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Issues & Insights

Elizabeth Warren’s Energy Plan Is Unplugged From Reality

I&I Editorial

At CNN’s “Climate Crisis” town hall, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the rising star among Democratic candidates at the moment, laid out her vision for energy production in the U.S. It is so catastrophically misguided that it should disqualify her from holding the office she seeks.

At Wednesday’s town hall, Democrats tried to one-up each other with various grandiose plans to decarbonize the U.S. economy.

But it was Warren’s almost offhand remarks about domestic energy production that caught our attention.

“I think the way we get there,” she said, is to force electric utilities to stop using fossil fuels to generate electricity. “We just say, sorry, guys but by 2035, you’re done. You’re not going to be using any more carbon-based fuels. That gets us to the right place.”

Can Warren possibly be serious?

Not only does she want to eliminate oil, natural gas, and coal as energy sources, she also wants to get rid of nuclear energy – which, in case you’re wondering, emits no CO2.

Warren says, “In my administration, we’re not going to build any new nuclear power plants, and we are going to start weaning ourselves off nuclear energy and replacing it with renewable fuels. We’re going to get it all done by 2035, but I hope we’re getting it done faster than that. That’s the plan.”

To understand how completely detached this idea is from reality, let’s look at the data on energy production today, which are helpfully compiled by the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration (EIA).

In June 2019, energy plants around the country produced a total of 352 million megawatt-hours of electricity.

Natural gas-powered plants accounted for 39% of that electricity, coal 22%, nuclear 20%.

How much did wind contribute? Less than 7%. Solar accounted for a mere 3.3%.

Even if you add in hydroelectric, which environmentalists don’t particularly like either because it involves damming rivers, these “clean” energy sources account for less than 18% of the nation’s electricity.

The EIA projects that on current trends, renewables will account for 24% of power generation by 2035 – and that’s assuming all the massive subsidies for solar and wind continue. It projects renewables’ share to have climbed to only 29% by 2050.

So how, exactly, is Warren going to shift more than three-quarters of domestic energy production over to wind and solar in less than 15 years? How would she finance it? Who would pay for the skyrocketing utility bills hitting working-class families?

Warren’s vision is even more farcical given the fact that wind and solar are unreliable sources. Today, conventional energy must fill in the gaps in power grids that rely on the vagaries of the wind and sun. What happens when that’s been outlawed and energy demand skyrockets on a hot, windless day?

There’s also the problem of finding enough land to build the turbines and lay out all the solar panels needed for such a massive conversion project. Environmentalists never bother to mention this, but renewable energy is an enormous land hog. A recent study found that solar and wind require about 100 times more land than natural gas-powered plants to produce the same amount of electricity. Biomass is even more gluttonous, requiring up to 1,000 times the land.

The study found that getting to just 80% renewables would require that 10% of all land in the Northeast be devoted to energy production needed for the region. In Vermont, the share would be 20%. In Warren’s home state of Massachusetts, up to 15% of the land would be needed.

Good luck getting that done in today’s NIMBY age. Particularly when environmentalists themselves are constantly fighting against specific solar plants and wind farms because of their adverse impacts on local ecosystems.

But here’s the really important question that must be asked: What does it say about a presidential candidate who puts forward a plan she knows will be impossible to achieve, that would cause an economic catastrophe if it were attempted, and that would do nothing to solve the “climate crisis” the planet allegedly faces?

In another age, such a candidate would be laughed off the stage as a crackpot, a charlatan, a crazed ideologue. Today, she’s treated as a serious contender to be leader of the free world.

— Written by John Merline


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26 comments

  • From The Global Warming Policy Forum

    “University of Colorado scientist Roger Pielke Jr. did some of the rough numbers. “There are 11,161 days until 2050. Getting to net zero by 2050 requires replacing one mtoe of fossil fuel consumption every day starting now.” On a global basis, such a transition would require building the equivalent of one new 1.5-gigawatt nuclear plant every day for the next 30 years.

