A Surefire Sign the Right Has Ceded the Clean Energy Debate to the Left

I’m sorry, but this recent post from a dilettante at the Huffington Post really got my blood boiling. Unfortunately, conservatives are partially responsible for allowing this to happen.

What did they allow to happen? Well, by reflexively opposing finding ways to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, the right has ceded the field to the left. As a result, Americans have three basic options: 1) do nothing (the default conservative response), 2) accept the left’s recommended solutions, or 3) accept the far left’s recommended solutions.

Because the right’s default appears to be to do nothing, few on the right have bothered to school themselves on both the possibilities and pitfalls of clean energy. As a result, the left dominates the field. Some on the left have good ideas. Some have terrible ideas.

The fundamental problem is that few on the right can tell the difference.

Now even the hacks have ideas.

Krystal Ball’s (yes, that appears to be her real name, and no, she does not appear to be an adult film actress) post is indicative of this problem. She makes two contentions that have no basis whatsoever in reality. I have included my point-by-point critique of her arguments below, which required very little time and effort for me to source.

“[A]dvance­s in solar technology are constantly improving the efficiency of solar panels that will very likely be competitiv­e with other forms of power generation when considered over the future lifetime of a nuclear plant. Wind energy, even the relatively more expensive offshore type, has also been shown to be cheaper than nuclear.”

The EIA projects the levelized cost of electricit­y for nuclear will be $0.119 for kWh vs. 0.396 per kWh for solar PV, $0.257 per kWh for solar thermal, $0.149 for wind, and 0.191 for offshore wind. Furthermor­e, wind and solar PV provide intermitte­nt power because the sun only shines during daylight hours and wind only blows during certain periods of the day. Nuclear, on the other hand, provides baseload power 24/7.

Thus the assertion they are direct substitute­s for nuclear power is a false one.

“The real way to move towards a clean energy future is to stop the nuclear subsidies and institute a market-based system which recognizes all the costs to society of the energy we use which includes the costs of pollution and potentially also risks to our national security. Under a solution that properly priced these factors, bio-fuels, solar and wind would become increasingly attractive and fossil fuel solutions would be less attractive. If nuclear energy were to win out in such a marketplace that would be fine with me although judging from the costs and risks it seems unlikely.”

No, they wouldn’t. At least not in the next six years. Even if one were to build an advanced coal-fired power plant with carbon capture and storage, it would cost $0.129 per kWh over its lifetime, more than nuclear, but less than solar and wind.

And do not get me started on biofuels. 

Yes, let’s institute a cap-and-tr­ade program and let the market decide. It will choose nuclear every time.

About Sean Patrick Hazlett

Finance executive, engineer, former military officer, and science fiction and horror writer. Editor of the Weird World War III anthology.
This entry was posted in Clean Energy, Clean Tech, Climate Change, Energy Security, Finance and Economics, Nuclear Power, Policy, Politics, Solar, Wind and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to A Surefire Sign the Right Has Ceded the Clean Energy Debate to the Left

  1. pino says:

    Furthermor­e, wind and solar PV provide intermitte­nt power

    Which means, by the way, that we need to keep our traditional sources of power running even when wind and solar are providing power. You simply can’t turn on and off traditional power plants.

    Yes, let’s institute a cap-and-tr­ade program and let the market decide.

    If you wanna test a Lefty’s commitment to this and rat out if he or she is really just after redistributing wealth, ask e’m this:

    Given that your goal in cap-and-trade is simply to reduce carbon emissions, would you be willing to reduce some other tax burden to the company by the exact same dollar amount that they would pay in the carbon tax?

    That is, if you tax Acme Steel $1,000,000 for carbon, credit them $1,000,000 in payroll tax.

    This would, at least, provide the better incentive. Tax carbon and you’ll get less carbon. Reduce tax on jobs and you’ll get more jobs.

    In my experience they just stare at you. I shouldn’t be surprised:


    Zogby researcher Zeljka Buturovic and I considered the 4,835 respondents’ (all American adults) answers to eight survey questions about basic economics. We also asked the respondents about their political leanings: progressive/very liberal; liberal; moderate; conservative; very conservative; and libertarian.

