By: U.S. Senator John Barrasso
June 20, 2022
In an unguarded moment during his recent trip to Japan, President Joe Biden gushed, "When it comes to the gas prices, we’re going through an incredible transition." His economic adviser also argued that the president’s energy transition “works better for families.”
The president has misdiagnosed what ails our energy economy. He is engaging in political malpractice.
The president is beholden to climate extremists, and his administration is using every tool available to block American energy production. His administration is forcing American families through an energy transition that has no credible economic or technological path forward. It is a bitter pill to swallow.
Struggling with the price of fuel
We are living with the painful results. Consumers are struggling with sky-high energy costs feeding 40-year high inflation. Americans are confronted with a new record-high gasoline price almost daily.
At these prices, the average family could pay about $4,800 this year for gasoline, a 70% increase over a year ago. That pain at the pump is about to get even worse. JPMorgan Chase & Co. forecasts gasoline prices will hit an average of $6.20 a gallon by summer’s end. That’s up from the Memorial Day average of about $4.60.
It is not just gasoline prices pummeling family budgets. The price of electricity is climbing rapidly. In March alone, the average residential price for electricity jumped 4.6% over February’s rate. This was much more than expected and suggests an unusually large annual increase.
Although consumers pay more for electricity, the service they are getting is growing less reliable. A recent assessment by the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) reveals that more than half of the country is at an elevated risk or high risk of energy shortfalls this summer – shortfalls that could lead to blackouts and brownouts.
There are a number of reasons for NERC’s findings. Generator retirements, coal supply constraints, the intermittent nature of wind and solar energy, insufficient electric transmission, demand growth, cyber threats and weather events are all factors.
President Biden’s ill-conceived “incredible transition” is making the first four of these factors worse. The NERC official who led the assessment said at a news briefing that the “pace of our grid transformation is a bit out of sync” with the realities of the current grid.
The head of the California Public Utilities Commission made a similar observation, stating, “We know that reliability is going to be difficult in this time of transition.”
Indeed, it has gotten so bad in California that the officials are warning the state could lack adequate electricity generation to keep the lights on this summer. That has prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom to reconsider closing California’s last operating nuclear power plant.
Seeing the writing on the wall
As usual, the American people are a step ahead of the politicians. Power outages are much more than an inconvenience. They impose real costs that can add up to tens of billions of dollars each year. While the administration is calling on Americans to buy high-priced electric cars, they are buying backup generators instead. Consumers see the writing on the wall, and they are acting to keep their lights on.
At the same time as the president’s misguided transition is creating grid instability, his administration is pushing policies that put even greater strain on the electric grid. Take electric vehicles. One estimate suggests, for example, that the United States would have to generate an additional 25% more electricity if all U.S. cars were electric. The “electrification of everything” is not a solution to an unreliable grid. It’s a road to even higher electricity prices and more blackouts.
The United States already has made great progress in reducing carbon emissions, thanks primarily to the shale gas revolution. Emissions from electricity generation last year were about 36% below their 2007 peak.
Instead of celebrating this achievement, President Biden wants to get rid of the fuels and technologies that made it possible. He has pledged to have a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035. We simply do not now have the technology to achieve a stable electric grid free of fossil fuels by then. This is especially true in light of the permitting hurdles for infrastructure – including transmission lines. Permitting hurdles the Biden administration has made worse.
Reliable, resilient and affordable electric power isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity. Rushing headlong toward a transition without considering – or ignoring altogether – the risks and costs will only jeopardize the U.S. economy and further punish American families.
John Barrasso represents Wyoming in the U.S. Senate. Follow him on Twitter: @SenJohnBarrasso