Written by CFACT
Over the past several months people have asked CFACT a number of questions about energy and the environment.They have replied to them, and then decided to compile their questions and answers below that present these science-based issues in brief, understandable, lay terms.
America needs to pursue all its energy options. Oil, gas, coal, nuclear, hydroelectric, geothermal, wind, solar and biofuels should all be pursued – under free market conditions, without crony capitalist subsidies.
We should open onshore and offshore lands to leasing, exploration, drilling, production, timber harvesting and mining – under rules that control bad and negligent behavior, ensure that jobs are done carefully and responsibly, and let private sector find best ways to create jobs, produce energy, etc. and generate revenue.
Fracking has unlocked centuries of oil and gas – via private investment and private technology on private lands. We cannot allow EPA and other agencies to block fracking on public lands or impose new, needless federal regulations for state and private lands, despite excellent state and local regulations and records.
Implement policies and support technologies that make sense: economic, environmental, technological. If they can’t be defended on these grounds, government and taxpayers should not promote or mandate them.
Support research and development, but end subsidies and mandates for large-scale projects like industrial wind facilities that attempt to provide electricity for cities. Government mandates and subsidies for wind, solar and biofuels have cost taxpayers billions of dollars over the last 20 years – but brought no net jobs, while raising electricity costs and reducing its reliability.
Ensure level playing field for all companies and technologies. The same economic and environmental rules should apply to all. No exemptions from pollution, NEPA, eagle or endangered species laws.
Of course. Being responsible stewards of our Earth and its resources means conserving, increasing energy efficiency and planning for the future. But the private sector should take the lead and should not depend on taxpayer subsidies. That means renewable, hydrocarbon, hydroelectric and nuclear power.
We have vast oil, gas, coal, uranium and other minerals resources – and should use them, too. Not using them is like starving despite having freezer of untouched food. It ignores blessings God gave use to use responsibly to serve humanity. Fracking and other oil production technologies safely produce more resources from deposits and ensure energy conservation, sustained production and sustainable development.
Other ideas: use wind, solar and biofuels if they make economic, environmental and technological sense and don’t need big subsidies; use more natural gas for heating, cooking, water heating (three times more efficient than using gas to generate electricity to do these things); more natural gas for cars and buses; five days of postal deliveries per week; real time traffic control using monitors, GPS, computers to improve green light sequences and traffic flow during rush hour (equals less fuel, less pollution, less wasted time).
Large wind and solar projects and prices are economically unsustainable: they need perpetual taxpayer subsidies; fossil fuel backup power and facilities; extensive land, raw materials and transmission lines; high electricity prices; and exemptions from environmental study and eagle, bat and migratory bird protection laws that apply to other industries.
Billions of dollars are taken from productive sectors and taxpayers, depriving alternative investments of needed funding – then given to politically connected companies for projects that cannot survive without perpetual subsidies. (Companies also use this money for campaign contributions to friendly politicians.)
Electricity from renewables costs 2-5 times more than coal or gas generation. By 2016, generating electricity with natural gas will cost $49-$79 per megawatt-hour. Generating the same electricity from onshore wind will cost $75-$138; with offshore wind, $243; with photovoltaic solar, $210. (EIA, EPRI)
That raises energy costs for businesses and families, hurts poor families most of all, and kills jobs. Most manufacturing jobs have been in China. Most US jobs have been installation and maintenance.
Most so-called oil subsidies are same tax treatment given to all companies, to deduct costs of doing business, manufacturing products and employing workers. I could support ending ALL subsidies for ALL energy production. Proper method is to evaluate subsidies per unit of energy actually produced.
Coal and gas subsidies for generating electricity = $0.44 (44 cents) per megawatt-hour. Nuclear subsidy = $1.59 per MWH (4 times higher). Wind = $23.37 (53 times higher). Solar = $24.34 (55 times higher).
Natural gas, coal and nuclear-based electricity is reliable. Wind and solar electricity is unpredictable and unreliable; it is often most abundant when least needed, and almost nonexistent when most needed.