    How did the six ideological groups do overall? Here they are, best to worst, with an average number of incorrect responses from 0 to 8: Very conservative, 1.30; Libertarian, 1.38; Conservative, 1.67; Moderate, 3.67; Liberal, 4.69; Progressive/very liberal, 5.26.


  2. Pino.

    As usual your logic is flawless.

    The only thing I would change in your example would be to rename “Acme Steel”, “Rearden Metal.” 😉

  3. Alan Scott says:

    Sean Patrick Hazlett ,

    Carbon taxes just cannot be accepted . First off Global Warming, man made is not provable . Reducing carbon emissions cannot be proven to do anything .

    Second, once you go down that road, we all all forever doomed .It is a given that carbon taxes will raise the cost of energy. That does cause less economic growth, less jobs, less produced wealth. So why would anyone do that ?

    Third, once you give the government another stream of income, it will be siphoned off for every left wing wet dream that comes along. Example, remember the tobacco settlement money? Smokers have to pay because they raise health care costs. Pure BS. Smokers cost less because they die sooner than the rest of us . Smokers are paying extra taxes for all kinds of other stupidity . I’m sure the Democrats were counting on Carbon taxes to help reduce the deficit so that they would not have to cut money going to all of their friends and contributors.

    Continuing to subsidize solar and wind discourages them from producing cost effective energy. The whole industry is about harvesting government money, period .

    How about more Ethanol ? The price of corn ain’t high enough yet ?

    If anyone cared about energy, we would drill baby drill, and begin converting more of our vehicles to natural gas, cause we are swimming in the stuff right now . That is a lot smarter than the Obama Motors Edsel, the Chevy Volt .

    No sir, we on the right have conceded nothing.

  4. “Carbon taxes just cannot be accepted . First off Global Warming, man made is not provable . Reducing carbon emissions cannot be proven to do anything.”

    Alan, I am against carbon taxes. I am also torn on whether man is responsible for global warming as I have seen good arguments on both sides.

    My primary point in saying that we insitute a cap-and-trade solution was to expose Krytal’s faulty logic more than to fully support a cap-and-trade program. I am actually torn on cap-and-trade as support for the program hinges entirely on whether or not man is responsible for global warming. That said, they are a better solution than a carbon tax and similar systems have proven to work well in the past. For instance, President George H. W. Bush’s Acid Rain cap-and-trade program has been a resounding success in the Eastern United States.

    That said, if you really want to put someone on the left in a tailspin, ask them what they think about geoengineering. By my crude calculation, a carbon tax of $25 per metric ton would have cost roughly $75 billion in 2008 and increased taxes by about 5% across-the-board. While they might have reduced future carbon emissions, they would have done nothing to reduce carbon already in the atmosphere, nor would they have reduced global temperatures.

    In contrast a $2 billion annual investment in specially-designed aircraft to release sulfur dioxide in the upper troposphere could reduce the earth’s temperature by 1 degree Celsius via the Mount Pinatubo effect.

    Many liberals will look at you incredulously and state that they don’t believe it. The best retort is: “Well, if you believe that man can increase global temperatures, don’t you think man can reduce them as well?”

    On ethanol. I totally agree. After the market cap of the ethanol companies we covered at Morgan Stanley declined by about 80%, we still recommended that investors short them. The result: a 1,418% return over the S&P500 in a period that included 2008. You can get a copy of our recommendation back then on my Media Kit page.

    • pino says:

      I am also torn on whether man is responsible for global warming as I have seen good arguments on both sides.

      My official stance:

      1. I accept that there is such a thing as a “Green House Effect”
      2. I accept that CO2 is a “Green House Gas”
      3. I accept that humans have contributed to increased levels of CO2.
      4. I accept that the temperature of the earth is, in some places, warmer than it otherwise would be.
      5. I DO NOT accept that we are impacting the climate in any meaningful way.

  5. Vern R. Kaine says:

    Was curious that you were in favor of cap & trade, then saw your response explaining why and that you’re not fully onside with it as of yet. I’m the same way, and same w/ AGW. The B315 Global Warming video expresses my views well.

    • I kind of view it like Pascal’s wager. I do not know if it is true, but if it is and I fail to take action, the cost is infinite. If it isn’t true, and I took action, the cost is small and finite in the grand scheme of things.

