The dominant source of energy for the foreseeable future for both the United States and the world will be fossil fuels, chiefly in the form of oil, natural gas, and coal. Throughout the world, many groups will push hard for massive subsidies to wind and solar energy. Yet, that attempt, no matter how bold, will fail to shift the overall balance of energy production toward green sources. The fatal drawback of wind and solar is their lack of storability. Solar works when the sun shines. Wind works when breezes blow. Both often provide energy when it is not needed and fail to provide it when required. Any legal diktat that puts these renewable sources first will only produce a prolonged economic dislocation. Pie-in-the-sky proposals like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, which stipulates 100 percent of energy needs be supplied by “clean, renewable, and zero emissions” sources, should be dead on arrival.
The major challenge of sound energy policy today is to find ways to make the production of fossil fuels both cheaper and safer. Fortunately, private-sector innovation has paid off handsomely such that the total social cost of fossil fuels has trended sharply downward and shows every indication of continuing to do so. The point is especially true with fracking, which has been driven by large cumulative improvements at every stage of the production process. Since 1950, carbon dioxide emissions have increased over fivefold, but, as policy analyst Marlo Lewis has demonstrated, it is difficult to link these emissions to any negative global consequences. After all, over the same period of time, there have been massive increases in life expectancy, crop yields, and wealth. In my view, the current scientific record offers no support for the claim that increases in CO2 emissions pose an immediate, let alone existential, threat. Indeed, global temperatures have declined 0.56 degrees Celsius between 2016 and 2018 for the largest two-year drop in the past century—a trend that has gone largely unremarked upon in the press.More