Energy per acre results in similar figures. Wind, solar, ethanol and biodiesel require hundreds of times more land for same energy output. (US Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration data)
Actually, I support them on private lands and buildings, where they don’t require taxpayer subsidies or exemptions from environmental laws and regulations, and make sense on practical and economic grounds – such as solar power for water heating, photovoltaic power for highway equipment, or wind and solar on farms or in locations where storms can cause power outages that would be especially disruptive.
But industrial-scale wind and solar projects are neither environment-friendly nor sustainable. Turbines and solar panels impact enormous tracts of wildlife habitat, scenic and agricultural land. Wind turbines kill hundreds of thousands of eagles, hawks, falcons, whooping cranes, geese per year, without penalty.
Wind and solar get exemptions and special treatment under environmental permitting, endangered species, migratory bird, eagle protection and bat protection laws. That should no longer be permitted. All energy producers should be treated the same, and prosecuted and fined if they violate these laws.
Turbine noise, vibration and shadow flicker adversely affect people’s sleep, health and well-being. Monstrous turbines severely impact local property values. USA already has 14,000 abandoned turbines.
Rare earth metals (essential for turbine magnets and solar panels) are destroying Chinese and Mongolian wildlife and agricultural areas, poisoning the air, releasing huge quantities of radioactive materials, and endangering workers and nearby residents because of lax health, safety and environmental rules.
Wind and solar power is unreliable and is generally unavailable when needed most: hot summer days and cold winter nights. Despite tens of billions in subsidies, turbines still generate less than 3% of US electricity.
US families in coal-using states pay 7-10 cents per kilowatt-hour. British families pay 14 cents; German families pay 32 cents; Danish pay 38 cents. EU prices would devastate US families, jobs, health, welfare.
UK government is expected to slash wind turbine installations, and permit fracking for natural gas – to reduce family fuel poverty, create 35,000 jobs, and save energy-intensive industries and jobs. Britain’s North Holland province will ban building new wind turbines by the end of the year. (Daily Telegraph)
India is building 455 coal-fired power plants (520,000 MW); China is building 350 new plants; Germany 25. Global carbon dioxide and other emissions will continue to increase, no matter what the US does.
Most Chinese wind turbines and solar panels were sold in USA and EU. Most US wind and solar jobs were installation and maintenance, not manufacturing. Earnings for China’s top wind turbine manufacturers plummeted by 90% in the first half of 2012, compared to 2011; profits plunged 70%. Over half of wind power generated in Inner Mongolia in the first half of 2012 was wasted. (Wall Street Journal)
400,000 more Americans gave up looking for jobs just in August 2012. We cannot afford more wind and solar subsidies and pricey electricity. Smart countries are using coal and petroleum; we should too.
Producing 14 billion gallons of ethanol requires corn from an area as big as Missouri, plus huge quantities of water, fertilizers, pesticides, diesel fuel and natural gas to grow those crops and turn them into alcohol.
Devoting 40% of US corn crop to ethanol production has increased corn prices from $2.00 per bushel in 2005 to almost $9.00 this year. Corn farmers get rich – but pork, beef, chicken and fish producers pay far more for feed, grocery manufacturers pay more for ingredients, and family food costs soar.
Ethanol gets one-third less mileage per gallon than gasoline. It does not reduce carbon dioxide emissions. It collects water, which can cause engine stalls, and corrodes plastic, rubber and soft metal parts. E15 (15% ethanol) gasoline could damage lawnmowers, chainsaws and other outdoor power equipment.
Biodiesel and other biofuels are equally expensive and also require huge amounts of land and water.
We will run out of land and water for food and fuel crops long before we run out of petroleum.
If drilling rig’s most experienced people had been at their posts (they were not) when pressure began rising in well bore, Deepwater Horizon accident, deaths and oil spill probably would not have happened.
Once spill occurred, EPA and Interior Dept made impacts far worse, by preventing crews from using skimmers (because 1% of oil cleaned up would go back into ocean, or because skimmers were foreign registered) or installing booms. Obama and agencies used crisis to justify shutting down leasing, drilling.
