The ‘green’ road to trouble

The ‘green’ road to trouble

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto would be wise to review a Feb. 3 Investor’s Business Daily commentary by John Merline. It questions the practical, economic and environmental efficacy of “100 percent renewable energy.”

Peduto, of course, is a big proponent of “green energy.” Among his proposals are “achieving 100 percent renewable electricity consumption for municipal operations” and “development of a fossil fuel-free (municipal) fleet.”

The mayor is not alone in his efforts. Myriad “progressive” governors around the country propose even more expansive “green energy” programs. So do many prospective Democrat presidential candidates.

One proposal, now before Congress, seeks to stop using any fossil fuels for energy production by 2035.

But Merline details how just 12 percent of all U.S. energy production currently comes from “renewables.” Government estimates, based on current trends, suggest that will rise by a mere three percentage points by 2050.

“In other words, attempting to turn the country’s energy supply to 100 percent renewable would be a monumental task,” he writes. “It would involve fundamentally reshaping the nation’s energy economy. And it would add significantly to energy costs – since renewable energy is generally more expensive.

“How that could be achieved without crashing the economy is anyone’s guess,” he says.

Additionally, even “environmentalists” question just how “green” renewables are. To wit, hydroelectric power generation can take a serious toll on wildlife. The same goes for wind and solar.

“Most forms of ‘clean’ energy require massive amounts of land to produce a relatively small amount of energy,” Merline reminds. As one example, he cites the 3,500 acre (5 square miles) Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in California that produces 392 megawatts.

But a natural-gas fired generating plant in Michigan, “which is a postage stamp by comparison,” generates 1,633 megawatts, he says, reminding that “wind power is even more of a land hog.”

“A study by Harvard researchers found that meeting current electricity needs using wind power alone would require 12 percent of the entire continental U.S.,” an area twice the size of California, Merline writes.

Here’s another inconvenient fact: Heritage Foundation scholars found that states requiring 25 percent or more renewable energy have utility rates higher than those lower mandates (10 percent or less) and 50 percent higher than states with no such mandates.

Wow, there’s an “incentive” to live and do business in such states, eh?

“Once you get beyond the bumper sticker appeal, calls for 100 percent renewable energy look like a bad deal for the economy, families and even the environment,” Merline concludes.

Indeed, conservation efforts are a wonderful thing at every level of government. But by the very same token, this blind pursuit of “100 percent renewable energy” looks to be one of those proverbial “cures” far worse than the “disease.”

And how troubling it is that such “cures” too often permeate public policy proposals.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).