• Peter Osborne

McKinley: Democrats’ impractical energy policies won’t stop climate change

This op-ed first ran in the Washington Examiner on March 26, 2021

By Rep. David McKinley

During the Vietnam War, a general was paraphrased saying he had “to destroy the village to save it.” This phrase may be the motivation behind President Joe Biden and the Left, who want to eliminate fossil fuel use in America.

Now, Biden’s stated goal is to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by 2035 and the entire U.S. economy by 2050. Recently, the Democratic chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee introduced a bill to codify these goals and added a mandate for an 80% reduction in carbon emissions in the power sector by 2030.

If this policy is implemented, it will destroy livelihoods, disrupt families, decimate communities, increase utility bills, and threaten the stability of the grid. Even if we accomplish this goal, the United States would still experience the negative effects of climate change since the rest of the world is increasingly using fossil fuels.

Look, we all agree we need to reduce carbon emissions. However, the public needs to understand the consequences before rushing headlong into such punitive action.

Keep in mind, last year, 60% of our nation’s power came from coal, gas, and oil. The remainder is split equally between nuclear power and renewables. Given this reliance on fossil fuels, is it practical to transform the electric grid in less than 14 years, let alone nine?

Accomplishing this fundamental switch would require unprecedented growth from renewable energy. Take, for example, solar energy. A recent analysis projects solar energy will quadruple its capacity in the next 10 years. Solar energy only makes up 2.3% of electric generation today; quadrupling it would increase it to 9% of the energy mix. Fossil fuels still make up 60% of the energy mix, so quadrupling solar energy would not make up the difference.

According to the utility companies, decarbonizing the power sector by 2035 and 80% of it by 2030 will take a miracle. And even if we can achieve these goals, what is the cost to families?

Rushing to remove fossil fuels will increase costs for families by burdening them with higher utility bills. According to the Institute for Energy Research, this energy transformation could annually cost households an additional $2,000.

This policy will destroy jobs, and not just the coal miners and pipeliners, but all the secondary jobs that rely on fossil fuels. This includes workers on railroads, barges, machinists, fabricators, and more.

Where will displaced workers find jobs? Many of them make $70,000 to $100,000 annually, good jobs that allow them to support their families. In response, we get vague promises from climate czar John Kerry and others claiming they can work installing solar panels or making windmills. Really?

As Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers International Union, was recently quoted as saying: “It’s pie in the sky bulls--- about these green jobs being good middle-class jobs because they’re not.”

As a result, single-industry towns such as Welch, West Virginia, Gillette, Wyoming, Hazard, Kentucky, and Cadiz, Ohio will be crushed.

Not to mention, America will be left with a grid that is far less resilient, resulting in more blackouts. Haven’t we learned anything from California and Texas about how fragile our grid is?

Even if America totally decarbonizes, we will still have wildfires, droughts, flooding, and hurricanes because the rest of the world is still increasing its consumption of fossil fuels.

China, one of the world’s worst polluters, currently burns seven times more coal than America, and last year, a report indicated it was adding 250 gigawatts more electricity from coal-fired plants. That’s the equivalent of the entire U.S. coal-powered fleet.

So, what will decarbonizing our electric grid really accomplish? Experts have testified before Congress and said that there will still be wildfires on the West Coast, droughts and flooding in the Midwest, and hurricanes on the East Coast.

Republicans want to work in a bipartisan fashion to address climate change and have suggested various pathways to use all of our energy resources and not abandon fossil fuels. We know that through research and innovation, we can reduce emissions through carbon capture technology. In so doing, we can export this technology around the world to affect the climate.

The Left may think we have to destroy the village to save it. It didn’t work in Vietnam, and it won’t work in America.

David B. McKinley represents West Virginia’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives and serves as ranking member on the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change.