In Australia, misguided alternative energy schemes have created high prices and rolling blackouts. And now the Australian Energy Market Commission has said the Market Operator, and consumers, should adapt to blackouts not establish a strategic reserve so the lights stay on in an advanced 21st-century economy. Strange that when you suggest adapting to climate change rather than trying to stop it, you get dirty looks. But when it’s bad policy, well…
Advocates of strong measures to reduce human greenhouse gas emissions are in a bit of a bind nowadays. They have been very successful in public debate, to the point that newsletters such as this one defending the principle of skeptical inquiry in science, the weighing of costs and benefits in public policy and the idea that fossil fuels have brought us great gains since the mid-18th century are liable to be greeted with jeers rather than arguments. But they are now being called upon to implement their ideas and are having a lot of problems.
High on the list is that they promised, perhaps more for PR than from conviction, that the environment and the economy were not in conflict, that the green fuels of the future would be a vast source not just of energy but also of jobs and innovation. When it turns out wind, solar, biomass, ethanol and so on are not, shall we say, exactly as depicted on the package, the response is often almost as curt as when someone asks whether it’s really true that the planet is demonstrably warming due to man-made gases.
New York State is currently experiencing a shortage of natural gas to the point that Consolidated Edison is not accepting new customers in most of its service area. The Cuomo administration has blocked fracking to produce gas in-state, and pipelines to bring it from outside. And it’s shutting down its nuclear plants. But the Public Service Commission chair says not to worry, they’re seeking alternatives.
Which is precisely why, like Australians denied power for their air conditioners during heat waves, they should worry. Imagine advanced industrial economies having the lights go out because bad policy trumps technology, resources and entrepreneurship. And being smug about it.