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Too Much Green For Green

A major focus of the Obama Administration and many on the left is creating “green” energy energy alternatives to both help reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and reduce the United States’ dependence on foreign energy sources. While this sounds good at face value, we must consider a few different issues: the cost of green energy, the capacity of green energy, and finally the impact that green energy subsidies will have on greenhouse gas emissions.  By all measures, green subsidies fall short.

Alternative energy is not cheap by any means.  The Energy Information Administration lists several reasons for this : “Renewable resources are often located in remote areas, and it is expensive to build power lines to the cities where the electricity they produce is needed. The use of renewable sources is also limited by the fact that they are not always available — cloudy days reduce solar power; calm days reduce wind power; and droughts reduce the water available for hydropower.”  These factors make renewable and green alternatives drastically more expensive than traditional fossil fuel and nuclear power sources as the following figure of energy costs per megawatthour demonstrates.

Chart 1
These inefficiencies and costs of alternative energy result in almost insignificant contributions to the overall energy picture of the United States. Renewable and green energy sources combine for less than 10 percent of the power consumed by Americans. Wind and solar alone provide less than 1 percent of the nation’s energy. Chances are that the wind farms and solar panels you see on the news or energy company commercials do not provide you with any of the electricity you use to watch that TV.

chart 2 

So naturally the question becomes: Will an increase in green energy investment secure energy independence and reduce greenhouse gas levels?

The United States currently faces an energy deficit.  We consume more energy than we produce; therefore we must import energy and fuels from other countries.  Some argue, that to allieviate this deficit, we must increase our investment in local renewable energy like wind and solar.  Others argue that because of the inefficiencies of the renewables that we must increase sovereign production of fossil fuels and nuclear power.  The EIA projects increases in energy production from all sources across the board through 2035; however, renewable energy (aside from hydroelectric) will see the greatest increase in production as the following figure shows.

chart 3
Source: EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2011

We know from the megawatthour costs what economic impact this will have on the economy and government coffers. Massive tax subsidies have been alotted for green energy projects in order to make them sustainable ventures, leaving the taxpayer to cover the burden of the inefficiencies of renewable energy.  We must now evaluate what affect the projected increase in green energy production will have on both the energy deficit and carbon dioxide greenhouse gas levels.  The following EIA information suggest negligable impacts at best.  Energy production versus consumption projected out through 2035 indicates that the energy deficit will persist, with no sign of letting up.

chart 4
Source: EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2011

Further data also indicates that the increased use of renewable energy will have no impact on carbon dioxide emissions over relatively the same time period.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions (International Energy Outlook Projections)

chart 5
Source: EIA, Annual Energy Outlook 2009, DOE/EIA-0383(2009) (Washington, DC, June 2009), and EIA, Annual Energy Outlook 2010, DOE/EIA-0383(2010) (Washington, DC, April 2010).

As we can see, carbon dioxide levels are relatively stagnant over a period longer than two decades. Accompanied by the lack of impact on the energy deficit and the obvious increased cost to taxpayers, the benefit of increasing focus on current renewable technologies must be called into question.  Are we losing too much green trying to be green? It is clear that since we are not projected to close our energy deficit nor reduce carbon dioxide emissions despite greater green subsidies and production, that we are wasting our time and resources chasing a green pipe dream instead of investing in proven and cost effective energy production methods.