States should not thwart development of hydrocarbon fuels
June 21, 2011
Affordable energy is vital to the American economy.
Domestic coal and natural gas generate about 70 percent of our electricity because they are abundant, efficient and economical. The United States has nearly 30 percent of the world’s known coal reserves. Colorado ranks eighth among the states, with annual production of about 17 billion tons.
There are more than 2 quadrillion cubic feet of natural gas below U.S. soil. From an energy output perspective, it may surpass all the crude oil under Saudi Arabia. Colorado currently accounts for about 5 percent of the natural gas produced in the nation.
Alarmingly, state governments in Colorado and elsewhere are mounting an assault against domestic coal and natural gas. These energy resources are targets of regulation that makes them harder to produce and more costly to use.
Such policies force Americans into niche energy options, such as wind and solar, which otherwise are too expensive and unreliable to be commercially viable as primary power sources.
Cap-and-trade legislation is a primary weapon that states are using to eradicate hydrocarbon fuel use. Despite pressure from environmental special interests, Colorado has not set caps on carbon dioxide or greenhouse gas emissions. That’s good, because once caps are set, states ration emission rights that then are traded among competing companies.
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Unfortunately, there is no cost-effective means to remove carbon dioxide from emissions stemming from hydrocarbon use. That means industries that use coal or natural gas (such as electric power plants) will need to stem production or purchase emission rights. Either way, costs for consumers are driven skyward.
Renewable portfolio standards are another tactic state governments are using to thwart domestic hydrocarbons. Colorado is one of 29 states that have adopted binding standards that mandate utilities to generate or sell a certain percentage of “renewable” electricity. For instance, investor-owned utilities in Colorado must generate 30 percent of electricity sales from renewables by 2020.
Renewable energy mandates increase the cost of electricity by an average of 39 percent. But there is another catch. Wind and solar systems require standby power sources to provide continuous electricity. Ironically, they are dependent on hydrocarbon fuels to make them reliable. As such, the true cost of renewable energy is even higher than advertised.
Here’s the real kicker. Slamming the door on stable American energy resources cripples our economy without reducing global CO2 levels. According to the Global Carbon Project, CO2 emissions by the United States increased by 2 percent from 1999 to 2008. During the same time period, China’s climbed 112 percent and India’s went up 53 percent.
Today there simply isn’t a plentiful and economical alternative to coal and natural gas. But we don’t have to choose between use of domestic hydrocarbon resources and safeguarding the environment. When sound science is substituted for “scientific consensus,” the sky is not falling. That’s a topic for another column.
The point is that state governments should cease and desist with regard to ill-conceived regulations that are strictly founded on the premise that environmental Armageddon is imminent without lower carbon emissions.
Such folly destroys the viability of the American free market economy with energy rationing, soaring costs, and bankrupt businesses. Forget about research and development. And forget about jobs.
A thriving private sector economy is the key to true innovation and advances in energy technology.
Will the answer for the future be oil shale, hydrogen, nuclear, or something else? We will never know if Colorado and other states lock away domestic energy reserves today.
Allow liberty and prosperity to flourish, and the unbridled American entrepreneurial spirit will be the catalyst for long-range sustainable energy solutions.
“Right Angles” appears on the first and third Tuesdays of the month. James Kellogg of New Castle is a professional engineer, author of the novel “E-Force,” and founder of LiberTEAWatch.com. Contact him at jamesdkellogg@yahoo. com.