The GOP candidates' embarrassing energy solution to improving the U.S. economy and reducing inflation is to turn back the clock and maximize the use of fossil fuels like coal and oil, a solution that is misguided and flat out wrong.
Their solution, described in the third GOP presidential debate last week, is to dramatically increase the production of coal, oil, and natural gas within our nation’s borders, ideas that demonstrate a lack of knowledge regarding the fundamentals of energy and the resources that exist within our nation, says energy scientist Jack L. Kerfoot.
"Increase the supply of energy, that brings down the cost of energy, grows the economy. Drill, frack, burn coal, embrace nuclear," said entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy during the debate.
That comment generally sums up the attitude expressed by the candidates who participated in the debate. In fact, former UN Ambassador and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis even argued over who was more hawkish regarding fracking, which DeSantis said he supports, except not in the Florida Everglades.
"He (DeSantis) was praised by the Sierra Club and you’re trying to make up for it and act like you weren’t a liberal when it comes to the environment," Haley said to DeSantis during the debate. "You were, you always have been, just own it if that’s the case, but don’t keep saying you’re something that you’re not."
Replied DeSantis, "So our whole energy plan, you can’t get the shale without fracking. We are absolutely going to frack" -- just not in the Everglades.
So, what are they talking about?
Hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking to the layman, is the process of injecting water, sand, or chemicals into a reservoir that will have an uneconomic flow of hydrocarbons from the well, the energy scientist. This creates miniature fractures or cracks in the rock to allow the hydrocarbons to flow at a higher, economic rate, bur there is a small, limited volume of oil that can be recovered over a short period of time in this way, usually four to five years.
"A hydraulic fractured well drilling boom will be played out or end in the United States in the next five to ten years," predicts Kerfoot.
Meanwhile, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), who ended his presidential campaign a few days after the debate, declared, "The first thing I can tell you is that when your gas prices are 40 percent higher right now than they were just a little over two years ago, that’s not a problem for my mama, that was a crisis. The first thing I would do as President of the United States is I would sign the XL Keystone Pipeline and start seeing resources flow."
"Does Senator Scott realize that the XL Keystone Pipeline will bring, viscous Canadian oil to the United States?" Kerfoot asked. "This will help Canada but will have no real impact to gasoline or diesel fuel prices in the United States."
Then, Scott added, "America is the home to more energy resources than any other country on the planet. We can reduce the price of energy, we can reduce the price of food and the price of electricity if we focus on my build here, don’t borrow from China plan."
"Senator Scott is correct on this point," says Kerfoot. "America can be energy independent, if we invest in our nation’s vast renewable energy resources, including wind, solar, hydropower, and geothermal."
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie agreed with Scott that energy costs are at the heart of inflation in the U.S.
"Absolutely energy is the key to this because it drives every one of those other prices," said Christie. "Now food gets to your grocery store, it gets trucked and those truckers have to pay for fuel for the higher fuel prices. And when you go ahead and you tell people we are going to unleash every bit of American energy, every bit of its potential, what happens in the futurist markets, the prices go down, because those people who are believing that the Biden program will continue are the ones who are bidding this up."
Ignoring the Facts in the GOP Candidates' Embarrassing Energy Solution
So, those GOP candidates want to mine and burn more coal and drill for more oil to improve the economy, reduce prices and provide more jobs. But they ignore the facts about fossil fuels and the true opportunity hiding in plain site -- renewable energy resources. That's ironic, since those resources -- sun and wind power -- are plentiful, especially in Florida and South Carolina, and New Jersey has been a leader in developing offshore wind power.
Over the last few months, Kerfoot analyzed climate change progress in various regions around the country for our Lean to the Left podcast, and uniformly those analyses demonstrate that wind and solar energy generates far more jobs than coal and oil, the source of greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, which is linked to climate change -- something that many MAGA Republicans deny.
This year, while the United States is producing more crude oil than any country in the world, it consumes far more than any other country, says Kerfoot, adding that no fossil fuel is renewable. In fact, the world is consuming 33 to 34 billion barrels of crude oil annually, but replaced less than 40 percent of the oil produced in 2022. Thus, as the world runs out of oil, the price will escalate regardless of future US drilling policies, Kerfoot warns.
