M.D. Harmon: What won't we sacrifice in the name of "green energy"?


“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a division of the Interior Department, is considering loosening regulations on the killing of bald eagles, the national bird of the United States, to accommodate the development of wind energy sources.”

— The Heritage Foundation

National Review columnist Jay Nordlinger was driven almost apoplectic this week by that quote, which for him showed just how much we are willing to sacrifice to please so-called “green energy” concerns — including making it easier to kill our national symbol, the bald eagle, a (presumably) protected species.

Nordlinger’s right, of course, but the folly of spending untold billions subsidizing such undependable sideline energy sources as wind and solar power is made even more obvious by the ever-increasing discoveries of newly available oil and natural gas deposits that dwarf previous known supplies.

We should set wind and solar development aside until and unless their advocates can find customers for their output on the free market, giving them only the same business-development benefits that other generating sources receive, rather than responding to political and ideological favoritism at huge additional taxpayer expense.

Two new reports, one international and the other domestic, show how much we have to gain by developing the resources right under our noses — and how much we have to lose if we don’t.

As Reuters reported on May 29, “A boom in unconventional natural gas over the next 20 years could see the United States and others benefit from cheaper energy while the importance of the Middle East declines, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said.”

The story continued: “Growth in shale and other newly available forms of natural gas in the United States and China could match gains made in conventional gas in Russia, the Middle East and North Africa combined, IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol told Reuters in an interview: ‘Unconventional gas will fracture the status quo, and will be a complete game changer with major geopolitical implications,’ Birol said.”

While the IEA report said that necessary environmental controls will raise the cost of production from these unconventional sources, the world price of natural gas could still decline as much as 30 percent in absolute terms, with the United States changing from a net importer of the fuel to a next exporter rivaling some of the current export leaders.

That would mean natural gas would displace coal as the world’s second-most plentiful fuel source (after oil) over the time period covered by the forecast.

Second, the U.S. Department of Energy’s new “Annual Energy Outlook” forecast predicts that, over the same time period as the IEA gas forecast, this country’s use of fossil fuels for energy and transportation will decline only slightly.

The DOE says that the current 83 percent fossil fuel usage will decline to 77 percent by 2035, with so-called “renewables” held to less than 11 percent by that date.

(Nuclear power, not included in the above figures, accounts for about 20 percent of U.S. power generation and may be poised for a resurgence, although much depends on pending regulatory decisions about new plants.)

So, putting all our development money into those areas — which include biomass, wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and municipal solid waste — is not only a mistake, it’s a diversion from the real engine that drives the economy: Our plentiful (and ever-increasing) developable supplies of natural gas, oil and coal.

Much depends, of course, on decisions made in the political sphere, where left-wing environmental lobbies continue to punch well above their weight due to the influence of highly placed political allies.

However, elections have consequences, and if those allies are removed from office, the national interest will benefit greatly.

If they are not, however, we face a grim economic future. Soaring debt, the continuation of unsustainable social programs that promise to reduce our children to widespread reductions in their standard of living, and the introduction of new entitlements that will make things even worse down the road, will be guaranteed.

Businessman Pete DuPont laid out the prospects in a Wall Street Journal column May 28 that was headlined, “Four More Years?”

Along with a discussion of several issues, including tax policy and health care, he said that on energy policy, the Obama administration “has made (the decision) to reduce the availability and affordability of the energy used by American businesses and individuals. The goal is to make energy scarcer, more expensive and firmly controlled by the federal government.”

By the administration’s pending restrictions on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for natural gas and oil, along with “a clamp-down on power production from coal, its slowness in the approval of oil- and gas-drilling permits, and its disapproval of the Keystone pipeline,” Obama’s plans for a second term are clear: to “lower supplies and make energy more expensive for American businesses and individuals.”

It may be hard for some people to understand the mindset that would make such goals seem desirable. Why handicap us and make everything we produce and consume more expensive, while dealing body blows to such industries as tourism and trucking?

Those people fail to see that our current political leadership is committed to a worldview in which consumption and economic growth are flaws, not benefits, in what they consider to be a “well-managed” society.

With influential officials such as Secretary of Energy Steven Chu (who doesn’t even own a car) saying his goal is to “decrease our dependency on oil” (which is like telling a person his doctor’s goal is to “reduce his dependency on blood”) and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood noting he wants “to coerce people out of their cars,” the future is clear, and it’s not one that is friendly to freedom.

Do we really want to turn our economy — and thus our liberty — over to “managers” who think they are smarter than Americans in general, and more capable of running our lives than we are?

If we keep them in office, we deserve everything that will happen to us. Like the bald eagle under the proposed federal rules, we’ll get chopped to pieces to serve the interests of those who consider themselves our natural rulers.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer. He can be contacted at:

About M.D. Harmon

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:

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