In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Manhattan Institute fellow Robert Bryce used Hurricane Sandy to illustrate the importance of fossil fuels (especially oil and gasoline) to the recovery and to the overall U.S. economy (and the relative unimportance of wind and other renewables), in his excellent article “After Sandy, No One Lined Up for Wind Turbines.” Here’s a slice:
Oil—and, more specifically, diesel fuel and gasoline—are proving to be the most important commodities in the wake of the huge storm that recently pummeled the East Coast. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, all of the critical pieces of equipment were burning gasoline or diesel fuel: the pumps removing water from flooded basements and subway tunnels, the generators providing electricity to hospitals and businesses, and the cars, trucks and aircraft providing mobility.
The Sierra Club and its allies on the green left will doubtless continue their decades-long war on the oil and gas industry, but the Sandy disaster-response efforts are showing again that there is no substitute for oil. No other substance comes close when it comes to energy density, ease of handling or flexibility. A single kilogram of diesel fuel contains about 13,000 watt-hours of energy. That is about twice the energy density of coal, six times that of wood, and about 300 times that of lead-acid batteries.
Combine diesel fuel’s miraculous energy density with the power density and durability of a modern diesel engine—which can run for weeks at a time with little or no maintenance—and the size, speed, and cost advantages become apparent.
The Sierra Club, Greenpeace and other groups claim that we can run our economies solely on renewable-energy sources such as wind. But if you are trying to pump water out of your rapidly molding basement, would you prefer a wind turbine that operates at full power about one-third of the time, or a greasy, diesel-fueled V-8?
Sandy left millions of East Coast residents in the cold and dark. If any of them have been demanding “green” energy, I haven’t heard about it. In the storm’s aftermath, the most hopeful sound of recovery is the joyous racket that comes from an internal-combustion engine burning fossil fuels.
MP: The chart above using Department of Energy data and projections out to the year 2035 shows that we’ll be relying on fossil fuels as our most important energy source for decades to come, and renewables will continue to play a very minor role in supplying energy to our economy. Consider that renewables actually supplied a greater share of our energy thirty years ago in 1982 (8.2%) than they do today (7.3%), and that’s after billions of dollars of
government taxpayer subsidies. Even several decades from now, the Department of Energy projects that renewables will supply less than 11% of U.S. energy by the year 2035.
Meanwhile, fossil fuel’s contribution to U.S. energy consumption will decline only modestly from the current 82.6% share to 76.7% in 2035. When it come to providing affordable and reliable energy during both normal times and following natural disasters, fossil fuels will continue to power the U.S. economy for generations to come, and renewables will continue to play a relatively minor role as an energy source. It will be a very long time before anybody is lining up for energy from wind turbines following future hurricanes.