The USA has two daunting problems, the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression and President-Elect Obama’s energy policies, which will severely deepen the economic crisis.
Obama stated in a San Francisco Chronicle television interview that he wants to implement an aggressive CO2 cap-and-trade system that could bankrupt coal companies. He further stated that energy prices will necessarily skyrocket. Obama believes that global warming is a critical issue, and he supports the use of solar energy, wind power and biodiesel. To his credit, Obama also supports a market approach and technological development.
Some facts are important here: In 2007, US primary energy consumption consisted of oil (40%), natural gas (25%), coal (24%), nuclear (8%) and hydroelectricity (2%). As a percentage of total proved reserves of fossil fuels, the US holds just over 2% of the world’s oil, 3% of natural gas, but almost 29% of global coal.
Energy projects have been constrained due to fears of catastrophic global warming, allegedly caused by increased atmospheric CO2 from burning fossil fuels. However, global warming is just not happening anymore. For the last decade, average global temperatures have not increased. Since January 2007 all global warming has disappeared, as average temperatures plummeted to 1979 levels – when accurate satellite measurements began.
Despite shrill claims of ice-cap melting, Arctic sea-ice extent is now at its highest seasonal level since modern satellite measurements began in 2002 – more evidence of global cooling.
For decades, the US has experienced a huge balance of trade deficit, due primarily to high oil imports. Energy self-sufficiency has been the goal of recent US Presidents, without success.
Given those realities, there is now an opportunity to address both these serious challenges, by rejecting global warming myths and creating an energy strategy based on true, verifiable facts.
Here is the outline of a responsible and economic Energy Strategy for America:
1. Reject CO2 taxes and cap-and-trade measures used to “fight global warming”. Examine the satellite data, the only accurate global temperature measurements in existence. Climate Dyslexics please note: The Earth is cooling, not warming. Global cooling should last for twenty to thirty years and could be severe.
2. Generate much more electrical energy from abundant US coal reserves. Use existing technologies to control real atmospheric pollution from SOx, NOx and particulates, but do not control CO2. In the future, if CO2 sequestration becomes economically attractive (for enhanced oil recovery) or is proved necessary (in the unlikely event that global warming becomes a real problem), retrofit the coal plants with expensive CO2 recovery equipment at that time.
3. As rechargeable battery technology continues to improve, electric and gasoline-electric light vehicles will become commonplace. The power infrastructure already exists to fuel this fleet, and re-fueling can be done during off-peak periods, when power plants are underutilized. This major change in the light vehicle fleet will shift energy consumption from foreign oil to domestic coal.
4. Re-examine corn ethanol and wind power, which do not work economically or effectively. Corn ethanol for motor fuel requires huge ongoing subsidies and severely distorts food prices. Wind power also requires big subsidies, and almost 100% backup with conventional power generation. Wind power can also cause critical instabilities in the electric power grid. Conduct a full-life-cycle energy balance on corn ethanol, wind power, biodiesel and solar energy, and also examine the environmental demands and pollution associated with these so-called “green” technologies.
5. Re-examine hydrogen. It is an energy medium, like electricity, but if implemented would require a huge new hydrogen infrastructure to be built at great cost, for no environmental or energy gain.
6. Avoid energy subsidies, especially ongoing operating subsidies, which distort economic decisions and create expensive industrial and environmental boondoggles. Wind power and corn ethanol may prove to be two such costly mistakes.
Instead of skyrocketing energy prices, this energy strategy for America will result in lower costs, improved balance of trade, and in time could even provide energy self-sufficiency for the USA.
Allan M.R. MacRae is a Professional Engineer and writer on energy and the environment. In 2002 he predicted in a newspaper article that global cooling would recur. He does not work in the coal industry, accepts no compensation for his writing and holds no coal investments.