[First posted at Forbes.]
Tuesday night’s presidential debate surprisingly united global warming alarmists with global warming skeptics. Who would have thought silence on the topic could be so unifying?
As Mitt Romney and Barack Obama laced up their rhetorical boxing gloves to square off on everything from taxes to Benghazi to energy policy, prominent global warming alarmist Brad Johnson tweeted, “When Obama talks about energy without mentioning climate, he ignores the fundamental basis of his energy policy.” Brad Johnson and I don’t agree on many things, but we certainly agree that Johnson’s tweet hit the issue squarely on the head.
President Obama’s unprecedented renewable energy subsidies, combined with unprecedented restrictions on conventional energy production and use, make no sense outside the realm of global warming policy. Wind power and solar power, the crown jewels of Obama’s American electricity agenda, are substantially more expensive than the coal and natural gas power that produces most of America’s electricity. Forcing Americans to directly subsidize these economic losers on the front end and then forcing them to purchase this more expensive energy on the back end is a sure-fire way to weaken our economy and weaken our nation.
Nor do wind and solar power make much environmental sense outside the realm of global warming alarmism. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conservatively estimates that wind turbines already kill 440,000 birds in the United States each year, even while providing just a tiny portion of U.S. electricity. The wind turbines kill indiscriminately, slicing to death federally protected bald eagles, golden eagles, and other cherished species. The turbines also kill thousands of bats each year, contributing to an alarming decline in the nation’s bat population.
Wind power also requires developing vast tracts of pristine lands. Even under optimum conditions, it takes anywhere from 300 to 600 square miles of wind turbines to generate as much electricity as a single conventional power plant. Unfortunately, the optimum places for wind farms tend to be atop scenic mountain ridges and just off our nation’s shorelines. It is difficult to think of places more deserving of protection from towering, unsightly turbines than mountain ridges and shorelines.
Solar power similarly despoils large stretches of land while producing minimal electricity. Solar thermal power, which is the most economical form of solar power production, additionally consumes at least double the water of conventional power plants. Because solar power production makes the most sense in sunny, arid climates, this is precisely where consuming scarce water resources is most harmful to the environment.
The primary argument against taking advantage of our affordable conventional energy sources is the emissions from conventional power plants. However, non-greenhouse gas emissions are not a significant problem, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports emissions of the Six Principal Pollutants have declined to less than a third of 1980 emissions levels. Our air is remarkably cleaner than was the case just 30 years ago, and it is getting cleaner all the time.
Ultimately, the only justification for the federal government ramping up renewable energy subsidies to companies like Solyndra while clamping down on conventional energy production is global warming alarmism. President Obama is justifiably afraid to alienate swing voters in the presidential debates by doubling down on discredited global warming claims, but global warming alarmism is indeed the pink elephant in the room every time Obama is forced to defend his suppression of affordable conventional energy.
Global warming alarmists and skeptics disagree on many things, but President Obama has finally found a way to bring us together. We all acknowledge Obama is not being forthright about the reasons behind his energy policies.