Obama offshore leasing and drilling moratorium after spill cost 10,000 jobs and billions in government royalty and tax revenues. But he gave $2 billion to Brazil for its offshore drilling program.
Natural bacteria have eaten 200,000 tons of spilled oil since 2010, leaving Gulf environment and fisheries much cleaner. (University of Rochester and Environmental Science & Technology Journal)
We have vast oil supplies, and industry has greatly improved technologies and practices since spill. We need to issue leases and permits, to ensure that safe oil and gas production under reasonable regulations.
EPA claims of health risks are exaggerated, imaginary, even falsified. Its new soot standard permits one ounce of super-fine dust to be dispersed in air one-half mile long, one-half mile wide and one story tall! It used human subjects in laboratory tests, exposing them to what EPA claims are dangerous levels of fine soot – then buried test results when human guinea pigs were not harmed as agency said they would be.
Six most dangerous air pollutants declined 63% on average between 1970 and 2010 – even as coal-based electricity generation increased 180% … miles traveled soared 170% … and US population increased by 110 million. (EPA data) Pollution will continue to decline under pre-Obama regulations and technologies.
New EPA mercury rule is based on computer-generated risks to hypothetical American women who eat 300 pounds of fish per year that they catch themselves; desire to keep IQ test scores from falling 0.002 points; irrelevant studies of Faroe Islands children who eat whale blubber contaminated by mercury and PCBs; and ignoring real sources of mercury: volcanoes, deep sea vents, forest fires, other countries’ emissions.
It is EPA rules – not coal-based electricity – that endanger health and welfare. They raise cost of electricity, killing jobs and increasing risks of depression, alcohol and child abuse, cardiovascular disease, and suicide. Higher electricity prices also raise the cost of heating, air conditioning, commuting, healthcare and food – and reduce health, welfare, living standards, civil rights progress and environmental justice. Since 2001, energy costs for poorest families have shot from 10% to 25% of their annual income.
EPA says each life supposedly saved is worth $9 million. But it has imposed new 54.5 mpg automobile standards that will make cars smaller, more lightweight and less safe – causing thousands of additional injuries, disabilities and deaths every year, resulting in $10-30 billion in real human losses per year.
They will actually help those families improve their living standards and health, and achieve their dreams.
Real health, welfare and environmental justice come from abundant, reliable, affordable energy. For elderly, poor, minority and middle class families, money spent on soaring transportation, heating, and air conditioning costs is unavailable for food, healthcare, shelter, home and car repairs, and other necessities.
23 million Americans are still unemployed, working part-time (often at several jobs at low wages) or have stopped looking for work; 47 million are on food stamps. Americans are paying $4 per gallon for gasoline and electricity bills that continue to climb for families and businesses. Most want to work, but cannot. Safely and responsibly developing these resources would generate the jobs and revenues America needs.
Our nation has many decades of oil and gas, and centuries of coal – if government would allow us to find, tap and use these resources. Arguments against doing this employ fallacious claims that wind, solar and biofuel power can replace hydrocarbon and nuclear power … and false assertions that fuels which provide 93% of US energy needs are somehow dangerous, environmentally harmful and risky for our climate.
Most “green” jobs are temporary and/or low paying – or are created by taking money from productive, profitable companies, and giving it to politically connected companies, campaign contributors, and bankrupt schemes like Solyndra and Fisker. That hurts taxpayers and working classes. It has to stop.
Obama promised to bankrupt coal companies, make electricity prices skyrocket, fundamentally transform US energy system and economy. EPA is doing this – regardless of harm to jobs, families and economy.
EPA’s war on coal is closing mines and power plants, while our government is giving billions of dollars to Brazil for offshore oil development and hundreds of thousands to China to help fix its mining problems. Because of oppressive and inflexible EPA rules, thousands of miners and utility workers have lost their jobs in Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia and other communities where few employment alternatives exist.
Many more EPA rules have been postponed until after elections. Most will bring minimal, if any, health and environmental benefits. But they will have devastating impacts on jobs, our economy and the poor.
