Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic Party, and U.S. environmentalists are committed to making climate change, the Green New Deal (GND), and replacement of fossil fuels with wind, solar, battery, and biofuel power, the centrepiece of their foreign and domestic policies.
They claim the transition would be easy, affordable, ecological, and sustainable. That’s ideology and fantasy, not reality.
Wind and sunshine are certainly clean and renewable. However, harnessing them to power America is not.
The GND would hit American families, jobs, living standards, and environmental quality hard. Western states would feel the brunt because their fossil fuel rents, royalties, jobs, and tax receipts would disappear, as drilling, fracking, and coal mining on federal lands are closed down. Their open spaces, scenic vistas, and wildlife habitats would be desecrated by wind turbines, solar panels, and transmission lines to serve distant urban voting blocs that dictate energy and land-use decisions far beyond city lines.
Coal, oil, natural gas, and petroleum liquids still provide 80 percent of U.S. energy. In 2018, they generated 2.7 billion megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity—which would have to be replaced under an all-encompassing Green New Deal costing tens of trillions of dollars.
Another 2.7 billion MWh worth of natural gas-powered factories, emergency power systems, and furnaces, ovens, stoves, and hot water heaters in restaurants, homes, and other buildings. Moreover, cars, trucks, buses, semi-trailers, tractors, and other vehicles consumed the equivalent of yet another two billion MWh.
Altogether, that’s 7.4 billion megawatt-hours per year that the GND would have to replace! On top of that, we’d need at least another 150 million MWh of wind- and solar-generating capacity to charge batteries over and over to maintain just one week of nationwide backup power, to avoid blackouts.
The more we try to do so, the more we’d have to put turbines and panels in low-quality wind and solar sites, where they’d generate electricity only 15-20 percent of the year, 80-85 percent below “nameplate capacity.”
Of course, we could replace all this fossil fuel energy with nuclear power. But radical greens inside and outside the new Biden administration detest and oppose nuclear as much as they do fossil fuels.
This transformation to an all-electric nation would require millions of onshore wind turbines, thousands of offshore turbines, billions of solar panels, millions of vehicle battery modules, billions of backup energy storage battery modules, thousands of miles of new transmission lines, millions of charging stations, tens of billions of tonnes of concrete, steel, copper, plastic, cobalt, rare earth elements, and countless other materials—and digging up hundreds of billions of tonnes of overburden and ores!
If the United States and the world could summon the will to mine, process, and smelt enough metals and minerals—and manufacture, transport, and install all those turbines, panels, batteries, and transmission lines—the GND would require the greatest expansion of mining and manufacturing in human history.
But radical greens inside and outside of the Biden administration detest and oppose U.S. mining and manufacturing almost as much as they do fossil fuels. That means we would have to go overseas for these essential metals and minerals—primarily to China and Russia, which have them within their boundaries or under their control in various African, Asian, and Latin American nations.
They also have no reservation or hesitation about digging them up and processing them—without regard for child or forced labour, workplace safety, air and water pollution, mined land reclamation or any other standards. Would Team Biden demand that those countries implement such standards? Or would it refuse to import the metals, minerals, and finished “green” technologies unless China, Russia, and their foreign subsidiaries abide by our rules and regulations? The entire GND (and much more) would collapse without those unethical raw materials.
Moreover, nearly all this mining, processing, and manufacturing would require gasoline, diesel, natural gas, and coal in those foreign countries because those operations cannot be conducted with wind, solar, and battery power. The fossil fuel use and emissions would take place outside the United States, but would not go away. Indeed, they would likely double or triple. The carbon dioxide emissions would increase global atmospheric levels and, Team Biden insists, worsen climate chaos and extreme weather.
In fact, most wind, solar, and battery mining, processing, and manufacturing already takes place overseas, under few or non-existent workplace safety, fair wage, child labour, and environmental laws. Some 40,000 Congolese children labour alongside their parents, for a couple of dollars a day, while exposed constantly to toxic, radioactive mud, dust, water, and air, to meet today’s cobalt needs. Imagine the GND toll.
Replacing oil and gas for petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, and plastics would require importing those feed stocks, as well, or planting millions of acres in canola, soybeans, and other biofuel crops. The water, fertilizer, pesticide, tractor, harvester, processing, and transportation requirements would be astronomical.
All that work, and all those industrial facilities, would impact hundreds of millions of acres of scenic areas, food crop lands, and wildlife habitats. Raptors, other birds, bats, and forest, grassland, and desert dwellers would suffer substantial losses or be driven into extinction.
Most of those impacts would also occur in Midwestern and western America, far from the voting centres that put Team Biden in office. But as they say: out of sight, out of mind—in someone else’s backyards.
The GND would also mean ripping out perfectly good natural gas appliances, replacing them with electric models, installing rapid charging systems for vehicles, and upgrading household, neighbourhood, and national electrical systems to handle the extra loads—costing more trillions of dollars.
Families, factories, hospitals, schools, and businesses accustomed to paying seven to 11¢ per kilowatt-hour for electricity would pay 14-22¢ per kWh, as they already do in “green” U.S. states or even the 35¢ that families now pay in Germany. Once they use more than some arbitrary maximum baseline amount of electricity per month, they will pay closer to 45¢ per kWh, as families already do in California.
How companies will survive, how many jobs will disappear, how many families will join the ranks of those who must choose between heating and eating is anyone’s guess.
GND technologies are nearly 100 percent dependent on metals and minerals from China, Russia, Ukraine, and Chinese companies in Africa and Latin America.
All these issues require open, robust debate, which too many universities, news, and social media outlets, corporate and political leaders, and Antifa activists continue to censor and cancel. That censorship and silencing must end before any votes or other actions are taken on any Green New Deal. Unfortunately, the opposite is happening.
As anger and frustration build among the increasingly disenfranchised, America and the world could be heading into a frightening future indeed.
Note: An earlier version of this article was published in Issue 2-2020 of American Coal magazine.
Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of books, reports, and articles on energy, environmental, climate, and human rights issues.
Photo by Mert Guller on Unsplash.