  6. Natural gas substitution is something that seems to make economic sense, and would reduce carbon emissions. I agree if we institute cap and trade or other approaches to discouraging carbon emissions any revenues should offset other taxes.

    • I agree that it is a fine stop gap measure, but am unsure if it will reduce carbon emissions.

      Natural gas still emits carbon. Remember, natural gas is still a fossil fuel. It is methane (CH4) to be precise, which has more global warming potential than carbon dioxide before it is burned, and still releases carbon into the atmosphere.

      I love Pino’s revenue offset idea as well.

  7. Natural gas reduced carbon relative to coal doesn’t it? Oil less or not at all.

    I think you know the chemistry better than I do, so I’m just askin’.

    • That’s right. Once it is burned it has lower carbon emissions than both coal and oil. However, nuclear is a better option from a global warming perspective because it has zero carbon emissions.

      However, if natural gas escapes before it burns, as in natural gas flaring in oil production, it is actually worse for global warming.

  8. Alan Scott says:

    This whole debate just maddens me . The reason liberals love global warming is that it is another way to do their favorite thing in the whole universe, tax . Period . They constantly seek ways to make high taxes more palatable to their subjects . Their favorite tactic is to promote class envy . Who among us does not envy those who have passed us in the race of life . It is comforting to have big brother grab that sob above us and pull him down not to our level but, even below us. We can all project our working class envy onto screwing the evil boss we hate, or even better the boss’s worthless son who doesn’t know how hard we worked to make him rich .

    Carbon taxes. Makes sense. Screw the evil polluters . Collect all of that loot and have the good hearted Progressives spend it cleanly. Who could possibly argue with such good intentions ?

    The problem is it will kill the economy, but not right away . It will be a slow murky death that can be blamed on all kinds of other plausible things , Meanwhile, the Kommisars will be in charge and protect us from the evil rich.

    Anyway, someone please prove climate change to me . What the heck does it mean where I live . So far, when we have a freaking drought it is global warming. Same thing when we have a flood. A couple warm winters . A really cold winter. A lot of snow . It’s all climate change . You know what, don’t tell me what proves global warming, I already know. How about telling me what would disprove global warming ? Then if it does not happen, I will believe you .

    • I agree that carbon taxes are a bad idea. As Pino noted, just tell a liberal you would be happy to take a carbon tax if it replaced a payroll tax on a one for one basis. That will show you their commitment.

      Look, I don’t know if humans are responsible for climate change, but the planet is warming.

      My source: NASA.

      These guys are way smarter than I am (they are literally rocket scientists) and they have satellites that track these things.

  9. Alan Scott says:

    Sean Patrick Hazlett ,

    It is true that 2010 was one of the warmest years on record for total Global temperature . However, various parts of the globe had cooler than normal conditions . I can tell you in Pa the winters have been normal or colder for the last decade . And this winter was definitely below average . In fact winter refuses to end here . People are going stir crazy.

    As for NASA, they have a lot bigger problems than global warming . President Obama has turned them into nothing but a Muslim outreach propaganda agency . And in this budget battle where Democrats want to cut the military and Republicans want to cut everything else, no one is fighting for NASA . Gone are the glory days of moon shots . You can bet NASA which does not have much left compared to the good ole days, will be on the chopping block . I hate to see that . Anyway the last thing NASA should do is get in between Democrats and Republicans over something as stupid as climate change .

    • “It is true that 2010 was one of the warmest years on record for total Global temperature. However, various parts of the globe had cooler than normal conditions .”

      I don’t disagree with you that parts of the globe had cooler than normal conditions, but the overall global average has been rising.

      Look, I cannot stand that liberals accept global warming as a matter of faith. This attitude is what makes many conservatives reflexively want to deny it. Hell, I wanted to deny it. But then I looked at the data, and it is pretty clear. It also should not be so controversial. After all, the globe has passed through several warming and cooling periods.

      I, too, am upset about NASA. One long-term way out of the globe’s competition for resources stemming from population increases, is the future colonization of space. By cutting NASA, we are setting ourselves back. I would prefer a more serious overhaul of Medicare and Social Security, because this is where our country is just flushing dollars into the toilet. It is basically a wealth transfer from the poorer young to the wealthier old.

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