Opinion: Columnists

Ron Arnold: Energy gap leaves Britain freezing in the dark

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As freezing temperatures, gales and blizzards of deadly "100-year, record-smashing" spring storms battered Europe this past month, the energy gap I've warned about for years hit the headlines: "It's payback time for our insane energy policy," snarled London's Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

Hypothermia has killed thousands, losses to the economy have soared into the billions, and the wintry spring has wrought mayhem on the roads, closed businesses and smashed power lines.

Last weekend, the head of the United Kingdom's second-largest energy supplier announced that the nation had barely 48 hours' worth of stored natural gas left to keep the population warm. "Our generating capacity has fallen so low that we can expect power cuts to begin at any time."

Why? Because instead of developing its vast natural gas resources to fuel gas-fired generators, Britain has been building wind turbines, which provide almost no electricity during frigid weather.

The Sunday Telegraph bitterly concluded, "The grotesque mishandling of Britain's energy policy by politicians of all parties, as they chase their childish chimeras of CO2-induced global warming and windmills, has been arguably the greatest act of political irresponsibility in our history."

Now we can see what might have happened to America had the Senate ratified the disastrous Kyoto Protocol -- and what "childish chimeras" President Obama is chasing with carbon taxes and Environmental Protection Agent regulations.

The "energy gap" is the amount of "green energy" we actually produce, compared with how much more we would need to produce to replace energy from fossil fuel, nuclear and hydroelectric power that greens and bureaucrats want to shut down. It's a reality check.

Every year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration provides a simple chart useful for calculating America's energy gap. EIA's website calls it "Total Energy Supply and Disposition." It lists all energy sources and the number of BTUs each contributed. (A British thermal unit is a standard measuring unit for energy.) The EIA chart shows BTUs in quadrillions. Here's how America's energy sources and use stacked up in 2012.

Liquid fuels and other petroleum: 36.74 quadrillion BTUs; natural gas: 25.80; coal: 19.46; nuclear: 8.50; hydropower: 2.67; biomass: 2.73; other renewable energy: 1.77 (includes grid-connected electricity from landfill gas, biogenic municipal waste, wind, photovoltaic and solar thermal sources, and nonelectric energy from renewable sources, such as active and passive solar systems); other: 0.38. Total U.S. energy for 2012: 97.93 quadrillion BTUs.

Fossil fuels alone -- oil, gas and coal -- contributed 82 percent of this total. Wind and solar provided a mere 3.32 percent of our overall needs in 2012. America therefore had an energy gap of 96.7 percent last year.

Updated EIA energy gap figures should be shown daily by every news outlet. People need to know that if Obama and his Big Green supporters want to kill the 82 percent that we get from fossil fuels before renewables are even remotely prepared to replace them, the United States will be freezing and jobless in the dark, just like the U.K.

Thankfully, the political momentum behind the climate movement may not last much longer. A new trend in climate science has emerged in leading peer-reviewed journals, and even mainstream media are reporting it. German's flagship daily newspaper Die Welt stunned Europe with the headline "Scientists Warning of Ice Age." The story by veteran journalist Ulli Kulke noted that more scientists have been challenging the simplistic "one-dimensional CO2 explanation" for climate change.

More and more scientists are now seeing a huge opportunity to overturn one of the most ballyhooed scientific hypotheses of modern time, Kulke wrote -- funding be damned.

With the vast sums we're spending to kill 82 percent of our energy needs, the revolution can't come soon enough. And all we have to show for going green is a piddling 3.32 percent from wind and solar.

Examiner Columnist Ron Arnold is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.

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Ron Arnold

The Washington Examiner