The West’s Climate Policy Debacle

Rising oil and natural gas prices. Power grids on the brink of collapse. Energy shortage in Europe, it will get worse. The growing strategic vulnerability of the free world to Vladimir Putin and other dictators.

These are some of the unfolding outcomes of the last year, driven by the West’s utopian dream of punishing fossil fuels and sprinting to a world powered solely by renewable energy. It is time for political leaders to acknowledge this apparent debacle and admit that without a technological breakthrough, the world will need an ample supply of carbon fuel for decades to remain prosperous and free.


Consider the costly consequences of misguided climate regulation, subsidies and mandates:

Even in affluent countries, people are learning that reliable electrical power can no longer be taken for granted. The Texas grid operator this month urged residents not to use large appliances to avoid blackouts amid a heatwave that nearly halted wind power. Sluggish wind power also contributed to a week-long blackout in freezing temperatures in February 2021.

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation recently warned that two-thirds of the US could experience power outages this summer. Blame the shrinking base-load power generation that has been replaced by unreliable renewables. Regulators cannot order the sun to shine or the wind to blow.

A third of the country’s coal power and 10% of its nuclear power have been shut down over the past decade due to tighter environmental regulations and competition from cheap natural gas and heavily subsidized renewable energy. Natural gas generators have caught some of the slack. But they are under stress from having to ramp up and shut down to offset intermittent renewable energy.

Ironically, grid operators must maintain planned coal-fired plant shutdowns on life support. Super-green California plans to buy power from diesel generators when supplies run short. Grids in Texas and California are reeling, with renewable energy accounting for about a third of electricity generation. And President Biden wants the national grid to run on zero-carbon electricity by 2035, as if he could command it.

The hasty green transition is driving up energy prices across the board. According to the Energy Information Administration, wholesale electricity prices are expected to more than double at peak times this summer in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest. Blame the left’s war on the pipelines, which have curtailed natural gas production despite rising demand.

Rising energy prices are causing some steel and aluminum producers to shut down their plants. In desperation, manufacturers are urging the Biden administration to limit liquefied natural gas exports to Europe to lower energy prices, even though Europe needs the LNG to keep from freezing this winter.

Residential customers across much of the US have been largely shielded so far because states are limiting increases in utility rates. But average residential electricity prices in Texas’ deregulated electricity markets have risen 70% over the past year. Americans can look forward to similar gains in the years to come – either that, or utilities will go bankrupt, as many in Europe have.

delivery bottlenecks. When European electricity prices soared last summer as wind power waned, Mr Putin took advantage by slowing gas pipeline deliveries. This has pushed prices even higher and prompted some European manufacturers to stop production. Now Mr. Putin seems ready to cut off all gas supplies.

Europeans draw up contingency plans to ration supplies to manufacturers. But German leaders are still shutting down their three operational nuclear power plants by the end of the year. To quote the last word of The Bridge on the River Kwai: “Madness”. Germany has to resort to burning coal and oil because its trillion-dollar investments in wind and sun can’t offset Russian gas.

Berlin is considering a rescue operation for the electricity trader Uniper.

The French government recently announced plans to nationalize its financially troubled nuclear giant Electricite de France SA

. The UK announced a government takeover of National Grid this spring‘s

transmission system to handle its chaotic shift away from fossil fuels.

During Australia’s power crisis last month – the culprit again being too many coal-fired plant shutdowns – the grid operator suspended wholesale markets and imposed price controls. Failed climate policy becomes the pretext for more state control of energy production.

strengthen dictators. Europe’s climate obsession made itself vulnerable to the Kremlin, but Mr Putin isn’t the only dictator smiling at the West’s energy concerns. President Biden had to beg the Saudis for more oil production, and his administration could ease sanctions on Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro for more barrels. Iran could next be freed to export oil.

Do Western leaders recognize or care that their climate monomania is endangering living standards in democracies and empowering authoritarians? Historian Arnold Toynbee argued that civilizations die by suicide, not murder. The climate self-destruction of the West may prove him right.

Journal Editor’s Report: The Best and Worst of the Week by Kim Strassel, Mary O’Grady and Dan Henninger. Images: NASA, ESA, CSA and STScI/Getty Images/Reuters Composite: Mark Kelly

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