Analysis

How Long Would It Actually Take For America To Shift To Renewable Energy? How Much Would It Cost?

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As the price of gasoline and oil push toward record-breaking highs, President Joe Biden and his spokespeople insist that drilling for domestic oil cannot solve the problem. Exploring our own abundant energy resources to relieve U.S. dependence on foreign oil would “take years” to make any difference, they emphasize. Instead, they propose a full transformation of the economy to run on “clean energy.” But the Keystone XL Pipeline could be completed by early next year, while the most optimistic analysts say America cannot transition to renewable energy until 2050 — when President Biden will be a spry 108 years old. Critics call his renewable energy plan impossible and say efforts to implement it would cost trillions of dollars and more than 1 million jobs.

How long would it actually take to transition the U.S. economy to “clean energy” technologies, like renewable energy? How much would it cost? Is it even possible? Here are the facts you need to know.

The Biden administration says drilling takes too long; transform the economy, instead

When Biden came into office, America had just achieved energy independence. Between 2017 and 2020, U.S. production of petroleum increased by three million barrels a day, and the U.S. became a net exporter of oil products. Gasoline never reached $3 a gallon under President Donald Trump and, by election day 2020, averaged $2.11 a gallon. Yet gas prices have not fallen below $3 a gallon since last May and currently average $4.10 a gallon — and rising.

As this unfolded, Biden focused on undermining the fossil fuel sector. Last December, he committed the federal government to “lead by example,” transitioning to 100% “clean energy” electricity by 2030 and “net-zero [carbon] emissions by 2050.” Since then, the Biden administration has deflected the blame for rising prices and claimed exploring U.S. oil would take too long to yield results.

In March, Canadians attempted to come to Biden’s rescue. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the Keystone XL Pipeline, which could carry 830,000 barrels a day of crude oil (twice as much as the U.S. imports from Russia) to Nebraska, could be completed by the first quarter of 2023. Yet when asked about the project, Jen Psaki said, “The Keystone Pipeline has never been operational” and “would take years for that to have any impact.” This argument should sound familiar. During his vice presidential debate against Sarah Palin, then-Vice President Biden answered proponents of U.S. drilling by claiming, “It will take 10 years for one drop of oil to come out of any of the wells that are going to begun to be drilled.” He said that almost 14 years ago.

On Thursday, the administration appeared to relent. “To achieve energy security and avoid volatile fossil fuel prices in the longer term, we must become energy independent,” the White House tweeted. Unfortunately, Biden’s definition of energy independence means abandoning oil and gasoline in favor of “clean energy technologies that don’t require fossil fuels bought and sold on the global market.”

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm reaffirmed last year that the Biden administration is “all-in” on its 2050 plan. Besides, “If you drive an electric car, this would not be affecting you,” Granholm (who is known to laugh inappropriately at Americans’ pain) said with a chuckle. Today, in light of rising gas prices due to American dependence on Russian imports, Granholm’s proposals are no laughing matter.

How long would it take to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy?

A much-celebrated paper written by Stanford researcher Mark Jacobson in 2015 claimed that 100% of the U.S. economy could transition to renewable energy (wind, solar, and hydropower) sources by 2050 — considerably later than the Keystone XL Pipeline could begin making deliveries. But even that may be too optimistic an outlook. A team of scholars published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which concluded Jacobson’s “work used invalid modeling tools, contained modeling errors, and made implausible and inadequately supported assumptions.”

Due to numerous problems with green energy, it is not clear a full transition is even possible. The Institute for Energy Research pronounced the prospects of 100% renewable energy “nothing more than a myth” that “would lead to catastrophe.” They appeared to get a boost from none other than Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who admitted that if America were ever to reach the goals of her Green New Deal, “We need to invent technology that’s never even been invented yet.”

How expensive would it be to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy?

When the Biden administration talks about green energy, the emphasis should be on the green. The American Action Forum estimated that for the U.S. to generate its present 1,085 gigawatts on 100% renewable energy sources would cost $5.7 trillion. AAF said this figure islikely to be a significant underestimation, as it reflects the lowest imaginable cost” of a Green New Deal. The cost would be ongoing, and electricity costs would have to rise. This change would require “an average annual expenditure of about $423.9 billion each year. For perspective, total revenue raised in the United States from electricity sales in 2017 was $390 billion.”

While AAF is right-of-center, the left-of-center Brookings Institution stated that “a new wind plant could at least cost 50 percent more per [kilowatt hour] to produce electricity, and a new solar plant at least 200 percent more per KWH, than using coal and gas technologies.”

Of course, that estimate covers only the United States. “[G]lobal spending on physical assets in the transition would amount to about $275 trillion between 2021 and 2050, or about 7.5 percent of GDP annually on average,” according to a report issued by McKinsey & Company, an influential consulting firm that once employed Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

“Achieving net zero would mean a fundamental transformation of the world economy,” McKinsey stated, “as it would require significant changes to the seven energy and land-use systems that produce the world’s emissions: power, industry, mobility, buildings, agriculture, forestry and other land use, and waste.”

The world will use more fossil fuels no matter what the U.S. does

The Biden administration is right about one thing: Energy is a global market — and the rest of the world demands fossil fuels. MIT’s “2021 Global Change Outlook” predicted fossil fuels will make up the vast majority of the global energy market even in 2050. “The share of fossil fuels [coal, oil, gas] drops from the current 80% to 70% in 2050,” it said. The report says that electricity from “renewable sources becomes a dominant source of power by 2050 in all scenarios” — but 28 years from now, renewable energy has yet to become stable, requiring greater reserves of fossil fuels to fill the gaps when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing. Since “intermittency issues are not fully resolved in any region within that time frame,” natural gas consumption will increase by 50% by 2050. In fact, “all energy types except coal grow from 2020 to 2050,” the report notes.

In other words, if the U.S. transitions to 100% renewable energy sources, it would adopt an unreliable source of energy, spend trillions of dollars, and watch as global fossil fuel use rises, anyway. All of this assumes that such a transition is possible.

All global leaders do well to look for less costly, more abundant, fully reliable energy sources to power their economies, transport their products, and warm their citizens. Successful leaders don’t wager their economy and their national security on unproven technologies wrapped up in political double-talk.

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