"[A] censorious report on National Public Radio, citing a poll, accuses Republican voters of being content to 'do nothing' about climate change. In fact, neither party proposes to do anything about climate change. Democrats propose to spend a lot more money doing nothing." -Holman Jenkins, Wall Street Journal
In a May Senate hearing, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) managed to extract from the deputy energy secretary three critical admissions concerning emissions. One, the United States is currently responsible for only 13% of global carbon emissions, and we cannot control what China, India, or other countries do; two, it will cost an estimated $50 trillion to decarbonize the U.S. by 2050; and three, the feds do not know how many degrees of warming such spending might mitigate, unsurprising given the small fraction of emissions U.S. actions can affect.
We could stop right there, because even a scintilla of common sense should cause anyone to be aghast at the enormous costs with only limited and uncertain benefits of our attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
But let us pile on to leave no doubt that the climate policies being pursued by the current administration (and other strategies advocated by climate zealots) will do little for the Earth's climate but will create shortages of energy, damage our economy as prices rise, reduce prosperity, and lead to military vulnerability as vast funds are consumed by decarbonization. Thereby, we would gift China an era of world dominance.
The first grand delusion is that electric vehicles will save the planet. In early August, electric bus maker Proterra filed for bankruptcy, flushing down the toilet $650 million of stockholder money, $6.5 billion of government grants, and $45,000 of subsidies for every bus it did sell. This follows the demise of several other electric vehicle companies.
These failures are not just attributable to overhyping electric vehicles, lack of natural demand, poor management, and inept allocation of capital by the government but also to the implausibility of the entire electric vehicle concept, especially the gross overestimation of the benefits of reducing emissions. And soon, we can expect massive additional subsidies for the Big Three automakers and other car companies as the profits from gasoline vehicles disappear.
When emissions from electric vehicle production (mainly the battery), plus emissions from the production of charging power, are counted, the environmental benefit is not achieved until far into the life cycle of the electric vehicle (77,000 miles with the E-Golf, by VW's own admission). Statistics also show an electric vehicle average of 5,300 miles driven per year, so no net emissions savings are realized for over a decade after purchase. And those estimates do not account for the necessary massive expansion of charging infrastructure, the extra road wear from much heavier vehicles, or the disposal/recycling of batteries. Nor is there any widespread acknowledgment that cold or hot temperatures and other factors can cut the range (the interval between charging) by up to 40%, further pushing out net benefits to even higher mileage.
Then, there is the mirage of renewables (wind and solar) that fails to account for such factors as land use. Bloomberg estimates it would take a land area equal to four South Dakotas by 2050 to decarbonize with wind turbines. The energy density (watts per acre) for solar indicates a requirement for even more land than wind. There are many other virtually insurmountable issues with renewables, such as ecological impacts (e.g., birds killed by wind turbines) and the disposal of decommissioned solar and wind farms. Yet, renewables are the path of choice instead of nuclear power packaged in new, innovative forms. How does this make any sense?
Emphasizing the futility of our climate policies are their contradictions. President Joe Biden recently designated as a national monument the nation's most productive area, a million acres, for mining uranium, making us dependent on Russia, Kazakhstan, and other unfriendly regimes, thereby damaging the promise of nuclear energy. We also strangle domestic oil production, which forces us to import oil with the associated emissions from tankers, which offsets other climate gains by producing 18 million tons of carbon dioxide per year at today's importation levels.
Moreover, using regulatory strictures, environmentalists and their government sock puppets discourage emissions-free pipelines and domestic mining for critical minerals, shortages of which will further increase the cost of batteries and make us further dependent on countries hostile to us or controlled by the Chinese.
Yet, too many of us are taken in by the propaganda dispensed by virtue-signaling, attention-seeking politicians. It is time to wake up to the disaster we are courting.
An earlier version of this article appeared in the Washington Examiner.
Andrew I. Fillat spent his career in technology venture capital and information technology companies. Henry I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is the Glenn Swogger distinguished fellow at the American Council on Science and Health. They were undergraduates together at MIT.