Can Alternative Energy Make Us Less Dependent on Mideast Oil, and Help Win the War?


Time To Quit Trying To Wish Our Way Out of Dependence on Mideast Oil

Good News About the Environment: A Review of Bjorn Lomborg’s The Skeptical Environmentalist

Time To Quit Trying To Wish Our Way Out of Dependence on Mideast Oil

Wordsmiths tell us the expression "you can’t get blood from a turnip" has been around since 1666.

You’d think 335 years would be long enough to get the point across, but apparently not, because some environmentalists still believe alternative energy can run the country.

Consider California. For two decades, California has promoted alternative energy. It also has suffered an energy crisis.

California has more than 100 windmill power generator facilities. They provide a total of 1,400 megawatts of electricity, compared to the state’s Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which provides 2,100 mw. It would take 3,300 such windmill facilities to generate the state’s electricity.

Wind energy suffers multiple disadvantages. Its generation costs are double to triple those of conventional energy. It requires minimum average wind speeds, and, because winds are unpredictable, output cannot be timed to match demand. Turbine blades kill birds ­ the Cato Institute estimates that if 20 percent of our nation’s electricity were to be generated by wind power, 880,000 birds would be killed annually.

Even the American Wind Energy Association only claims that wind energy could supply six percent of U.S. energy needs by 2020. Wind energy can’t make us energy independent anytime soon.

Solar energy is no panacea either. California is home to the world’s largest set of solar electric cells, yet they provide just 413 mw of electricity.

The hydropower option requires capital investments 3-6 times higher than conventional energy. Hydropower’s future is imperiled by environmentalists because dams can harm flora, fauna and fish.

Nevertheless, the free market is fair. If any method of alternative energy becomes practical and economical, Americans will use it. In the meantime, we need to rely on the tried and true, including oil.

America probably has more than 110 billion barrels of recoverable oil reserves. Full exploitation would not make the U.S. energy independent, but it would make us less vulnerable to Middle Eastern instability.

Unfortunately, federal land available for oil and gas exploration in the western U.S. – where 67 percent of the nation’s onshore oil reserves and 40 percent of natural gas reserves are located – has decreased by more than 60 percent since 1983. Oil exploration has essentially been banned from more than 300 million onshore acres of federal land.

Congress also has prohibited exploration and production on more than 460 million offshore acres, including most of the best prospects for major new offshore discoveries outside the Western and Central Gulf of Mexico. Federal restrictions should be reviewed.

The House of Representatives recently voted to permit environmentally-responsible drilling on 2,000 acres of the oil-rich 19-million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), most likely America’s most valuable oil reserve. The Energy Information Administration estimates that ANWR contains 5.7-16 billion barrels of oil. ANWR oil could replace Saudi oil imports for almost 30 years. Or, it could replace half of what we import from all of the Persian Gulf for 36 years. Yet, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle won’t schedule a vote on the House bill because, he says, the Senate is too busy with other things.

The time for excuses ­ especially dubious ones ­ is past. It is time we quit trying to wish our way out of dependence on Mideast oil and started doing something about it.

Good News About the Environment: A Review of Bjorn Lomborg’s The Skeptical Environmentalist

You can tell you’ve won the debate when your opponent’s remaining intellectual argument is to throw a pie in your face.

Bjorn Lomborg, a former Greenpeace supporter, experienced that happy and, perhaps, tasty, satisfaction during a talk at a Borders bookshop in Oxford, England on September 5, when British environmental activist Mark Lynas threw a Baked Alaska in his face.

"I wanted to put a Baked Alaska on his smug face," Lynas said in a statement afterward, "in solidarity with the native Indian and Eskimo people in Alaska who are reporting rising temperatures, shrinking sea ice and worsening effects on animal and bird life."

Lomborg has become an anathema to true believers such as Lynas because, after studying the available evidence, Lomborg no longer embraces the environmental community’s shibboleths about runaway global warming.

An associate professor of statistics at the University of Aarhus in Denmark, Lomborg, like Lynas, once believed the world was "going to hell" – transported there mainly by selfish Americans who insisted on running their air conditioners in summer, their snowmobiles in winter and their SUVs year-round.

Lomborg’s view of global warming began to change when he put aside his gut feelings and reviewed the latest scientific evidence on the subject.

Lomborg has analyzed those studies in a brilliant new book, "The Skeptical Environmentalist," and concluded that "we have more leisure time, greater security, less pollution, fewer accidents, more education, more amenities, higher incomes, and fewer starving people" than any other generation in history.

So why do so many of us apparently believe otherwise? In large part, Lomborg says, because the challenges of climate change, deforestation, poor air and water quality and endangered species have been vastly overblown by advocacy groups in search of funding and a somewhat gullible media in search of headlines and air time.

"That doesn’t mean there are no problems, but things are getting better and better despite what media and environmental organizations say," says Lomborg.


* The percentage of people in the developing world with access to clean water has increased to 80 percent from 30 percent since the early 1970s.

* Literacy levels have increased to 86 percent from 25 percent in less than a century.

* Life expectancy has followed an upward trajectory for more than 100 years with even those in the most impoverished countries now living longer than did most Europeans in the 1900s.

* The average daily food intake has increased to 2,650 from 2,000 calories over the past four decades.

In the 1970s it was predicted that widespread starvation would take place, even in highly-developed first world countries, by the end of the 20th Century. The march of time and progress has rendered this prediction preposterous. Likewise absurd are 1970s predictions of a coming ice age. When that prophesy failed to materialize, its prophets reversed course and began warning us about global warming and its supposed catastrophes: melting ice caps, rising seas, farmland droughts and huge increases in the spread of communicable diseases such as Malaria.

While the Earth is indeed in a cyclical phase of warming – one degree over the past century – there is scant evidence to suggest that pace will accelerate and even less evidence to suggest that human consumption of fossil fuels or other human activities is responsible.

Rather than have the United States commit economic suicide by signing a Kyoto treaty that would cost it up to $350 billion a year to implement, and cause economic dislocations that would fall particularly harshly on the poor, Lomborg would prefer to see the world community finance a program to extend safe-drinking water to the 1.2 billion humans that still lack it.

"For less than one year’s cost of meeting Kyoto," he says, "we could provide systems for clean drinking water that would save two million lives a year."

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.