NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 27, 2010

"Green" energy has great emotional and political appeal.   However, before we wrap all our hopes -- and subsidies -- in it, let us take a hard look at some common misconceptions about what "green" mean, says Robert Bryce, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute. 

Solar and wind power are the greenest of them all: 

  • Solar and wind technologies require huge amounts of land to deliver relatively small amounts of energy, disrupting natural habitats.
  • The Nature Conservancy issued a report last year critical of "energy sprawl," including tens of thousands of miles of high-voltage transmission lines needed to carry electricity from wind and solar installations to distant cities.  

Going green will reduce our dependence on imports from unsavory regimes: 

  • The United States will be increasingly reliant on just one supplier, China, for elements known as lanthanides.
  • Lanthanum, neodymium, dysprosium and other rare earth elements are used in products from high-capacity batteries and hybrid-electric vehicles to wind turbines and oil refinery catalysts; China controls between 95 and 100 percent of the global market in these elements.  

A green American economy will create green American jobs: 

  • In a global market, American wind turbine manufacturers face the same problem as American shoe manufacturers: high domestic labor costs.
  • If U.S. companies want to make turbines, they will have to compete with China, which not only controls the market for neodymium, a critical ingredient in turbine magnets, but also has access to very cheap employees.  

Electric cars will substantially reduce demand for oil: 

  • Gasoline contains about 80 times as much energy, by weight, as the best lithium-ion battery.
  • The Government Accountability Office reported that about 40 percent of consumers do not have access to an outlet near their vehicle at home.  

The United States lags behind other rich countries in going green: 

  • According to data from the Energy Information Administration, average per capita energy consumption in the United States fell by 2.5 percent from 1980 through 2006.
  • That reduction was greater than in any other developed country except Switzerland and Denmark; the United States achieved it without participating in the Kyoto Protocol or creating an emissions trading system like the one employed in Europe.  

Source: Robert Bryce, "Five myths about green energy," Washington Post, April 25, 2010. 

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