In 2022, electricity in the United States was generated by power plants fueled by natural gas (39.8%), renewable energy (21.5%), coal 19.5%), nuclear energy (18.2%), and oil (1.0%). The US Energy Information Agency expects the near and long term demand for coal and oil by utilities to dramatically decline, while the demand for renewable energy will increase significantly.
"Why? Economics, pure and simple," says Kerfoot. "The cost to generate electricity from onshore wind, solar, and hydropower is two to three times less than coal or nuclear energy. The supply of natural gas will steadily decease based on domestic consumption and export of liquified natural gas overseas."
"Even though some people may doubt climate change, I always like to ask them, do you like to save money?" Kerfoot said on a podcast that focused on the southeastern states of Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. "The reason I ask them that is to generate electricity from wind and solar is two to three times less than coal or even natural gas today."
Moving to low cost, reliable renewable energy in a logical manner will result in the reduction in the consumption of fossil fuels, which will cause commodity prices to decline, he explains.
What about jobs?
Proponents of fossil fuels often contend that they support coal mining and oil production because they provide jobs, but Kerfoot's analyses demonstrate that solar and wind energy generates far more jobs than coal, oil, or natural gas.
For example, in Florida, in 2023 over 19,000 people were employed in renewable energy power plants compared to less than 15,000 in natural gas power plants. Coal plants in Florida employed 3,500 people, with about 1,400 employed in nuclear energy. Yet, Kerfoot points out, Florida has done nothing to develop offshore wind, which offers tremendous potential for clean energy and thousands of good paying jobs.
Meanwhile, in South Carolina, with its potential for increased development of both wind and solar energy, only five percent of the state's electricity comes from renewable energy, even as the Palmetto State has significant undeveloped renewable energy resources, including solar, offshore wind, and biomass. Oceana, an ocean conservation organization, estimates that South Carolina could generate over 60 percent of the state’s electricity just from offshore wind.
Even so, renewable energy facilities in the state employ more than 13,300 people in hydropower, solar, and wind facilities, with 4,333 employed in nuclear, 3,030 in natural gas, and only 2,412 in coal power plants, which Kerfoot says generate upwards of 45 percent more greenhouse gases than natural gas.
In New Jersey, the state in 1991 enacted a renewable portfolio standard, which requires state utilities to generate 50 percent of their electricity sales from renewables by 2030. Then, in 2021, New Jersey stared work on a wind port to support its offshore wind initiative.
Gov. Phil Murphy this past February announced programs to achieve 100 percent zero carbon energy by 2035, and requiring all new cars sold in the state to be electric by 2035.
So, the call for the Republican candidates for the U.S. to maximize its energy resources to help improve the economy is a sound one, but their solution -- "drill, drill, drill," and maximize the use of coal -- is misguided to say the least because the benefits of cheaper energy and more jobs will be produced by clean, renewable energy resources, not the fossil fuels of days gone by.
"We have to realize that there's a finite amount of fossil fuel," says Kerfoot. "When those coal mines close down because they're no longer economic, that's the end of the jobs. When the coal mine is mined out, no longer economic, it's closed."
But, he adds, "as long as the wind is blowing and the sun is shining, you've got power generation and you've got jobs for people, for life. Coal has had a role in the history of establishing the Industrial Revolution, but now it's time to move on to the next opportunity that we can generate an even better economy with green energy.
Kerfoot points out that American ingenuity created oil and natural gas companies like Amoco, Arco, Exxon, Conoco, Gulf, Mobil, Occidental, Phillips, Texaco, Tenneco, and American engineers, scientists, and technicians dominated the oil and gas industry for over 100 years.
"It is time that our nation’s best and brightest began working in the renewable energy industry, which will drive down energy prices, create permanent good paying jobs, and provide energy security for our country," he says.
"The clock is ticking to address climate change," warns Kerfoot. "So it's important that we look at how do we make the most significant impact at reducing the total greenhouse gas emission so we don't continue to see this dramatic increase in severe weather and the loss of life that we're seeing, whether it's forest fires, whether it's blizzards, whether it's heat domes. We ned to take action and we need to take action now."