Sunshine might be free but solar is not cheap
The following article was written by Isaac Orr at the request of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy. It was first published at RealClearPolicy. Mississippi residents are consistently told that…
Elizabeth Warren visited Minnesota last week to hold a campaign rally in her bid to become the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee. At the rally, Warren waded into two highly controversial environmental debates in Minnesota by opposing the replacement of the Line 3 oil pipeline, and voicing her opposition to the proposed Twin Metals Minnesota mine, which would develop the massive reserves of copper, nickel, and other metals like platinum, palladium, and cobalt in northern Minnesota.
Unfortunately, the policies proposed by Senator Warren represent a continuation of her campaign against reality.
Minnesotans use a lot of oil. In fact, U.S. Energy Information Administration data show that oil is the single-largest source of energy used in our state, accounting for 35 percent of our total energy consumption in 2017. Despite the fact that the state has spent more than $15 billion building wind turbines, solar panels, and transmission lines, wind and solar made up less than 6 percent of our total energy during this time.
Oil is used most obviously in gasoline for our cars, but diesel fuel powers all of the tractors, trucks, and heavy machinery that allow our farms and mines to produce the food and materials we depend upon everyday. It is also used for home heating and drying grain, all of which would be much more expensive to do with electricity.
Therefore, replacing oil with wind and solar would be a less reliable and more expensive substitution, which is why no one would voluntarily choose to pay higher prices for lower-quality service. If the government were to mandate this transition, however, it would increase the cost of energy, which is essentially a regressive tax on low income families and the elderly.
Given these realities, it makes the most sense to replace the aging Line 3 because it will greatly reduce the chances of an oil spill, which should be at the top of every “environmentalists” list of priorities. Furthermore, replacing the pipeline, which is operating at half of its capacity due to safety concerns, would reduce the cost of delivering the oil, which could mean lower prices for Minnesota consumers at the pump.
In the real world, this is a win-win, but that’s not the world that progressive environmentalists live in.
Instead, the thought that we would more efficiently and safely transport oil is a bad thing for this group because it reduces the cost of oil (thereby rewarding people who use it), and reduces the negative press that would accompany an oil spill that could be leveraged to manufacturing public outrage against the industry.
“Winning” for progressive environmentalists is a lose-lose situation for Minnesota’s families and the Minnesota’s environment.
If, according to Senator Warren, Minnesota should not use oil, then what should we use?
Seeing how Senator Warren co-sponsored the resolution for the Green New Deal proposed by freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and has proposed spending $1.5 trillion over a decade on renewable energy, it is clear she wants to end the use of fossil fuels and rely on wind and solar.
But where exactly does she think the copper, nickel, and cobalt needed for the wind turbines, solar panels, and batteries would come from?
Here she doesn’t seem to have a good answer because she has proposed banning all mining on federal land, as she announced in the video below.
If we prevent mining from occurring in Minnesota, where we have some of the strongest environmental protections in the world, then we are exporting mineral production and any associated pollution to the developing world and simply pretending that our actions do not have serious negative consequences.
Warren talks about creating good-paying union jobs, but does anyone in the real world think the children mining cobalt in the Congo are unionized with fair pay and safe working conditions? Does anyone in the real world honestly believe they have higher environmental standards in developing countries than we do in the United States? If you do, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.
“Just say no” is not a viable alternative to using fossil fuels or developing the metals that are indispensable to building the unreliable and expensive windmills and solar panels that are fetishized by progressive environmentalists. Unfortunately, that’s all that banning Line 3 and Twin Metals would amount to.
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