Is the Democratic Party’s Climate and Energy Platform Defensible?

Calvin Beisner
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Posted: Jul 14, 2016 12:01 AM
Is the Democratic Party’s Climate and Energy Platform Defensible?

Pressured by radical environmentalists and multi-billionaires like Tom Steyer who stand to profit, the Democratic Party has issued a new platform statement on climate and energy:

Moving beyond the “all of the above” energy approach in the 2012 platform, the 2016 platform draft re-frames the urgency of climate change as a central challenge of our time, already impacting American communities and calling for generating 50 percent clean electricity within the next ten years. The Committee unanimously adopted a joint proposal from Sanders and Clinton representatives to commit to making America run entirely on clean energy by mid-century, and supporting the ambitious goals put forward by President Obama and the Paris climate agreement. Another joint proposal calling on the Department of Justice to investigate alleged corporate fraud on the part of fossil fuel companies who have reportedly misled shareholders and the public on the scientific reality of climate change was also adopted by unanimous consent.

Ignore for a moment that last sentence, implicitly criminalizing courageous people who still believe it’s okay to think independently, at least about allegedly dangerous manmade global warming. (Thomas Jefferson, call your office!) Just think about what the first two sentences embrace: (1) generating 50 percent “clean electricity” within the next decade; (2) “making America run entirely on ‘clean energy’ by mid-century”; and (3) supporting the Paris climate treaty agreement.

By “clean electricity” the Dems mean essentially wind, solar, and geothermal, which as of 2015 provided, respectively, 4.7, 0.6, and 0.4 percent of all electricity in America---after billions of dollars of subsidies plus state mandates that have forced electricity prices to “skyrocket” (fulfilling Presidential candidate Barack Obama’s promise in 2008). In that same year, coal and natural gas each provided 33 percent, nuclear 20, and hydro 6. Yes, you’re right---nuclear and hydro should be considered “clean,” particularly when the main criterion, for climate-change alarmists, is carbon dioxide emissions, but the Greens don’t like them anyway.

So what the Dems want is to multiply wind, solar, and geothermal’s contribution to our electricity supply ten times from a combined 4.7 percent to 50 percent in the next decade and by over twenty times to 100 percent by 2050. And by that magical date of 2050 they also want to turn all the rest of our energy system Green, ending all use of fossil fuels for transportation and other uses as well as for electricity---never mind the fact that we’re light years away from designing batteries that can store enough power in small enough volume and little enough weight to power even a small private plane, let alone a passenger or cargo jet, or to drive a standard passenger car, let alone a large truck or a 200-car train, more than a few hours, and less with the air conditioner running.

What will all this cost?

Summarizing the findings of a major study by Stanford University’s Mark Z. Jacobson and U.C. Davis’s Mark A. Delucchi, environmental scholar Ronald Bailey, in his book The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the Twenty-first Century, points out that powering the United States with only wind, water, and solar power “would require 590,000 5-megawatt wind turbines, 110,000 wave devices, 830 geothermal plants, 140 new hydroelectric dams, 7,600 tidal turbines, 265 million rooftop solar photovoltaic systems, 6,200 300-megawatt solar photovoltaic power plants, and 7,600 300-megawatt concentrated solar power plants.” (Reality check: just those last two items come to 177 new 300-megawatt solar PV and 217 new 300-megawatt concentrated solar plants every year. Anybody seriously think that’s going to happen?)

Total cost? The calculations are difficult and fraught with errors, but just for the wind and solar parts (i.e., excluding wave devices, geothermal plants, hydroelectric dams, and tidal turbines), $13–$25 trillion. Spread over 35 years that would amount to an annual cost per household of $2,589 to $4,979 per year, or a total of $90,624 to $174,277 per household for the entire period. And remember: that’s just for the wind and solar portions of the makeover.

And as for the Paris climate treaty agreement: It really is a treaty, meeting all the legal requirements of a treaty (though the Obama Administration denies it is, so that it need not face absolutely certain defeat if it submitted it to the Senate for ratification), but if the U.S. honors it, it will probably be the only nation that does. India and China have already announced that they’re not going to be tied to their INDC’s (“Intended Nationally Determined Contributions”---diplomat-speak for comforting promises intended to be broken), and hardly any countries that signed onto the far less draconian Kyoto Protocol lived up to their obligations.

But just for silliness’ sake, what would it cost to implement the Paris treaty in full? About $1--$2 trillion every year after 2030 to the end of the century.

And for even more silliness’ sake, what would be the impact on global average temperature? At best, 0.17°C in 2100, and at worst 0.05°C.

The Democratic Party’s platform on climate and energy policy is, quite simply, absurd.