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The World Is Powering Up While America Powers Down

Written by Right Side News

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July 24, 2008
The Heritage Foundation
The economy is by far the No. 1 issue on most Americans’ minds. Gas prices are a close second. The two issues are intimately related. But the spike in oil prices this year is just the tip of the iceberg. Due to similar developments in supply and demand, electricity prices are set to skyrocket next year.

While American oil consumption has grown only 15% since 1973, electricity use has shot up 115%. Right now the U.S. has 760 gigawatts of power to meet consumption. We will need 135 gigawatts of new capacity over the next decade to keep the lights on, but right now only 57 gigawatts of power are planned. No matter what Barack Obama and Al Gore tell you , alternative energy sources cannot meet demand. Solar is still only one-tenth as efficient as the cheapest fossil fuels. Today 97% of our electricity comes from fossil fuels, nuclear and hydro power. Wind provides 1% and solar .01%.

The rest of the world knows that green sources of energy are inadequate to keep their people out of poverty. That is why around the world, from Europe to South America to Asia, countries are building coal and nuclear power plants at a dizzying pace while also drilling for oil wherever they can find it. Meanwhile, the United States, crippled by an out-of-control environmental movement, is refusing to develop needed energy sources.

Oil

The left’s campaign against oil development is well known. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), liberals in Congress are preventing an estimated 19.1 billion barrels of oil from being developed in our Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and another 10.4 billion barrels from being developed out of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Currently the U.S. has only 22 billion barrels of oil reserves . If Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid would just allow the House and Senate to vote, the U.S. could double its potential oil reserves over night. Since energy prices are set on the margin, such a drastic move would surely lead to a significant drop in oil prices. As if the current production bans were not enough, environmental groups such as the Center for Biological Diversity plan to use the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent decision to list the polar bear as an endangered species to stop oil production on current oil leases as well.

While liberals in Congress are forcing less oil production at home, the world is busy drilling at every opportunity. Brazil, whose beautiful beaches rival or surpass anything in California or Florida, recently discovered a huge underwater oil field and it is moving quickly to begin drilling. In Asia, China and Japan were able to put aside centuries of mistrust to come to an agreement on how to drill and share oil in waters in between their countries.

Coal

Despite signing the Kyoto Protocol, countries across Europe are rapidly building new coal power plants. Germany plans to build 27 coal-fired plants by 2020. Italy plans to increase its reliance on coal from 14% today to 33% in just five years. In all of Europe, 40 new major coal power are set to be built in the next five years. In 2006 alone, China completed enough coal power plants to match all of Britain’s capacity . India plans to boost coal production by 50% by 2012 and quadruple it by 2030.

While the rest of the world can’t build coal power plants fast enough, liberals have brought construction of coal power plants in the United States to a complete stop. A highly organized network of environmental groups such as the Sierra Club have been using every state, local and federal law they can to stop construction of coal power plants nationwide. The environmental coalition, which includes the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund and Environmental Integrity Project, claims 65 victories over the last three years.

Nuclear

The United States has not built a nuclear power plant in 30 years. While there are 30 plants currently being planned, all are tied up in the arcane permitting process the environmentalist left has created. None of the projects has started construction. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is embracing nuclear power. France already gets 80% of its electricity from nuclear power. Japan has six nuclear plants under construction and another six planned. India also has six under construction and another 19 planned. China has seven under construction and another 85 planned.

The nuclear industry does not need subsidies or handouts in order to succeed. The biggest risk the nuclear industry faces is reactionary government regulation. If the federal government could lift the ban on fuel recycling it could safely manage nuclear waste.

A Question of Values

High energy prices hurt rural and poor Americans the most. The Democrats have become the party of the rich. Rising energy prices do not hurt rich San Franciscans and New Yorkers as bad as they hurt middle-class Iowans and Kansans. Poll after poll shows that Americans desperately want to increase energy production. The rest of the world is increasing their energy production. Why can’t we?

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