WSJ Op-Ed: Obama’s Climate Agenda Fails Cost-Benefit Analysis

This past Sunday, writer Rupert Darwall published an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal detailing the economic and technological problems with the Obama administration’s costly climate change agenda. In advance of the UN climate summit in Paris this year, President Obama has pledged to reduce U.S. carbon dioxide emissions up to 28 percent by 2025. Mr. Darwall, author of The Age of Global Warming: A History, explained that the costs of the commitment would significantly outweigh any of the potential benefits, given that renewables are more expensive and less reliable than natural gas, oil, and coal. Below is an excerpt from the article:

Recently Bill Gates explained in an interview with the Financial Times why current renewables are dead-end technologies. They are unreliable. Battery storage is inadequate. Wind and solar output depends on the weather. The cost of decarbonization using today’s technology is “beyond astronomical,” Mr. Gates concluded.

Google engineers came to a similar conclusion last year. After seven years of investigation, they found no way to get the cost of renewables competitive with coal. “Unfortunately,” the engineers reported, “most of today’s clean generation sources can’t provide power that is both distributed and dispatchable”—that is, electricity that can be ramped up and down quickly. “Solar panels, for example, can be put on every rooftop, but can’t provide power if the sun isn’t shining.”

If Mr. Obama gets his way, the U.S. will go down the rocky road traveled by the European Union. In 2007 the EU adopted the target of deriving 20% of its energy consumption from renewables by 2020. Europe is therefore around a decade ahead of the U.S. in meeting a more challenging target—the EU’s 20% is of total energy, not just electricity. To see what the U.S. might look like, Europe is a good place to start.

Germany passed its first renewable law in 1991 and already has spent $440 billion (€400 billion) on its so-called Energy Transition. The German environment minister has estimated a cost of up to $1.1 trillion (€1 trillion) by the end of the 2030s. With an economy nearly five times as large as Germany’s and generating nearly seven times the amount of electricity (but a less demanding renewables target), this suggests the cost of meeting Mr. Obama’s pledge is of the order of $2 trillion.

The cornerstone of the president’s “climate action plan” is an EPA rule requiring states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by 2030. While the so-called “Clean Power Plan” would impose enormous costs on American families, it would do almost nothing to actually mitigate climate change. This is why states should refuse to submit plans to EPA and the American people should reject the Obama administration’s radical climate agenda.

Click here to read the rest of the op-ed.

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