The House Opens Pandora's Box
By Robert Romano
On Friday, the House of Representatives opened up a Pandora's Box. And although the Waxman-Markey carbon-cap bill may not contain all of the evils of humanity, it is a not-so-good start.
The only silver lining is that the American people are now keenly aware of what Congress is up to.
You see, the politicians in Washington probably thought they'd get away with it. That nobody was paying attention. That they could just jam it down the throats of the American people while nobody was watching. That there'd be no time to mount significant opposition to it. Indeed, that there was no time to even read it.
Now, millions of phone calls and emails later sent from Americans across the fruited plain to key legislators, a brief filibuster from the House Republican Leader while he read from an amendment that was filed by House Democrats at 3AM Friday morning, and now a razor-thin vote by which it barely passed, one thing is clear: They were wrong.
Although the legislation got through on the skin of its teeth, 219-212, the American people rose up and said resoundingly, “No” to the bill, HR 2454. It would force carbon-emitting industries coal, oil, gasoline, and natural gas to purchase carbon permits. The bill aims to reduce industrial emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050. Over time, fewer and fewer permits would be available for purchase.
There is no way around it. The United States in fact depends upon carbon-emitting sources of energy for electricity, transportation, home heat, air conditioning, and just about everything else to make the economy work. Capping carbon emissions necessarily means restricting the supply of the nation's energy resources over time, the means by which the economy functions, and increasing prices to do it.
Indeed, it is the express purpose: to limit the supply of hydrocarbon energy to such an extent as to inflate prices dramatically. In turn—so the hypothesis goes—“cleaner” alternatives solar, wind, and plug-in hybrids will be incentivized with market forces intervening to deliver those alternatives, new businesses, and thus new jobs.
Of course, as with any government-planned hostile takeover of an entire sector of the economy, there are a few problems. The first, as stated above, is that the economy depends greatly upon oil, gasoline, coal, and natural gas for just about everything.
Second, the alternatives are not really ready for mass production, let alone being the standard bearers of American energy. The bill mandates that by 2012, 6 percent of the nation's electricity must be renewable solar and wind, increasing to 20 percent by 2020.
Not only is this highly unlikely to happen, it is near impossible to properly quantify the costs. Having far lower yields than coal or nuclear, is the legislation stating that by 2020 wind and solar must provide the same amount of electricity as 20 percent of the current electricity grid?
If so, forget about it. It will never happen, because paying for that much for these energy sources will break the nation's piggy bank into a million pieces. Instead, the most likely mechanism for increasing the percentage of so-called renewable energy would not be increasing the availability of those sources, but in decreasing the net amount of electricity actually provided in order to meet the government quotas.
Of course, one could hope the drafters of the legislation were not talking about a percentage of watts provided when they drafted their legislation. Because, if they were, they're nuts.
Let's start off with some facts. According to Max Schulz, “Pound for pound, coal stores twice as much energy as wood. Oil packs the same amount of energy that coal does into half the weight and space. But a gram of uranium 235 contains as much energy as four tons of coal.” And wind and solar? Since these sources cannot be stockpiled, such an apples to oranges comparison is not readily available. Nonetheless, according to Schulz, “Electricity from renewable energies such as wind, solar, or biomass can cost anywhere from two to six times as much as electricity from nuclear power.” And produce far less, we would add.
The only means of comparison is kilowatt-hours produced. Says Schulz, “In 2005, the 103 U.S. commercial nuclear reactors operating in 31 states generated 782 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) [emphasis added].” That's about 2.142 billion kWh a day, providing about 20 percent of the nation's electricity needs of about 10.71 billion kWh a day, we'll say.
How much can a solar panel produce? Well, according to this letter to the editor to Salon.com, “The average 'sunny' location in the U.S. (say L.A.) receives on average 5.5 hours of sunlight per day. Simple multiplication of 273.2 watts/square meter * 5.5 hours yields 1502.6 watt hours/ square meter or 1.5026 kilowatt hours per day for a 1 meter square panel. And this is better than the best possible case…” because it accounts for peak solar performance. That means in order to produce as much energy as the 103 nuclear plants in the nation as of 2005 in a single day, one would need 1.425 million square meters of solar panels, or 1,425 square kilometers! And if it gets cloudy? 2,851 square kilometers.
So, if the central-planners were to get to the 20 percent of the electricity provided required solely on solar by 2020, that's how much space would be required. And the cost? Unquantifiable. Astronomical. More than we can bear. That is why, to reach the 20 percent quota, the government would be forced to decrease the amount of kWh a day provided to the American people from the 2005 level of about 10.71 billion kWh a day.
Sure, try to power an economy with those sorts of inherent inefficiencies. Businesses would have to take turns just turning on the lights. That is why jobs can only be lost and none gained by this “green” centralization of the energy sector, the third problem of the bill.
The fourth problem, and perhaps most important, is there is no climate crisis to begin with—the immediate cause for so drastically changing the way energy is produced and transforming the economy.
According to the APS Physics study by Christopher Monckton, “Climate Sensitivity Revisited,” “the [UN International Panel on Climate Change's] estimates of climate sensitivity must have been very much exaggerated. There may, therefore, be a good reason why, contrary to the projections of the models on which the IPCC relies, temperatures have not risen for a decade and have been falling since the phase-transition in global temperature trends that occurred in late 2001. Perhaps real-world climate sensitivity is very much below the IPCC's estimates. Perhaps, therefore, there is no ‘climate crisis' at all.”
Monckton's cure for a non-problem? “[T]o have the courage to do nothing.”
Because, by opening the Pandora's Box of capping carbon emissions, Congress will undoubtedly be creating more problems than it even claims to solve—producing many of the evils of humanity along the way.
Correction: The line that read, "Over time, less and less permits are available for purchase" was a poor use of grammar. It should read as revised, "fewer and fewer permits..." Thank you to our discerning reader, Morton IX, for your impeccable attention to detail.
Robert Romano is the Senior Editor of ALG News Bureau.