The Presidents “All but One” Energy Strategy

Posted by Laura Sheehan at 10:31 am, February 14, 2014

We’ve long had our doubts about President Obama’s alleged commitment to an “all of the above” energy strategy. His own EPA has imposed burdensome, onerous regulations on coal, leaving us to believe that his pursuit can be more aptly characterized as an “all but one” energy strategy, that “one” being coal.

On the campaign trail, then-candidate Obama championed clean coal during stump speeches across Ohio, Virginia and other key battleground states. But since taking office, his tune quickly changed. After hearing the president espouse the benefits of natural gas during his State of the Union speech last month, it’s feeling a lot like déjà vu. And if environmentalists get their way, natural gas could soon find itself on the chopping block, just as coal has.

We now know that administration officials and environmentalists are collaborating closely to create rules for the power sector, something that should be very alarming to all American consumers.

A new study released yesterday suggests that methane leaks are much more widespread within America’s natural gas pipeline system than originally thought. Environmental groups were quick to respond—creating a groundswell of criticism and using the study as further reasoning for why natural gas is a “dirty” fuel source.

Together, coal and natural gas comprise power nearly 70% of America’s electric generation. In 2014, coal is expected to provide more than 40% and natural gas more than 27%. Of course, most environmental groups aren’t too keen on nuclear power either, which rounds out the trifecta.

Environmental groups like to ignore the fact that the coal industry has made coal-fueled power plants cleaner, investing $130 billion so far, and another $100 billion over the next decade, to reduce emissions by 90 percent between 1970 and 2012,  and support cutting-edge clean coal technology

So, if these groups don’t want coal, they don’t want natural gas, and–as they have for decades—continue to call for the shutdown of nuclear facilities, what is it that environmental groups do want? It seems that their energy approach can be best described as “none of the above.”

One thing environmental groups can agree on is supplanting fossil fuels with renewable and alternative resources. Sierra Club wants to phase out coal entirely from America’s energy portfolio by 2030, replacing it with fuel sources like solar. But what we don’t hear is how impractical—and costly—such a shift would be.

Yesterday, the Ivanpah solar power plant in California’s Mojave Desert began operations. The plant took nearly four years and thousands of workers to complete. Michael Bastasch laid out the failure of both the administration, and supportive environmental groups, to come clean about the enormous economic costs of using solar for electricity generation.

According to the Energy Information Administration, new solar thermal plants cost 161 percent more to generate one megawatt hour of power than it costs a coal plant to do in 2018 — despite the costs of solar power being driven downward.

It is encouraging to see groundbreaking facilities like Ivanpah coming online, and we support continued investment to diversify of our energy portfolio. Diversification, however, doesn’t mean constricting the use of affordable, abundant, reliable resources like coal and other fossil fuels.

Environmental groups’ “none of the above” approach is counterproductive to progress and will only leave American consumers burdened by rising energy costs. Smart energy policy works to utilize all of America’s fuel sources, not just those supported by a narrow group of activists.

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