meet the net-zero emissions target, the U.S. government would have to intervene on a scale not seen since World War II, when it commandeered factories and rationed gasoline.