Experts Give Green New Deal Advocates a Reality Check

The much-hyped Green New Deal is premised on the notion that the United States can achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions in 10 years via a transition to 100 percent renewable energy, primarily wind and solar. But there is a big fundamental problem with that notion – it has no basis in reality. And you don’t have to take our word for it.

Numerous independent experts have recently emphasized the two primary reasons a 100 percent renewable energy transition is not possible. First, wind and solar simply aren’t reliable enough to exclusively power the grid. Wind and solar also provide no alternative whatsoever to the myriad of other sectors that fundamentally rely on fossil fuels and petroleum products, most notably the industrial sector.

These simple facts explain why every serious analysis has concluded that oil and natural gas will continue to be dominant sources of energy through at least 2040. Again, you don’t have to take our word for it. Here’s what a few experts have recently had to say.

Public Utility CEO: ‘The grid can’t be 100 percent renewable’

Ben Fowke, CEO of Xcel Energy — one of the largest utilities in the United States — recently debunked the claim that the power grid can convert to 100 percent wind and solar energy, stating plainly that, “The grid can’t be 100 percent renewable.”

This is because constant, reliable baseload power is absolutely necessary for utility-scale electricity generation due to demand fluctuations. Wind and solar power cannot be generated when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing, which also oftentimes happens to be when demand is highest. As E&E News recently reported:

“Peak solar and wind generating periods don’t correspond with peak demand for electricity.

“Solar photovoltaic generation works only in daylight and best at high noon on sunny days, but grid operators say demand peaks later in the afternoon toward the evening hours, as people return from work and turn on their lights, appliances and air conditioners. Land-based wind power systems often see their strongest generation occur overnight, when people are asleep and grid demand is lowest.”

Additionally, adequate battery technology to store wind and solar-generated energy at a utility-scale level simply doesn’t exist.

Fowke’s comment is all the more significant considering Xcel has committed to complete de-carbonization by 2050. Fowke has essentially concedednatural gas (combined with carbon capture) and/or nuclear generation will be needed to achieve his company’s stated goal. Green New Deal advocates – and the “Keep It In the Ground” movement in general – have rejected both natural gas and nuclear energy as options to decarbonize the grid, a striking example of rhetoric not reflecting reality.

Natural gas is — and will continue to be — needed to back up wind and solar power generation, a fact that prompted former Clinton White House advisor Paul Bledsoe to say“it’s utterly disingenuous of the left to pretend we can get rid of natural gas anytime soon.”

Renewable energy advocates often point to falling wind and solar costsas evidence that they are viable options, but Breakthrough Energy Coalitionchairman Microsoft founder Bill Gates recently countered, saying,

“That’s nothing… that doesn’t solve the reliability problem.”

The International Energy Agency agrees, as it recently issued a reportthat expresses concerns about emission reduction strategies that rely heavily on intermittent wind and solar energy.

Bill Gates: ‘There is no substitute for how the industrial economy runs today’

Even if a 100 percent renewable conversion of the electricity grid was realistic, the fact that such a conversion would do nothing to reduce industrial emissions is consistently ignored by Green New Deal advocates. As Gates recently said:

“Electricity is just 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. There is no substitute for how the industrial economy runs today.”

“Do you guys on Wall Street have something in your desks that makes steel? Where is fertilizer, cement, plastic going to come from? Do planes fly through the sky because of some number you put in a spreadsheet?”

More than 6,000 products are derived from and/or manufactured with petroleum — including key componentsof infrastructure needed to generate renewable energy. As the IEA recently noted,

“Petrochemicals are particularly important given how prevalent they are in everyday products. They are also required to manufacture many parts of the modern energy system, including solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, thermal insulation and electric vehicles.”

In other words, there is no wind and solar infrastructure if we “Keep It In the Ground.”

This is precisely why the IEA projects global oil demand growing substantially through at least 2040, even taking the potential widespread electrification of the transportation sector into consideration.

Conclusion

The Green New Deal has thrust the idea of a 100 percent renewable energy conversion into the mainstream consciousness. But it can’t be emphasized enough that wind and solar account for just two percent of the world’s energy, and such a transition is unprecedented for a reason.

No country has decarbonized its electricity supply exclusively with wind and solar. The two countries that have come closest — Sweden and France – have done so largely with nuclear and hydro energy (83 and 82 percent respectively, with just 12 and six percent, respectively, attributable to wind and solar). And Germany, the most notable nation that has attempted to decarbonize primarily with wind and solar, has fallen well short of its emissions reduction targets while watching energy prices soar.

Far from renewable bashing, it is important for the public to understand the limitations of wind and solar and understand that we will need a whole lot of oil and natural gas for a long time to come. That is why it is so important to counter the “Keep It In the Ground” agenda with the facts. Otherwise, we’ll end up once again importing most of our oil and gas from hostile nations, while energy prices soar and our emissions reductions fall well short of what Green New Deal advocates have promised.