March 22 2011

Policy Focus: Misguided Renewable Energy Policies

newsletter Energy powers our homes, factories, offices, hospitals, and schools. It allows us to run our cars, trains, planes, computers, and air conditioners. Given the critical role it plays in every aspect of our lives, energy needs to be reliable, affordable, and convenient.

Politicians and environmentalists try to convince Americans that our economy can run on renewable energy sources. President Obama, for example, recently proclaimed that 80 percent of our electricity should come from “clean” sources. Yet the reality is that the American economy currently depends on fossil fuels. Oil and gas provide 62 percent of energy used by the United States. Coal delivers another 21 percent. Nuclear and renewable energy supply only 9 percent and 8 percent, respectively. Solar and wind’s contributions are miniscule, providing just 0.08 percent and 0.72 percent of total energy consumption in the US.

Americans may like the notion that our economy could run fully on renewable, emission-free energy sources, but today that’s a myth. Given current technology, solar and wind power are simply unable to meet the energy needs of the American public. They are unreliable, costly, and inconvenient, and depend on wasteful government subsidies to compete in the energy marketplace.

Similarly, ethanol has failed to live up to its promise of reducing carbon emissions and ending American dependence on foreign oil. Instead, US ethanol production wastes energy, creates more carbon emissions than it saves, raises the cost of fuel, and drives up the prices of nearly all foods.

Instead of wasting taxpayer dollars by lavishing subsidies on select renewable energy sources and driving up energy prices by mandating their usage, policymakers should reduce artificial barriers to domestic energy production and create a level playing field so that energy providers compete on their merits.

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