Most fracking occurs 10,000 feet or more below surface, far below water aquifers and wells (most are less than 500 feet). There have been very few problems in 60 years of fracking and most were due to improper cementing of well casing pipes. State regulations work and continue to improve. (Wall Street Journal)
Fracking fluids are 99% water and clay, plus mostly organic chemicals used in kitchens and food. Water is increasingly recycled. Supposed earthquakes are barely detectable minor tremors.
Fracking can give us vast new supplies of oil and gas – centuries’ worth. Natural gas is needed to back up wind turbines and replace coal that EPA is shutting down over exaggerated health concerns. We need US oil to replace imports from dangerous and unfriendly countries, and reduce risk of tanker spills.
Radical environmentalists hate fracking because it produces fossil fuels, demolishes their claim that we are running out of oil and gas, and makes expensive wind, solar and biofuel energy even harder to justify.
Fracking has reduced US natural gas prices from $8 to $3 per thousand cubic feet (million Btu). That’s good for electricity generation, factories, petrochemicals, jobs and families. It conserves energy by increasing oil and gas production from old and new wells and fields, leaving less behind in the ground.
By 2020, shale gas is expected to create 3.6 million US jobs (directly and indirectly, due to lower costs for energy and chemical feed stocks). It will substantially reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
“Reserves” mean oil that drilling has confirmed actually exists and can be produced under current prices and technologies. Before fracking and new discoveries, US had only 3% of world reserves. However, enormous US prospects are off limits to leasing, exploration and drilling, especially under Obama.
That means 170 billion barrels of oil (plus huge amounts of natural gas) in the OCS, Rockies, Great Lakes, Southwest, ANWR and other areas are locked up and can never become “reserves.” In fact, US reserves will decrease, as we deplete existing reserves and aren’t allowed to replace them.
Energy deposits cannot be developed overnight. However, 40 years is not overnight. But that’s how long America has kept Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Outer Continental Shelf, and western states’ oil and gas off limits to leasing and drilling. If we had started ten or twenty years ago, oil would be flowing now.
Locking up US oil, gas and coal means we must send more money to Saudi Arabia and other repressive dictatorships, make our foreign policies and national interests subservient to Islamist politics, and reduce job creation, revenue generation, and economic, personal and national security for all Americans.
Wind, solar and biofuels require huge subsidies and almost as much energy to produce or back up with fossil fuels as they generate. They don’t really add to US energy supplies – and require huge amounts of land, raw materials, water, pesticides, fertilizer, hydrocarbon fuels and taxpayer money to produce.
US oil production is increasing, thanks to production from unconventional deposits, mostly on state and private lands. Our ability to explore areas onshore and offshore has improved exponentially. Developing more of America’s energy resources would generate hundreds of thousands of jobs – and trillions of dollars in lease bonuses, production royalties, employee income, and corporate, personal and other taxes.
Keystone would deliver 800,000 barrels of oil a day from friendly, stable Canada and North Dakota to refineries in Texas. Building it would create 20,000 US manufacturing and construction jobs – plus thousands of jobs in refining, manufacturing and petrochemical industries that would use that oil.
Not building Keystone would mean this oil will be shipped to communist China and be burned there, under far less responsible environmental rules and technologies. Amid worsening troubles in Egypt, Libya, Syria and worldwide Muslim world, not building it would also mean spending more US dollars to buy oil from unfriendly, repressive, anti-women, and terrorist sponsoring and perpetrating countries.
Keystone oil sands oil is far less “dirty” – and far less “unethical” – than oil from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan or Venezuela. Environmental practices, workplace safety and human rights are far better in Canada than in these alternative oil supply countries. Oil extraction techniques, water use, land restoration, and air and water emissions are far better today for oil sands than just a few years ago. Keystone provides real energy, jobs and revenues; “green” energy remains mostly fantasy fuel.
Catastrophic manmade climate change remains an unproven, controversial theory – and burning oil sands fuels in China (under environmental rules and technologies that result in far more pollution) will emit much more carbon dioxide than would burning them in America.
