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(in)Dependence Day 2022 - ORIGINAL CONTENT

Edward A. Reid Jr.
Posted On:
Jul 1, 2022 at 7:00 AM
Energy Policy, Climate Change

Energy independence has been an aspirational goal of the US for decades. However, the US actually achieved that goal in the period from 2017-2020 as the result of the application of US ingenuity and the encouragement of a supportive federal government. Energy was readily available at reasonable cost and the economy experienced robust growth.

Regrettably, a change in the federal Administration has ended both the recent energy independence and the robust economic growth. The US has now rejoined the Paris Accords and the Administration has committed to the destruction of the US fossil fuel industry and the restructuring of the US electricity sector and the entire US energy economy in an attempt to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050. Rapidly increasing energy costs and looming energy shortages are the result.

The Administration has halted oil and gas lease sales, slow-walked the issuance of drilling permits in existing oil and gas leases, slow-walked approvals for increases in oil refinery capacity, actively discouraged investment in new oil and gas projects and claims it can’t understand why oil prices have increased and oil supplies are declining. The Administration has been quick to blame rising prices and energy supply problems on the industry. Elements of the industry have adopted a posture of “orderly liquidation” of their businesses in the face of forced liquidation by government fiat.

Meanwhile, the Administration is incentivizing investments in wind and solar electric generation and subsidizing the purchase of electric vehicles and the construction of EV charging station infrastructure. Goals have been set for the end of coal-fired electric generation, the end of all fossil fuel electric generation, and the termination of the sale of vehicles with internal combustion engines. These federal goals are both market and technology forcing. They rely on the timely installation and operation of technologies which have not been invented or introduced into the commercial market.

Fabrication of wind and solar generation equipment, electricity storage and electric vehicles require large quantities of rare earth minerals, largely available from China and other non-friendly countries. These requirements render the US energy economy dependent upon unfriendly foreign governments for the maintenance and expansion of US energy infrastructure. Recent Russian actions to reduce energy deliveries to European nations provide a warning regarding potential future Chinese actions regarding the supply of rare earth minerals for wind, solar, storage, and EV applications.

Should the US allow itself to become totally dependent on wind, solar and storage for its electricity needs, it would be at great strategic risk when it came time to replace the first tranche of this equipment in approximately 20 years. The same would be true for dependence on EVs for our transportation system.

Perhaps the greatest risk, in the short term, is that the current energy and electric generation infrastructure will be driven from or retired from the market before the necessary replacement infrastructure is in place and operational. The current haphazard approach to infrastructure replacement has resulted in several failed demonstrations of a renewable intense generation infrastructure which would be disastrous if repeated at national scale.