America pursues expensive electricity while much of the world lives in energy poverty
By Ronald Stein
With many still living with little to no access to electricity, American politicians are pursuing the most expensive ways to generate intermittent electricity with offshore wind turbines on the East and West Coasts.
The U.S Energy Information Administration (EIA) has already documented that offshore wind continues to be one of the most expensive forms of electricity generation.
Energy poverty is among the most crippling but least talked-about crises of the 21st century. Electricity is the one of the simplest solutions to improved health, economic opportunity, education, nutrition, and comfort in the developing world, especially for women and girls.
In the world’s poorest countries, there are 11 million children in the world dying every year.
Those fatalities are from the preventable causes of diarrhea, malaria, neonatal infection, pneumonia, preterm delivery, or lack of oxygen at birth as many developing countries have no, or minimal, access to electricity or to the thousands of products from oil derivatives enjoyed by the wealthy and healthy countries.
The insistence that we should limit future access to electricity, fossil fuels, and the products made from oil derivatives has an even more dramatic cost, because cheap and accessible power, and products from fossil fuels are lifesaving, and one of the best ways out of poverty.
In the poor world, replacing fossil fuels with new intermittent electricity sources like wind and solar power is hard because most people desperately want much more power at lower cost, not fickle power at high cost.
A complex trade-off associated with policy choices of moving too quickly into intermittent electricity from wind and solar is that abandoning fossil fuels will further deprive and/or delay from providing more than 6 billion in this world from enjoying the same products that benefit the wealthy and healthy countries.
In the USA, that high-priced juice will cost ratepayers untold billions of dollars over the coming years. That means higher-cost electricity for low- and middle-income consumers as electricity bills are regressive expenses, meaning it takes up a lot bigger chunk of the budget of a lower middle-class family than it does an upper middle-class one.
The impact will be particularly hard in north-eastern states like New York and in New England, and California, where consumers already endure some of the highest electricity prices in the country.
The forecast buildout of offshore wind in the U.S. will require industrializing vast swaths of some of the most heavily fished and navigated waters in North America. It will require anchoring thousands of offshore platforms along the Eastern Seaboard, which could interfere with marine mammal migration and wreak navigational havoc during a hurricane, major storm, or oil spill. It will also add yet more noise pollution to the already-noisy ocean.
Finally, building gigawatt-scale offshore wind will be lousy for the oceans, navigation, and marine life. The impending environmental degradation in the oceans will most likely face fierce objections from the environmentalists.
The exotic minerals and metals for EV batteries, wind turbines, solar panels, and fossil fuels are functionally irreplaceable, but there is a worldwide abundance of fossil fuels in virtually every country, but the minerals and metals for a “green” society are limited to a few countries. Today, China has total domination of the supply chain of the exotic minerals and metals for “clean” electricity. Every single windmill and solar panel are money for Communist China.
With some energy literacy, folks may realize that there may not be a silver bullet answer for all of humanity’s energy needs. Whether you ultimately drive an internal combustion engine vehicle or an EV, and get exposed to electricity from wind, solar, coal, natural gas, nuclear, or hydro generation, will depend on you or your community’s wealth.