    If not nuclear, then maybe solar? According to a U.S. government site, it takes about three million solar panels to produce one gigawatt of energy, which means that by 2050 the world will need 3,000,000 X 11,865 solar panels to offset fossil fuels. The wind alternative would require about 430 new wind turbines each of the 11,865 days leading to 2050.”

  • Comments have to be civil but politicians “plans” and unresearched, far fetched ideas filthy up the airwaves and media. Nothing civil to say about this crazed pseudo-hontis !

  • The cheapest power now available to power companies is wind or PV plus battery storage!

    Yup. it is true. Los Angeles just signed a contract for PV power at 1.997 cents/kWh. If you want battery storage for nighttime operation you add 1.3 cents.No gas or coal plant can match that In contrast, the new Vogtle nukes in Georgia are already over 15 cents/kWh and they are not even finished yet.

    My own household and two electric cars are powered by our PV system on the roof of the house.

    • How would you power jet airlines? You understand that the peak of piston engine aircraft – the “Super Connie” in the mid 1950’s could not cross the pacific ocean without stopping for fuel severals times. Although they were 1/2 the cost to operate than the Boeing 707 Jet, the people voted for jets with their purchases of jet airline tickets.

      BTW, have you looked at the carbon footprint of those batteries, all made with toxic metals, requires to make them? $1.3 is rather false.

      • My group in the Vietnam War used Superconnies, and their range is 5,400 miles. No stopping for gas.

        Your “analysis” of battery costs is an invention.

  • Being a former engineer for a large power company and having earned a Master of Science in Energy and the Environment, I had PV panels installed three years ago, with my estimated payback of 15-17 years, . . the right thing for an eco-freak to do. Before they could be installed, we acquired a VW e-Golf electric car. The savings in gasoline alone took the solar system payback down to 3 1/2 years. So, we added a used Tesla Model S, P85, and that took the payback down to less than three years, which means we now get free power for household and transportation.
    But that is not all: We do not need to go to gas stations, we fuel up at home at night with cheap baseload power. During the daytime, the PV system turns our meter backwards powering the neighborhood with clean local power, which we trade for the stuff to be used that night. If we paid for transportation fuel, the VW would cost us 4 cents/mile to drive, and the Tesla would cost 5 cents/mile at California power prices.
    No oil changes are a real treat along with no leaks. And since it has an electric motor, it needs no engine maintenance at all. We do not go “gas up”, or get tune-ups or emissions checks, have no transmission about which to worry, no complicated machined parts needing care.

  • The best outcome that one can hope for in this 2020 Democrat presidential primary sweepstakes is that it goes down in the books as the most bizarre in US history. The worst outcome…..well, let’s not even think about that…..

  • Climate will do what climate will do as it has for hundreds of millions of years. Meanwhile, decisions and policy need to be based on hard fact.

    There are some crucial, verifiable facts – with citations – about human-generated carbon dioxide and its effect on global warming people need to know and understand at

    hseneker.blogspot.com

    The discussion is too long to post here but is a quick and easy read. I recommend following the links in the citations; some of them are very educational.

  • We can’t afford nuclear power. The new Vogtle units in Georgia are unfinished but the costs have already pushed the costs of power to over 15 cents/kWh. By contrast, LA just signed a contract for PV power at 1.997 cents/kWh, and 3.3 cents at night with battery storage.

    No gas or coal plant or nuclear can compete with that.

  • any 6th grader would point out –

    #1 – Even IF she could get our airline industry eliminated in 10 years, the airlines owned by China, Russia, Cuba, etc will be happy to fly Americans across the world’s oceans, from Canada / Mexico…. (Think about the 50K TSA workers who voted Democrat, but will be out of work)

    #2 – Elimination of all fossil fuel in 10 years means we can no longer make steel as it requires coal to pull the oxygen out of the melt. You can melt metal with electric furnaces, but you can not make steel without coal.

    #3 – without fossil fuel, 5 billion people will starve to death – John Deere does not run on batteries.

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