Sen. Bernie Sanders is a green warrior. That much is clear, but his environmental agenda would be an absolute disaster…for those in the climate change camp. For starters, he wants to tackle natural gas and nuclear power. Nuclear power is responsible for 20 percent of America’s energy. Remove that from the equation with no equitable alternative that could meet the former’s energy needs, and you have to resort to resources that already have an extensive infrastructure. That would be coal—the boogeyman of the environmental left. Foreign Policy delved into Sanders’ paradoxical energy policy and how it has been applied elsewhere in the world, which experienced the same results: higher carbon emissions.
Wouldn’t those proposals drive the country back to coal and oil, and actually undermine your fight against global warming?” Errol Louis, one of the debate moderators, asked Sanders during Thursday’s [April 14] debate in Brooklyn, New York.
“No, they wouldn’t,” Sanders shot back. He called for a massive increase in the use of renewable energy, especially solar power, and said that if the United States took the climate threat as seriously as it did the Nazis in World War II, the country could in a few years radically transform its entire energy system.
Third Way crunched the numbers and found that getting rid of nuclear power means U.S. carbon emissions would “go up dramatically,” and in the worst-case scenario, could “wipe out a decade’s worth of progress” and return U.S. carbon emissions to levels last seen in 2005. That’s because retired nuclear plants would almost always be replaced by natural gas or coal. Freed said that when the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant was shuttered in 2014, the electricity shortfall was largely made up by burning more coal.
It’s a question that bedevils countries around the world. Germany is phasing out nuclear power as part of its ambitious energy transition, and is betting it can power one of the world’s biggest economies largely with renewable energy. But Germany’s greenhouse-gas emissions rose in the years after the phaseout was reaffirmed in 2011.
Japan shut down all of its nuclear plants after the 2011 meltdown at Fukushima. What made up the electricity shortfall? Crude oil, natural gas, and coal, which together make it a lot harder for Japan to reach its emissions targets.
So, in some odd way, if you’re a coal worker, you might want to Sanders to beat Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination and go on to win in the general because coal is the only alternative if President Bernie decides to axe natural gas and nuclear power. At the same time, the fact that coal and crude oil would be the only secondary protocols to make up for the energy shortfalls due to Sanders’ uber-left green agenda shows how inefficient alternative energy truly is–and why the country should focus on the energy resources, where the United States is (in some sectors) unrivaled in terms of supply. That would be coal, oil, and natural gas. This country is built on those three energy resources, and coal is burning cleaner than ever before. Maybe that’s why it’s looked to, as the future for our energy needs since the world is packed with it (via Wired):
Nowhere is the preeminence of coal more apparent than in the planet’s fastest-growing, most populous region: Asia, especially China. In the past few decades, China has lifted several hundred million people out of destitution—arguably history’s biggest, fastest rise in human well-being. That advance couldn’t have happened without industrialization, and that industrialization couldn’t have happened without coal. More than three-quarters of China’s electricity comes from coal, including the power for the giant electronic plants where iPhones are assembled. More coal goes to heating millions of homes, to smelting steel (China produces nearly half the world’s steel), and to baking limestone to make cement (China provides almost half the world’s cement). In its frantic quest to develop, China burns almost as much coal as the rest of the world put together—a fact that makes climatologists shudder.
GreenGen is one of the world’s most advanced attempts to develop a technology known as carbon capture and storage. Conceptually speaking, CCS is simple: Industries burn just as much coal as before but remove all the pollutants. In addition to scrubbing out ash and soot, now standard practice at many big plants, they separate out the carbon dioxide and pump it underground, where it can be stored for thousands of years.
Many energy and climate researchers believe that CCS is vital to avoiding a climate catastrophe. Because it could allow the globe to keep burning its most abundant fuel source while drastically reducing carbon dioxide and soot, it may be more important—though much less publicized—than any renewable-energy technology for decades to come. No less than Steven Chu, the Nobel-winning physicist who was US secretary of energy until last year, has declared CCS essential. “I don’t see how we go forward without it,” he says.
Long live coal, Bernie.