Obamaís Boutique Energy Plan Hurts the Poor

June 26th, 2013 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Since Iím getting asked to comment on the Presidentís speech, I guess itís time for a little detour from science into policy. If you donít like me mixing science and policy, go complain to Al Gore or Joe Romm or Jim Hansen or Gavin Schmidt or Michael Mann or the American Meteorological Society or the American Geophysical Union or the American Physical Society…or the President himself.

Oh, I could go into the Presidentís appeal in his address today to those who donít know any better…that severe weather is supposedly worse due to global warming. Sorry, but by almost all objective measures, severe weather hasnít gotten worse (storm damage costs increase over time, but that increase isnít due to weather; Sandy-type storms have always occurred, and always willÖthey just hardly ever hit a major metropolitan area).

Or, I could go into the silliness of his equating carbon dioxide (which is necessary for life on Earth) to poisonous chemicals like arsenic and mercury.

Or maybe his swipe at skeptics as flat-Earthers, even though most, if not all, of us DO believe that humans influence climate to some extent. (I thought he understood “nuance”?) But all of these things have been addressed by me and others before in considerable detail.

Or his cherry-picking of data. Yes, even our satellite measurements of lower atmospheric temperatures over the U.S. registered record warmth in 2012. But John Christy also tells me our measurements for Australia (similar in size to the U.S.) in 2012 were below normal.

And our tropical tropospheric temperatures (where almost 50% of Earth’s sunlight is absorbed) have a 34-year temperature trend which is not statistically different from zero, in stark contrast to 73 state-of-the-art climate models.

Unfortunately, our President reminds me of a Hollywood star who thinks we can wave a magic wand and create abundant renewable energy if we just try a little harder. A few years ago I debated Daryl Hannah on TV down in Cancun during an IPCC climate conference. I was impressed with her knowledge of the pros and cons of various renewable energy strategies.

But after we were done filming, she told me, basically, ďwe just need to switch over to wind and solar right nowĒ.

Excuse me? Iím sorry, I guess I was assuming too much regarding this Hollywood actressís knowledge of basic physics.

It doesnít matter how badly you want renewable energy to replace fossil fuels and nuclear, there are a few obstacles to overcome, akin to ďyou can’t get something from nothingĒ.

Wind, solar, and biomass all have very low energy densities compared to fossil fuels or nuclear, which are very dense concentrations of energy. Generating a substantial (i.e. realistic) amount of renewable energy is VERY expensive in materials and land. How many poor kids you want to take food and medical care from to pay for it?

Plus, for wind and solar, it isnít always there when you need it (at night, when itís cloudy, when the wind doesnít blow). So, it has to be backed up with fossil fuels anyway.

Punishing our most cost effective forms of energy (as the President and the EPA want oh-so-badly to do) just further deepens our economic downturn. If the President really is concerned about ďthe childrenĒ maybe he should examine what really hurts the children Ė poverty.

Affordable, abundant energy is required to generate wealth, and without wealth, you canít help those who canít help themselves. I thought thatís what our President wanted to do..help the poor? But how can we do that if we punish the wealth generators at every turn?

In fact, I canít imagine a better plan for purposely destroying the economy. Strike it at its heart, the availability of abundant low-cost energy.

Until we come up with affordable and widely deployable renewable energy sources, a war on fossil fuels is a war on the poor. Basic Economics 101. Wealth diverted to wasteful projects (or wealth destroyed) is no longer available for more deserving projects.

Yes, we need to continue renewable energy research, since fossil fuels wonít last forever. But you cannot simply legislate (or as Obama wants to do, regulate, without approval from Congress or the electorate) new forms of energy into existence.

The question is, how do we get from here to there? Now that we are finding global warming is, at worst, progressing at only 50% the rate predicted, we have time to be smart about it (assuming itís entirely our fault and bad for life on Earth, which Iím not convinced of. Carbon dioxide is just as necessary for life as oxygen, yet it is over 500 times less abundant).

This isnít a science fiction movie we are living in. Iím afraid the low-information voter wonít ďget itĒ until we have brownouts and blackouts. As more coal-fired power plants are shut down, that day is fast approaching.

Or maybe the economy will be so weak we wonít need all that extra energy anyway.

41 Responses to “Obamaís Boutique Energy Plan Hurts the Poor”

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  1. It is a great opportunity for me to read this kind of article. Thanks for sharing an informative article, I have learned a lot!