Media & news

Fraying

Dec 4, 2023

I plead guilty to subscribing to The New York Times. It is not as much about keeping my enemies close as it is about keeping track of liberal ideas and movements as a part of PowerSouth’s obligation to maintain reliability, affordability, and availability of electric power. Following The New York Times provides an insight into the forces threatening reliability and affordability.

The Times’ Climate Desk, which publishes articles weekly, offers an interesting perspective on the objectives of the Climate Movement. A summary of Other Climate News at the end of each article lists the damage of climate change. For instance, on Oct. 24, “other news” was that rapid melting of the West Antarctic Ice Shelf looks certain, the widening conflict in the Middle East threatens to fracture efforts to slow down climate change, California Governor Gavin Newsome supercharging the state’s climate policies ahead of a Presidential run in 2028, a long-running drought in Spain forcing the government to deliver water by truck and driving up olive oil prices, and an oil giant ditching the world’s largest carbon capture plant. Almost all natural disasters or catastrophes that occur in the world on any day – floods, droughts, storms, cold, heat, disease, famine, waste, supply shortages, ignorance – are the direct result of climate change and the use of fossil fuels.

A closer reading of The Times’ articles and journalistic approach indicates that the strong advocation of the Climate Movement is really not about the environment at all. If it were, there would be more attention and detail given to the environmental footprint and costs of alternative fuels or approaches to environmentally friendly policies. Instead, the Climate Movement is more about a total restructuring of the world economy and lifestyle. Sure, the Climate Movement is about eliminating fossil fuel extraction and usage, but it is also about the foods we grow and eat, how we use lands, our modes of transportation, the places we can go, and the products we are allowed to use. If you don’t believe me, get beyond the headlines and read the articles.

A recent article on Poland Springs Water production in Maine starts by talking about the extraction of water to be bottled by profit-driven capitalists (gasp) killing the original Poland Spring, but the article ends with a lecture on the wastefulness of bottled water, the environmental damage imposed by plastic bottle waste, and, finally, the benefits of drinking tap instead of bottled water. Is the issue the environment or an indictment on personal choices?

The Climate Movement is taking hits, some of which are reported by The Times. The Russian-Ukrainian war has affected some world supply chains and re-directed resources, which has caused inflation in certain industries and in some materials and products. The Israeli-Hamas war will likely have similar consequences as the engagement continues. The wars and the fighting have highlighted the need for the energy security and storage provided by fossil fuels that cannot be provided by renewable energy.

Many offshore wind projects are defaulting because of increasing costs, persistent supply chain issues and lack of material availability. Orsted, a large wind developer, recently defaulted on an offshore wind project, leaving New Jersey with a more-than-$100 million problem. Orsted reported it had lost $4 billion in offshore wind and was rethinking its approach to wind projects.

New onshore wind projects are suffering similar headwinds because of inflation and supply chain issues. Apparently, throwing a few billion dollars at an issue and assuming artificial demand would not drive up prices is counter to established economic theory. The costs of all wind projects have risen dramatically.

Solar developments are suffering a similar fate. The free renewable energy money issued under the Inflation Reduction Act (the name still makes me laugh out loud) has caused a drastic increase in solar project costs and driven up the price of solar energy much higher, even with the high government subsidies. Despite headlines, solar power is not cheaper than power generated with natural gas.

The Big Three automobile manufacturers recently issued plans to scale back electric vehicle (EV) production. It seems the public isn’t that interested in buying EVs, even with government subsidies. Ford lost a reported $62,000 on every EV it sold in 2022. The reporting indicates that losses in 2023 will be as large or greater. Production costs that are twice as much as sales prices, even including government subsidies, do not make for a successful or sustainable business model.

After all, if all these changes are better and cheaper, why do they all require increasing subsidies and government hand-outs to be successful? A popular and effective product doesn’t need unlimited government support to be successful. Its popularity will drive its own success. The missing element in the Climate Movement is that, ultimately, governments will run out of taxpayer money.  

Politicians will soon learn that appetites for increasing government bailouts for climate policies, issues and green energy are fleeting among the voting public. And, normal Americans will not be supportive of diet restrictions, elimination of bottled water, restricting sugared drinks, or other major lifestyle changes when imposed. When the people start voting against the restrictions, only hardline change merchants like The New York Times will still be calling for the change.

The Climate Movement to restructure our society is starting to fray. I hope you have a good month.       

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