The US is the Champion of Energy Realism
The UN just completed the “COP24 climate talks,” from December 3 to December 14 in Katowice, Poland. They could not come up with strict emissions cuts, because many are recognizing the balance between environmental concerns and economic growth. Just look at the rebellion in France over carbon tax hikes and the world can see that not many citizens of nations are willing to pay massive increases for energy to pay for an international vision that has proven unrealistic.
The European Union arrived in Katowice insisting on impossible timetables for a complete phaseout of fossil fuels. Nations part of the EU resisted a hasty transition that imperils rural communities, national security and the electric grid. The host nation of the conference, Poland, is not on board with the EU’s plans. Poland has relied on coal for decades as the backbone of its economy, claiming that without energy produced by coal, Poland would become dangerously dependent on Russian energy. The country’s president, Andrzej Duda, remarked during the COP that Poland’s coal industry still has a lot of road ahead of it—and that he will not allow anyone to “murder coal mining.”
There are reasonable nations who are willing to confront the fundamental financial and technological realities of today’s energy landscape. By hosting a side panel at the climate talks focusing on how nuclear energy and technology to burn fossil fuels cleanly can contribute to achieving emissions goals, the U.S. has positioned itself firmly as the leader of the latter.
This could have been an opportunity for rational discussion on clean coal technologies. The U.S.-led panel offered countries attending the COP24—particularly developing nations who are urgently trying to extend their electric grids to cover their entire populations—an opportunity to discuss and share information about cutting-edge technologies which could allow them to continue to use all available energy resources while reducing emissions. The UN makes these rational discussions rare. One State Department official involved in planning the COP24 remarked, “Quite frankly, the U.S. is the only party to the convention that appears to be willing to push a rational discussion on the role of cleaner, more efficient fossil fuels and the role of civilian nuclear energy. »
The Trump administration’s willingness to shake off pressure from other developed countries to focus exclusively on renewable energy fits into the policy of energy realism which has characterized Rick Perry’s tenure at the U.S. Energy Department. Secretary Perry laid out his vision for American energy policy in March at the CERA Week energy conference in Houston, emphasizing that “we don’t have to choose between growing our economy and caring for our environment. By embracing innovation over regulation, we can benefit both.”
At the heart of this energy realism is the boost that kickstarting investment in sectors such as battery storage—which could alleviate the problem of intermittency inherent in renewable energy—and carbon capture and storage (CCS)—which most scientists agree will be essential to hitting global emissions reductions goals—could give to the American economy. Analysts have estimated that CCS alone could add 780,000 jobs and $190 billion to the American GDP by 2040.
The Trump administration’s new focus on developing these technologies won’t just pad the U.S. treasury and provide well-paying jobs for thousands of Americans - it will also offer opportunities for America’s allies overseas. As Secretary Perry has repeatedly underscored, many people living in developing countries currently have no access to electricity whatsoever. In war-torn South Sudan, for example, a stunning 99% of citizens do not have access to electricity, severely cramping development and forcing people to resort to dangerous methods to cook and heat their homes.
It would seem obvious that for these countries, turning the lights on is their first priority. As Jacob Masiala, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa put it, “those who want to see an end to fossil fuel need to spend more time on the ground in Africa. When you have no job and live in a shack without electricity and your family is always hungry, you don’t talk about climate change. You worry about the next meal, not the next 50 years.” A realistic policy makes sense and the elites at the UN are pushing ideas that will cause hardship on the poor who can’t afford to pay higher energy prices to please the rich nations’ goal to eliminate all fossil fuels.
The Trump administration is on the cutting edge and has proposed to provide new “Clean and Advanced Fossil Fuel Alliance,” which would share the latest developments, as well as high-emissions, low-efficiency (HELE) technologies, which could cut emissions from coal plants by as much as 40%. The U.S. delegation to the COP24 once again underlined the American government’s commitment to opening up conversations about these promising technologies—in spite of climate alarmists blindly trying to shut those discussions down.
The U.S. is leading on a rational policy that will help clean up the environment, while using cutting edge technologies as a means to avoid the harmful impact of merely hiking carbon taxes world-wide that would hurt the very people that the UN purports to want to help.
Jerry Rogers is the founder of Capitol Allies, and the co-host of The LangerCast on the RELM Network. Twitter: @CapitolAllies.