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O2 Energies solar panel farm, Newland, N.C.
Associated Press/Photo by Bob Leverone
O2 Energies solar panel farm, Newland, N.C.

Green energy hurts the poor

Poverty

Four reasons why President Barack Obama’s policy on reducing carbon dioxide emissions is wrong:

  1. Applying global warming assumptions: If we eliminate all U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, we’ll only reduce global temperature in the year 2100 by 1/3 of a degree F.
  2. A forced transition to “green” energy sources will cost hundreds of billions of dollars every year. 
  3. One of those costs will be higher energy prices, and consequently higher prices for everything else (since we make and transport everything with energy), because it costs 2 to 8 times as much to generate electricity from “green” sources.
  4. The higher energy prices will hit the poor hardest, because they spend the highest percentage of their income on energy.

Poor Americans now spend an average of 19 percent of their income on energy. States with green energy mandates have electricity rates that average 32 percent higher than states without. If you raise energy costs for everyone by 32 percent, the poor will spend about 25 percent of their income—and that, they can’t afford.

European nations that have imposed renewable energy mandates have experienced the same problem: Rising energy prices harm everyone. In the United Kingdom, “energy poverty” afflicts tens of thousands of elderly and poor people who can’t afford their higher energy bills without going hungry. During the frigid 2011–2012 winter, 7,800 Britons died because they couldn’t afford the fuel to heat their homes adequately.

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Even worse would be the impact on the poor in the world’s developing countries. A new global agreement to cut carbon dioxide emissions would prevent developing nations from doing what we did—using abundant, affordable, reliable coal, and natural gas to electrify their countries. Preventing that means condemning them to more generations of abject poverty and poor health. Those without electricity have as their primary cooking fuels wood and dried dung, smoke from which kills about 2 million people annually (mostly women and children) and harms many millions more.

E. Calvin Beisner
E. Calvin Beisner

Cal is founder of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.

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