We currently find ourselves living in a world of unreality. The Coronavirus and the subsequent shutdown of the economy threaten to send us into economic depression. As I write this from a Washington D. C. location, I am struck by how little traffic there is outside and how few people are walking the sidewalks.
What should be equally alarming is that those of the hard left see this crisis as an opportunity to tie in the absurd proposals contained in the so called “green new deal” (GND). As with the empty promises of authoritarian Coronavirus “solutions”, GND proponents promise a utopian outcome, when reality will deliver a dystopian result. Make no mistake, the GND is all baseless promises and empty rhetoric.
Green New Deal- Classic Propaganda
First, we must take a step back and acknowledge the benefits of current energy policy decisions—decisions upon which the United States was built, but that GND proponents are so fond of criticizing. These policies have resulted in boosting human wellbeing, driving the greatest economic engine in history, and improving environmental quality over other global energy sources.
Yet, these enormously positive attributes are cast upon the dust heap of history by the likes of AOC and Bernie, all because of their own ideology and not because actual facts make them worthy of such scathing criticism.
The undeniable truth is that fossil fuel, including coal, must remain a viable part of both the U.S.’s—and the world’s—energy portfolio for decades to come. This is not only a reliance a necessary thing, it is a good thing. There are exciting nuclear technologies that can be discussed, those are further down the road at this point. And even though we remain blessed as a nation with a fracking boom and cheap natural gas that has driven power generation costs below what we could have imagined a decade ago, we cannot allow our fossil focus to get too narrow.
Much can change, including extreme weather that has already greatly impacted our gas infrastructure in recent winters. When combined with the high rate of coal-plant closures, potential interruptions to our gas supply could lead us to a base load crisis, brownouts, or even blackouts. Such scenarios are completely avoidable, and we must not allow ourselves to be put into a position to succumb to them by ideologues.
We err if we allow ourselves to be driven away from coal prematurely. Once the safety net of resilience that coal has allowed us to enjoy is gone, there is no turning back.
Is the GND premature? Or right on time?
When the GND was released, we were told it was leaked to the press prematurely, that it wasn’t really ready to be viewed. I don’t happen to believe that. I think it was released deliberately for shock value. I believe that the “plan” was so audacious as an attempt to redefine an entire economy and way of life. This way, when the Bernie Sanders of the world began to demand something less than the GND during Presidential debates, the American public would be desensitized to those demands.
The GND is so poorly thought out and based on such absurd theoretical assumptions that it’s nearly impossible to come up with even an estimated cost to implement. That’s why when given the chance to support a resolution on the Green New Deal, even 43 Democrats voted “present” instead of voting for it. More than that, the GND proposal’s ambiguity is so detached from reality that its proponents have no concept of its impact on critical characteristics like grid reliability and resiliency.
Despite all that, there have been some studies that have at least made a valiant attempt to estimate the cost of the Green New Deal to the average household in several states.
Competitive Enterprise Institute estimates that for one coal site in Pennsylvania, for example, the GND would cost each individual household $75,307 in its first year of implementation alone. However, the authors of the study admit that such an estimate is a minimum amount, because they didn’t delve deeply into the complete upheaval that would result from converting our entire transportation sector to supposed “green” energy. Nor did they consider the “green” conversion of all our industrial buildings dictated by the GND.
Coal: Not yesterday’s news
There are realistic science-based solutions to keep coal a viable part of our nation’s energy portfolio. Even now, via their Coal FIRST Initiative, the D.O.E. is completing studies with private-sector partners that will allow coal to be used as a valuable commodity for building products, rare-earth-element production, and of course efficient, safe, zero-emissions generation of electricity. Far from the ideological, emotion-driven mindset that led to the GND, these scientists and engineers are meeting energy challenges by relying upon science and technological development.
Coal-based electricity provides a level of reliability, resiliency, and energy security that is unmatched by other sources. We need fossil fuels going forward. We need a diverse and secure energy infrastructure. In other words…we need coal.
Luke Allen is a 30 year veteran of the energy industry currently working in Washington DC.