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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Throughout history, clever strategists have taken advantage of divisions within the ranks of their enemies to win otherwise unlikely victories. Military leaders would play tribe against tribe, province against province and then prey on the weaknesses that disunity brings.

For example, while the Gauls were militarily as strong as the Romans, after centuries of tribal independence, the Gallic tribes would not work together to repel Julius Caesar. When Vercingetorix finally forged an alliance between all the Gallic tribes, it was too late. The newly organized Gauls were no match for Caesar’s forces, who easily subjugated the country. After five years of imprisonment, Vercingetorix was paraded through Rome and then executed by strangulation.


A similar fate awaits America’s primary energy suppliers — coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear and hydro — if they do not band together to fight environmental extremism. After all, groups such as the Sierra Club, and many of their opportunistic proxies in government, are out to destroy them all.

The Sierra Club’s “Energy Resources Policy,” adopted by its board of directors on Oct. 22, 2015, is a case in point. Among the resources opposed by the Sierra Club are:

• Coal-fired power plants

• Coal-bed methane

• Oil shale

• Oil sands

• New offshore oil drilling

• Synthetic natural gas

• New natural gas electricity generation

• Hydraulic fracking

• Nuclear power plants

• New large hydroelectric plants

In other words, they oppose the sources that currently supply almost all of the world’s energy.

In their place, the Sierra Club supports expensive and unreliable energy sources such as wind and solar power, technologies such as ocean power (which they admit is immature), and insufficient sources such as small hydroelectric and geothermal. None of these are realistically able to replace our primary energy sources any time in the near future.

The latest weapon in environmental extremists’ fight against conventional power is the climate scare. For example, to please his environmentalist base, President Obama is planning to impose severe carbon-dioxide emission regulations on the electricity sector through his Clean Power Plan (CPP). Pressured by sympathetic media and groups like Sierra which expect us to believe that humanity controls our planet’s climate as if we had a global thermostat, state and national governments across the world are doing the same.

This puts coal-fired electricity, America’s least expensive and most reliable power, directly in the line of fire since it emits more carbon dioxide than other sources. The impacts are frightening. More than 50 percent of the mines and miners in Central Appalachia are now idle and 49 U.S. coal companies are currently bankrupt. Over the past five years, the coal industry has lost 94 percent of its market value, dropping from $68.8 billion to $4.0 billion.

As a result of the Clean Power Plan, 49,000 megawatts of coal-fired electricity will be eliminated, at an increased wholesale power cost of $214 billion between 2022 and 2030. Electric power grid operators are very worried about the reliability of America’s power supplies if the CPP survives a Supreme Court challenge and proceeds as planned.

The situation will not improve if Hillary Clinton becomes president. She acknowledged at a March 13 CNN town hall in Ohio that she is “going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.”

Many in the natural gas, nuclear and hydroelectric power sector look on this as an ideal opportunity to increase their market share at coal’s expense. They do this by boasting that their products produce less carbon dioxide than coal, thereby perpetuating the myth that carbon-dioxide reduction is important for “climate protection.” The London-based World Nuclear Association is arguable the world’s greatest climate scaremonger. “Buy our nuclear reactors and stop climate change,” they appear to be saying, apparently forgetting that nuclear power expansion is the last thing environmental extremist will tolerate.

Natural gas producer Chesapeake Energy even went so far as to donate some $26 million to the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign between 2007 and 2010, only to have the club turn on them later with their “Beyond Natural Gas” project.

Trying to take advantage of coal’s CPP problems is a slippery slope for natural gas. Gas is treated as merely a transitional fuel by the plan, which provides incentives for power producers to move away from gas to renewables over the long term. The Environmental Protection Agency’s latest moves to regulate methane, owing to climate concerns, will severely impact the industry.

Similarly, hydroelectric companies will eventually be crippled if the climate scare continues. Besides the fact that vast quantities of methane are released when wetlands are flooded for hydroelectric dams, industry proponents apparently forget that the primary greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is water vapor. And far more water evaporates when it is held high above sea level in large surface area lakes than if it were allowed to drain naturally to the ocean. If governments continue to yield to environmental extremism, then they may eventually want to drain reservoirs.

When debating whether they dared sign the Declaration of Independence in July 1776, Benjamin Franklin told frightened delegates, “We must all hang together or most assuredly we will all hang separately.” He understood that the colonists had to support each other or be executed for treason by the Crown.

It’s well past time for conventional power producers to work together against the well-funded green machine threatening to hang them all.

Tom Harris is executive director of the Ottawa-based International Climate Science Coalition.


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