George Will

Today, wind and solar power combined are just one-sixth of 1 percent of American energy consumption. Nuclear? The United States and other rich nations endorse reducing world carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050. But Oliver Morton, a science writer, says that if nuclear is to supply even just 10 percent of the necessary carbon-free energy, the world must build more than 50 large nuclear power plants a year. Currently five a year are being built. Rattie says that as part of "a worldwide building boom in coal-fired power plants," about 30 under construction in America "will burn about 70 million tons of coal a year."

Edward L. Morse, an energy official in Carter's State Department, writes in Foreign Affairs that the world's deep-water oil and gas reserves are significantly larger than was thought just a decade ago, and high prices have spurred development of technologies -- a drilling vessel can cost $1 billion -- for extracting them. The costs of developing oil sands -- Canada may contain more oil than Saudi Arabia has -- are declining, so projects that last year were not economic with the price of oil under $90 a barrel are now viable with oil at $79 a barrel.

Morse says new technologies are also speeding development of natural gas trapped in U.S. shale rock. The Marcellus Shale, which stretches from West Virginia through Pennsylvania and into New York, "may contain as much natural gas as the North Field in Qatar, the largest field ever discovered."

Rattie says U.S. known reserves of natural gas, which are sure to become larger, exceed 100 years of supply at the current rate of consumption. BP recently announced a "giant" oil discovery beneath the Gulf of Mexico. Yergin, writing in Foreign Policy, says "careful examination of the world's resource base ... indicates that the resource endowment of the planet is sufficient to keep up with demand for decades to come."

Such good news horrifies people who relish scarcity because it requires -- or so they say -- government to ration what is scarce and to generally boss people to mend their behavior: "This is the police!" Put down that incandescent bulb and step away from the lamp!"

Today, there is a name for the political doctrine that rejoices in scarcity of everything except government. The name is environmentalism.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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