Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez promises that going green – removing all fossil fuels from our energy mix – will “establish economic, social and racial justice in the United States.”
In fact, her proposal would cripple our economy and hurt our poorest citizens.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has admirable passion, but needs some schooling in energy economics. The cost of renewable energy is dropping fast, but is still more expensive in many applications than traditional fossil fuels like coal or oil. That’s one reason that adoption of wind and solar power has been slow, and that many countries, including the United States, underwrite renewables with subsidies and tax credits. The International Energy Agency predicts in its 2018 report that “the share of renewables in meeting global energy demand is expected to grow by one-fifth in the next five years to reach 12.4% in 2023.”
The share of renewables remains low because wind and sun power are effective in producing electricity but not, for instance, in powering automobiles or airplanes. Renewables will generate nearly 30 percent of global electricity in 2023, a big jump from 24 percent in 2017, but will still account for only 3.8 percent of transportation fuel, compared to 3.4 percent in 2018.
More important, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez should know that lower-income and minority communities in the U.S. are disproportionately disadvantaged by higher energy costs. A 2016 study by the National Research Defense Council found that low income households “spend, on average, 7.2 percent of their income on utility bills…That is more than triple the 2.3 percent spent by higher-income households for electricity, heating and cooling.” Were we to ditch coal, natural gas and oil in favor of higher-cost renewables, electricity prices would soar, especially harming just those folks whom the young progressive says she wants to help.
Evidence of the staggering costs imposed by green policies is provided by other IEA data, which compares electricity costs in different countries. In the United States, the cost of electricity for households earlier this year was $129 per megawatt. In Germany, a country that leapt into renewables with enthusiasm, and imposed hefty taxes to squelch demand for fossil fuels, the cost is $343.59. Does Ms. Ocasio-Cortez really want to impose a near-tripling of electricity costs on Americans?
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez might want to visit France, a sympathetic left-leaning country, which is currently convulsed by people who are really, really angry over recently-enacted green policies of the kind that she might embrace. President Emmanuel Macron raised taxes on diesel fuel and gasoline, hoping to make driving more expensive and thereby discourage fossil fuel use, setting off the worst rioting that country has seen in a generation.
It is not the high-income elites who are taking to the streets, breaking store windows and burning cars – it is middle class and blue collar people who think Macron has no sympathy for their travails, for their ever-higher cost of living and, in particular, for the cost of their commute.
Note that 70 percent of the French people support the protests, while at the same time 79 percent of the country, according to a poll conducted last year, fret about climate change.
The lesson for Macron, for Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and other policy makers is that people may be concerned about global warming and increasing emissions, but they are considerably more worried about making ends meet.
Polling on the subject bears this out. While a global Pew study found that 54 percent of people in 40 countries thought that climate change was a “very serious problem,” a survey conducted by the UN at about the same time, which elicited almost 7 million responses, showed people ranking climate change the least of their concerns. Global warming came in dead last behind better education, better health care, better job opportunities and thirteen other issues.
Even in the U.S., where 6 of 10 respondents to the Pew poll say their community is already being impacted by climate change, the issue ranks 17th in a list of policy priorities.
Why this disconnect? One reason is that the extreme alarmism from environmentalists has numbed us to the perils of rising emissions. If you are endlessly lectured about how eating meat or driving your Chevy will cause entire populations to be swept away by rising sea levels, it becomes overwhelming. People tune out.
It is also true that some of the wilder predictions of disaster have failed to materialize, leading to profound skepticism. Al Gore’s doomed polar bears, for instance, seem to actually be thriving. According to one source, their numbers are increasing except in one location, where in fact they are challenged by too much sea ice, as opposed to too little.
Because of abundant natural gas displacing coal, the United States is the only major country in which emissions have been dropping over the past decade. We are not the problem. It is China, whose carbon output is already nearly twice that of the U.S. A recent report from the Global Carbon Project blames a predicted rise in worldwide emissions this year on “a rise in coal consumption in China, which accounts for more than 46% of the projected increase in industrial CO2 emissions in 2018.”
The U.S. is blessed with abundant energy, an important competitive advantage. The Trump White House pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord because the demands of that agreement would have destroyed that advantage and hobbled our growth, while demanding virtually no commitments from China.
Americans are sensible people. We want clean air and water, and we want to curtail the carbon emissions that appear a danger to our world. But, we do not want to sacrifice our economic wellbeing on the altar of climate dogma. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez should be careful before promoting policies that would build a cleaner planet on the backs of American workers.
Published on Foxnews.com