NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 23, 2008

Al Gore gave a speech last week challenging America to run on 100 percent zero-carbon electricity in 10 years, says the Wall Street Journal. 

Gore claims a transition to carbon-free electricity generation in a decade can be achieved almost entirely through the use of "renewables" alone, meaning solar, geothermal, wind power and biofuels. 

Here are some inconvenient facts:

  • In 1995, the United States got about 2.2 percent of its net electricity generation from "renewable" sources, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
  • By 2000, the last full year of the Clinton administration, that percentage had dropped to 2.1 percent.
  • By contrast, the combined share of coal, petroleum and natural gas rose to 70 percent from 68 percent during the same time frame.

According to EIA estimates:

  • The use of renewables (minus hydropower) could rise to 201 billion kilowatt hours per year in 2018 from the current 65 billion.
  • Total net generation in 2018 will only be 4.4 trillion kilowatt hours per year.
  • That would put the total share of renewables at just over 4 percent of our electricity needs.

Gore makes no mention in his speech of proven technologies, such as nuclear power or the equally carbon-free hydroelectric power.  His case is further undermined by America's past experiences with renewable sources, which have generally not been positive, says the Journal.  Like wind power, solar power also suffers from the problem of intermittency, which means that it has to be backed up by conventional sources in order to avoid disruptions. 

And then there are biofuels, which the World Bank estimates may have been responsible for up to 75 percent of the recent rise in world food prices. 

Serious people understand that Gore's proposal is absurd.  Maybe other people will start drawing the same conclusion about the man proposing it, says the Journal.

Source: Bret Stephens, "Al Gore's Doomsday Clock," Wall Street Journal, July 22, 2008.

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