What is the Left's Substitute for Fossil Fuels?
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By Michael James Barton
Washington, D.C. and New York began March with huge snowstorms. Boston is on the cusp of breaking its all-time snowfall record for a single winter.
Think the cold was unbearable? This brutal winter could have been much worse if families had to rely solely on renewable energy for heat and power.
It takes a lot of energy to keep American households warm. Amid last year's polar vortexes, natural gas consumption spiked to record levels, up to 137 billion cubic feet per day. So far, the green movement has spectacularly failed to create an energy source that can endure America's most frigid months.
Green energy has its place. But it can't heat America in the winter. Wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal, and biomass energy combined accounted for only about 10 percent of all energy consumption in 2013. To put that in perspective, if we had to rely on solar alone at today's capacity, barely 3 percent of all American households would have heat and power.
Oil and gas will remain major energy sources for the next 25 years. Experts forecast that by 2040, oil will still provide 87 percent of the transportation sector's energy needs while fueling 39 percent of the industrial sector.
Few of my fellow environmentalists can see the obvious and instead attack as evil those who help keep the lights on and the furnace warm.
Activist documentarian Josh Fox compared the industry to "the witches in 'Macbeth.'" They "say to Macbeth, 'Oh, you're going to be the king.' And they leave out the part about how you're going to have to kill all your friends, your wife's going to go crazy and commit suicide, and you'll be dead in three days. They left that part out."
He's right about leaving parts out. Anti-fossil-fuel people like Fox tell Americans, "Oh you are going to save the planet," and leave out the part about no air travel, no car usage, and millions of Americans freezing to death in the winter.
In reality, the energy revolution has nothing to do with witchcraft and everything to do with American technological prowess. In particular, hydraulic fracturing -- or fracking -- has allowed unprecedented access to energy reserves.
That's good for things like surviving the winter. It's also good for the economy. Oil and gas production directly and indirectly supported more than 2.1 million jobs in 2012. Experts forecast that cheap natural gas will help create an additional 1 million jobs by 2025.
Consumers gain, too. As supply has increased and prices have dropped, the average household enjoyed an additional $1,200 in disposable income in 2012 -- a welcome relief in a terrible economy.
Meanwhile, fracking has actually resulted in major environmental gains. In 2012, the United States enjoyed its lowest level of carbon emissions in 20 years. A major contributor to this drop, according to the federal Energy Information Administration, was "a decline in coal-fired electricity generation, due largely to historically low gas prices."
That's not good enough for alarmists like Fox, who are part of a movement that hates all oil and gas CEOs that don't wear a military uniform. But American consumers will start listening when environmentalists stop using fossil fuels themselves. Until then, they are going to keep the heat on.
Michael James Barton is the Energy Advisor at ARTIS Research, and speaks around the country on energy and energy security matters. He previously served as the deputy director of Middle East policy at the Pentagon.