Hydrocarbons are hardly the energy of the past. They are the energy of the present and future, for many decades at least – or until creative people develop new energy sources that can actually replace them.
Thanks to new seismic, drilling, hydraulic fracturing and production methods – that can function in the coldest, deepest, most inhospitable places on Earth – we still have many decades of petroleum and centuries of coal. That’s why countries all over the world are embracing these proven, economical sources.
Oil, gas and coal provide real energy, real jobs, real revenues … from relatively small areas of land. Under proper safeguards, as required in the USA and Canada, they protect human health and the environment.
US oil and gas companies created 37,000 direct jobs and 111,000 indirect jobs in 2011 – nearly one of ten jobs created nationwide. (World Economic Forum) 530,000 more jobs could be created if American companies could explore and drill for oil and gas in areas currently off limits. That would generate $150 billion in increased government taxes and fees by 2025, and expand domestic production by 4 million barrels of oil equivalent a day, slashing our dependence on oil from despotic regimes. (Wood Mackenzie)
Utilities will add some 10,000 megawatts of new coal plants in seven central European countries in the next four years and many times that amount in China, India, Indonesia, South Africa and elsewhere. (Bloomberg)
This will bring greater prosperity, better living standards and health, and greater justice and civil rights progress to millions of Americans and Europeans, and billions of poor people all over the world.
Wind, solar and biofuels are actually our least sustainable option. They require billions in subsidies, kill jobs, and provide costly and unreliable energy, using large quantities of fossil fuels and raw materials, and impacting large tracts of land for wind turbines, solar arrays, biofuel crops, raw materials mining, backup power generation, and long electricity transmission lines from power generation sites to cities.
No one advocates that. However, 97% of our federal or public lands are not parks and protected areas. Yet that’s how much of our oil and gas is off limits to leasing, exploration, drilling and production. Opening selected public lands will greatly increase energy production, job creation and government revenues, without harming truly special areas. (Energy Information Administration, Institute for Energy Research)
These resources could generate trillions of dollars in lease bonuses, royalties, employee income and taxes, and could help us reduce imports from unfriendly nations. But bureaucrats, environmental pressure groups, judges and politicians will not let us develop and use them.
ANWR is the size of South Carolina. Drilling and production operations would impact only 2,000 acres (1/20th of Washington, DC) of its frozen coastal plain, to produce 15 billion gallons of oil annually. Yet it is still off limits.
This energy belongs to all Americans. It’s not the private property of environmental pressure groups, or of politicians who cater to them in exchange for re-election contributions and support.
An addiction is something that is habit-forming and harmful. That is not the case with oil, gas and coal.
These energy sources have fueled incredible improvements in human living standards, health, welfare, environmental quality, longevity and prosperity – at rates and extents unprecedented in world history.
They power our transportation, electricity generation, manufacturing, communication and homes. They provide feed stocks for petrochemicals that improve, safeguard and enrich our lives. They create jobs and generate revenue for countless business, investment, charitable and government programs.
Thanks to modern technologies, sensible regulations and responsible development practices, we use these hydrocarbon energy sources with fewer harmful impacts on health and environmental quality every year.
This dependable, affordable energy helps us get to work, school, church and vacation; transport food and clothing and get people to hospitals; produce paints, plastics, fabrics, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals; give us more leisure time, better health and living standards; and ensure longer, safer, more fulfilling lives.
At this time, we have no viable, reliable or affordable alternatives that can replace hydrocarbons – except to some extent nuclear and hydroelectric power, which radical environmentalists also oppose. We have to be careful in producing and using these energy resources, to prevent accidents and pollution that harm the environment and injure people. But it would be immoral and unethical not to use them.
CFACT: In 1985, the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) was founded to promote a positive voice on environment and development issues. Its co-founders, David Rothbard and Craig Rucker, believed very strongly that the power of the market combined with the applications of safe technologies could offer humanity practical solutions to many of the world’s pressing concerns. A number of leading scientists, academics, and policy leaders would also agree with them and soon joined their effort, along with thousands of citizens from around the country