Paul Driessen

Intense opposition to onshore and offshore drilling means every barrel saved via conservation is offset by several barrels of declining domestic production. Congress has already locked up an estimated 40 billon barrels (1.7 trillion gallons) of onshore and offshore oil. As a result, we are importing increasing amounts from increasingly unfriendly sources. We need that oil – not more snake oil. But instead, we’re locking up our natural gas, too, and promoting other equally questionable ideas.

Mandating that we use millions of expensive compact fluorescent lightbulbs could result in vast quantities of mercury heading to landfills or high-cost recycling centers.

Tougher mileage standards could mean more miles driven in vehicles that are more fuel efficient because they are lighter, less able to haul heavy loads, and more likely to cause thousands of additional injuries and deaths. (Perhaps the term Corporate Average Fuel Economy or CAFÉ should be replaced with Conserve Our Refined Petroleum to Save the Environment – or CORPSE.) Other ideas make more sense.

Streamline traffic flow, especially along main corridors during rush hour. Too many lights are timed to impede traffic, as along Routes 50 and 123 through Fairfax, VA and Route 202 in Wilmington-Talleyville, DE. In this computerized era, that is unacceptable.

Eliminate toll booths, especially along interstates like I-95 in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania. The gasoline wasted and pollution emitted by cars waiting to get to booths or EZPass lanes is monumental – and any revenues collected are more than offset by wages and taxes lost because workers are stuck for hours in miles-long parking lots. Besides, interstates were built with federal tax dollars, and should not be subjected to interstate-commerce-choking state revenuers.

We might even consider eliminating air-conditioning in the 1,500 federally owned buildings. This would save energy, ensure that government focuses on high-priority items, protect taxpayers and small businesses from hyper-regulation at least a few months a year, and help achieve Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s goal of a carbon-neutral Congress – without relying on phony “carbon offset” indulgences. However, even concerted common-sense conservation won’t alter a basic fact: America needs more energy – especially electricity – to support economic freedom, health, industry and modern living standards. Where will that energy come from?

Coal generates 52% of the electricity America uses: over 300,000 Megawatts. Its low cost per kilowatt-hour is a blessing for poor families, businesses, manufacturing and jobs. And over the coming decade, new technologies will eliminate most remaining power plant emissions.

But green activists and politicians say carbon dioxide from coal-fueled power plants causes disastrous climate change. Numerous scientists disagree with this dire assessment – and with the notion that humans have suddenly supplanted the sun and other natural forces that caused innumerable climate shifts throughout Earth’s history.

Moreover, if we curtail coal use, what will replace it? Congress continues to make oil and gas prospects off limits to drilling. Liquefied natural gas requires ports that greens and local communities oppose. And reliance on these globally traded resources puts additional upward pressure on prices.

Many greens and politicians also oppose nuclear power and waste repositories. Their substitute of choice is wind turbines. “Socially responsible” companies like those in the Climate Action Partnership want to sell more of them. So they support subsidies and mandates, to “save the world from climate apocalypse.” However, wind supplies only 0.4% of US electrical output – and the unreliable electricity it generates must be backed up by instant-on (peaking capacity) power plants that burn the natural gas that legislators have put off limits. Otherwise, traffic lights, schools, offices, assembly lines and operating rooms go black whenever the wind stops blowing.

In fact, for every 10 MW of wind power, you need 9 MW of gas, says Wood McKenzie vice president Bob Fleck. And those new gas power plants increase wind energy costs dramatically – up to twice as much as for electricity generated from existing coal plants. Wealthy activists, politicians and celebrities may not mind. But minority and other poor families would be hammered. Wind power also requires vast stretches of once-scenic wildlife habitat. Replacing just one-third of all coal-fired generating capacity with wind farms would require blanketing an area the size of Virginia and North Carolina with huge turbines, interspersed with some 200 gas-fired power plants – or persuading Americans to embrace increased bird deaths and frequent power outages.

People sense that they are getting do-nothing energy bills from a do-nothing Congress. That may help explain the dismal 14% approval rating Congress received in recent polls.

Liberal politicians and environmentalists have shown they have the power to encumber and even destroy. But do they have the ability or wisdom to create new energy and economic systems to replace the ones they are trying to dismantle? If only we could use their hot air to generate electricity.

Paul Driessen

Paul Driessen is senior policy adviser for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), which is sponsoring the All Pain No Gain petition against global-warming hype. He also is a senior policy adviser to the Congress of Racial Equality and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green Power - Black Death.

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