According to the New York Times, the clean energy future is arriving faster than you think. The paper claims that the United States is pivoting away from fossil fuels and toward wind, solar and other renewable energy, even in areas dominated by the oil and gas industries. “The nation that burned coal, oil and gas for more than a century to become the richest economy on the planet, as well as historically the most polluting, is rapidly shifting away from fossil fuels,” it says. To check the veracity of the Times’ allegation, the American Action Forum graphed the production and consumption of U.S. energy by fuel type and found that fossil fuels dominate both U.S. production and consumption and have done so for over two decades with little reduction in dominance.
- The New York Times is doing the Biden Administration’s bidding by reporting misleading “facts” regarding Biden’s energy plan.
- The American Action Forum described it as “cheerleading” for the Administration because data provided by the Energy Information Administration, the nation’s non-partisan keeper of energy information, showed the percent of energy produced today from fossil fuels is basically the same as two decades ago and renewables are essentially replacing energy lost from nuclear.
- Numerous other statements made by Times reporters are misleading, as detailed below.
The forum found that since 2000, the share of fossil fuels in total production is essentially unchanged and that any dramatic clean energy revolution must be the substitution of renewable energy for nuclear power, which has zero impact on greenhouse gas emissions. Fossil fuels represented 79 percent of total U.S. production in 2022, while renewables represented just 13 percent. On the consumption side, there is about a 7 percentage point reduction in fossil fuels toward renewables by 2022. Despite that, fossil fuels still dominate U.S. consumption with a 79 percent share in 2022, down from 86 percent in 2000, while renewables provided just 13 percent of U.S. consumption in 2022, compared to 6 percent in 2000. That means the increase in politically correct renewable energy constituted just 7 percentage points in that 22-year span, and that includes the addition of ethanol and biofuels through subsidies and mandates.
The American Action Forum concluded that “if the United States is not consuming as much fossil fuels but its production is unchanged, somebody is consuming it somewhere. That means that the impact on global emissions and global climate policy is nil.”
Other Misleading “Facts” in the Times
The Times article goes on to say, “A similar energy transition is already well underway in Europe and elsewhere.” However, Europe is waking up. Europe’s plan to slash carbon emissions and reach net zero carbon by 2050 is seeing a backlash as the spiraling cost — both political and economic — needed for the transition is becoming clearer to Europeans. Wind and solar projects are now getting more scrutiny with Siemens indicating huge costs to fix operational problems. A new offshore wind project in the North Sea was canceled due to high costs and the negative effects on the environment it would create. French President Emmanuel Macron recently called for a European regulatory break, warning that without it, the European Union will lose all its industrial companies. Germany is abandoning green energy, opening coal mines and successfully arguing for internal combustion engines to continue to be sold, only now with biofuels rather than diesel, despite such fuels not being economically viable for mass use. In the U.K., Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced his decision to open the North Sea to more oil and gas drilling saying it was better for Britain to produce its own oil and gas than import them.
The Times article also states, “Wind and solar power are breaking records, and renewables are now expected to overtake coal by 2025 as the world’s largest source of electricity.” According to the Statistical Review of World Energy, coal generated 38 percent of the world’s electricity in 2000 and 35 percent in 2022—just a 3 percentage point drop in the 22-year span. Politically correct renewable energy generated 14 percent of electricity in 2022 from 1 percent in 2000. And yet according to the Times, it is supposed to overtake coal in just 3 years when coal is generating 35 percent of the world’s electricity and China is adding enormous new generation capacity and opening mines to feed the new plants. Sure, while a 13-percentage point increase is sizeable, that increase occurred over more than 2 decades. Natural gas, another fossil fuel that generated 23 percent of the world’s electricity in 2022 is more likely to have a shot at surpassing coal-fired generation, having generated a healthy 18 percent of the world’s electricity in 2000.
Further, the New York Times indicates, “Automakers have made electric vehicles central to their business strategies and are openly talking about an expiration date on the internal combustion engine.” Several countries in Europe are against this, including Germany, who successfully got the European Union to keep the internal combustion engine, though it would have to consume synthetic fuels rather than petroleum based fuels. Poland and Italy also objected to abandoning the internal combustion engine. In the United States, automakers are complaining because they cannot meet President Biden’s efficiency and environmental standards that would require the efficiency of new cars sold to average 58 miles per gallon by 2032, thereby forcing two-thirds of the vehicles sold in that year to be electric.
