When giving speeches and talking to audiences, I've often been struck by how few Americans, even those who are highly educated, have any idea where the energy they use in their home or business comes from. I've asked college students where the electric power is generated, and they shrug and then point to the electric socket in the wall. The electric currents just come magically through that plug.
For millennials, supporting green energy is cool and even virtuous. It's a popular and costless way to save the planet -- until the power doesn't flow through the grid. Then the laptops, hairdryers, Netflix shows, computer games and iPhones run out of juice.
That may happen one of these days -- and in the not-too-distant future (just ask Californians about blackouts), when the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing.
Which brings me to President Joe Biden's take-no-prisoners approach to energy. The goals: kill fossil fuels; stop the building of pipelines; enter international treaties that outlaw fossil fuel use; end drilling on federal lands; strangle the oil and gas industries with regulatory assaults. And then throw billions and perhaps trillions of tax dollars at wind and solar farms.
So, let's go back to the question I ask students: How much of our energy needs today are met with fossil fuels -- the so-called dirty energy?
The U.S. Energy Information Administration recently released a chart showing the latest official data on U.S. energy production sources from the Department of Energy. Some 80 percent of all our energy comes from oil, gas and coal. Less than 5 percent comes from wind and solar. Somehow, Biden is going to magically flip these percentages around in five or 10 years? Even the federal forecasters who support renewable energy think that is highly unlikely.
Even if Biden were able to quadruple American production of green energy over the next decade -- a huge undertaking -- we will be meeting about 25% of our power needs. Where will we get the other 75% of our electric power and transportation fuels? Battery-operated cars such as Teslas and Chevy Volts need electric power to recharge the massive batteries.
As we produce less oil and gas domestically, two bad things will happen. First, gas prices are going to rise rapidly -- perhaps to above $4 a gallon. Prices have already started to rise at the pump to more than $2.50 a gallon in many markets. Second, we will make up for the lost domestic energy production by importing more energy from Saudi Arabia, Russia and OPEC nations.
We will reverse the energy independence achieved under former President Donald Trump to dependency on OPEC nations under Biden. This certainly isn't good for the U.S. economy and jobs here at home. But it's great news for the Saudi oil sheiks, Russia's Vladimir Putin and the communists in Beijing -- all of whom are going to make out like bandits. They can't believe their good fortune.
Maybe so, my younger and more idealistic friends say. But at least we will be doing our part to save the planet. Alas, no. China and India are building more than 100 coal plants as we shut ours down. China and Russia just signed a multibillion-dollar deal to build a pipeline from oil-rich Siberia to the big cities of China. Would Beijing invest in that infrastructure if they had any intention to stop using fossil fuels? Trump was right when he said that we have the toughest environmental standards in the world. So, shifting energy production out of America only increases greenhouse gases.
Perhaps over the next several decades, wind and solar power will be cheap enough to meet most of our energy needs. But are we to starve ourselves of energy in the meantime? Are Americans willing to pay $4 or $5 a gallon to fill up the tank with Saudi oil or Russian gas?
Wouldn't it be smarter, safer and, yes, more virtuous to get the energy we need from Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota or even Alberta, Canada, than from countries that hate us?
Stephen Moore is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and an economic consultant with FreedomWorks. He is the co-author of "Trumponomics: Inside the America First Plan to Revive the American Economy."