The readers’ forum

U.S. energy policy isn’t sustainable


While climate campaigners are encouraged by President Barack Obama’s boosting of sustainable energy sources in his inaugural address, those who understand our energy needs are appalled. Here is why: The president was right to say that we must “respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”

Many societies collapsed because they did not properly respond to climate change, the Greenland Vikings and the pre-Incan civilizations in South America being two examples. While modern societies are more robust, we, too, must get ready for climate change or suffer the consequences. To prepare for and adapt to inevitable change, including perhaps even “raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms” as the president said, America needs affordable energy, and lots of it.

Yet, in his address, Obama boosted not the most reliable and least expensive energy technologies such as coal-fired generation, but the least reliable and most expensive “sustainable energy sources,” wind and solar power being the most obvious examples. This is because they produce less carbon dioxide than do fossil fuels and Obama supports the hypothesis that those emissions are causing dangerous climate change.

Even if the hypothesis is right, and 16 years of no global warming suggests it is not, America’s energy policies will have little climatic impact as long as China goes ahead with its plans to build 500 coal-fired plants over the next 10 years. Wind and solar power are three to 10 ten times more expensive than that from coal, oil, natural gas or nuclear.

The U.S. government funnels billions of dollars into wind and solar companies to keep them afloat, and many fail even then. Basing the United States energy policy on “sustainable energy sources” is not sustainable.

Tom Harris, executive director, International Climate Science Coalition, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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