The Times also states, “Heating, cooling, cooking and some manufacturing are going electric.” That is not by choice. Biden’s Department of Energy (DOE) is taking choice away from consumers by proposing to change the efficiency standards of appliances so manufacturers have no choice but to go electric. In the proposed ruling for hot water heaters, the tank-less gas hot water heater has to meet a 90 percent efficiency standard, which one of the largest manufacturers says it is impossible to meet. For gas stoves, the DOE proposed efficiency standards would take at least half the gas models off the market and some believe that percentage is more like 95 percent. Talking about such things before the public is feeling the effects is one thing; actually doing it as the public is forced to buy things they may not want is another.
The Times also states, “The cost of generating electricity from the sun and wind is falling fast and in many areas is now cheaper than gas, oil or coal.” However, that statement is not true when the costs are put on a comparable basis. Natural gas and coal are technologies that are available 24/7 to the system operator and can be dispatched as needed. That is not the case for wind and solar, which are weather-driven and intermittent technologies that need coal or natural gas to back them up or very expensive batteries that are not included in their cost calculations. Further, their density, land usage, resource availability and dependence on autocratic China for minerals and solar panels are not taken into account when performing the comparison. Moreover, the reduction in costs has reversed, and now utilities are renegotiating contract increases – some as much as 28 percent higher – for building renewable energy. The Times may be behind the times.
Speaking of China, the Time states, “China, which already leads the world in the sheer amount of electricity produced by wind and solar power, is expected to double its capacity by 2025, five years ahead of schedule.” While that may be the case, China generates nearly 61 percent of its electricity from coal and intends to do so for the foreseeable future. It is building massive, state-of-the-art coal fired units because it was caught off guard when heat waves hit and it had to ration power. It currently has more coal fired capacity than the entire generating fleet of the United States. According to Greenpeace, China approved more than 50 gigawatts of new coal power in the first half of 2023, with the world’s top carbon polluter focused on energy security rather than cutting fossil fuel consumption. Last year, there was a 38 percent increase in new coal-fired generating capacity under development in China. That translates to about 366 gigawatts of new coal generation. China’s has increased its coal-fired generation more than any other power source this year.
China also leads the world in hydropower with over 3 times the capacity as the United States, is building 24 nuclear plants and is seeking to increase their production seven-fold. China, unlike the Biden Administration or the Times, takes energy seriously, recognizing its importance to economic growth and national security. When John Kerry, Biden’s energy tsar, visited China, President Xi Jinping reiterated that his country would set its own path on the climate issue and not be influenced by outside factors, which contradicts Xi’s 2015 Paris Agreement pledges to reduce its carbon emissions at the latest after 2030.
Then, the Times states, “And in the United States, 23 percent of electricity is expected to come from renewable sources this year.” While total renewables generated 21.5 percent of U.S. electricity in 2022, that included hydroelectric power, which is not a preferred choice of President Biden and environmentalists, who want to shut dams down. In actuality, wind and solar power produced just 14 percent of U.S. electricity in 2022 and is unlikely to generate 23 percent this year, despite the huge incentives in Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act also known as the climate bill. The Times is including hydro power when it suits its needs to obfuscate the situation.
The Times also reports, “Private investment is flooding into companies that are jockeying for advantage in emerging green industries. More than $1.7 trillion worldwide is expected to be invested in technologies such as wind, solar power, electric vehicles and batteries globally this year, according to the I.E.A., compared with just over $1 trillion in fossil fuels. That is by far the most ever spent on clean energy in a year.” Those private investments are the result of incentives that governments have to encourage manufacturers to build “green” technologies, such as the incentives in Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act mentioned above that Goldman Sachs now says will cost U.S. taxpayers $1.2 trillion. Not only are taxpayers paying for the green technologies but so are consumers as electricity prices keep rising with increased demand as technologies that use fossil fuels are being pushed aside and as intermittent renewable technologies and their back-up needs are expanding. The energy shortages beginning to crop up in Europe and the United States are positive proof that despite the hype, the green energy transition is barely making a difference except with lavish government subsidies and mandates.
One could continue to denounce the statements posed by the New York Times regarding President Biden’s preferred programs, but it might be best just to point out, as did the American Action Forum, that “it is the sworn duty of The New York Times to cheerlead for the Biden Administration. But this puts it in the awkward position of reporting as fact the fantasies spun by the White House.” The Times reporters fulfilled their duty.