Here Is Why Biden’s Renewable Energy Schemes Cannot Work

by | Sep 14, 2021 |

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At the end of March, President Joe Biden said, concerning his multi-trillion-dollar bill now awaiting approval by the House of Representatives:

“My American Jobs Plan will put hundreds of thousands of people to work — hundred [sic] of thousands of people to work — line workers, electricians, and laborers — laying thousands of miles of transmission line; building a modern, resilient, and fully clean grid.”

Joe seems to not know that the utilities and the power grid really should have very few employees, because everybody on the payroll costs consumers money. After all, the purpose of utilities is to provide the highest quality, most reliable electricity at the lowest cost, not to have the most employees. Providing electrical power should be a service, not a make-work project as Biden seems to envision it.

Regardless, Americans should be highly critical of the President’s “new“ green energy plans. His words this year are nearly a carbon copy of what he said in 2009 as vice-president:

“This announcement today is part of the unprecedented investment this administration is making in renewable energy. … By investing in the infrastructure and technology of the future, we are not only creating jobs today but laying the foundation for long-term growth in the 21st-century economy.”

Remember what happened next? Solyndra Inc., the poster child of the Obama administration’s “modern, resilient, and fully clean grid,” was the recipient of a $535 million government investment that promised 3,000 construction jobs, 1,000 permanent jobs, and sufficient energy to replace the power of “three or four coal-fired power plants.”

Less than two years after Biden’s confident 2009 claims, Solyndra has used up all the funds, laid-off employees, and shut down. Yet today, Biden wants us to gamble with another of his green energy schemes, only this time costing a thousand times more. 

To understand why Biden’s renewable energy schemes cannot work, we need to look at some of the basics.

The lower 48 states of the US cover four time zones. The sun sets in California about three hours after the sun sets in New York. One must wonder if the folks running the government in Washington DC are aware of this. Biden’s plan for a climate-friendly electric grid depends on his administration’s ability to construct thousands of miles of power lines to bring energy from the wind and the sun across the nation to replace electricity previously supplied from coal and natural gas. As the sun sets in New York and their wind calms, California may be able to keep Manhattan’s lights on for a few more hours before all goes dark. 

The greater the distance the power must be transmitted, the higher the transmission voltage has to be. The greater the amount of power to be transmitted, the larger the number of high voltage cables required. The more the sources are spread out, the greater becomes the web of transmission lines. Oh, and the greater the number of lawsuits brought by environmentalists.

All this is intended to meet the Democrat’s goal of eliminating the power sector’s odorless, colorless, life-giving emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). Their purpose is to save the world from predictions made by mathematical equations saying the Earth might warm a few degrees ending life as we know it if we continue to use inexpensive, reliable fossil fuels. The only feasible way to significantly lower CO2 would be through a mass transition to nuclear power. But, as usual, this has been stifled by environmental extremists based on unsubstantiated fear of radiation (see our article last week on this).  

There are other major problems, as well. 

Eric Wolfe writing at politico.com [1] pointed out the tremendous local opposition encountered constantly to high-voltage transmission lines. Efforts by power companies to build these long-range transmission lines have failed repeatedly in recent decades. They become mired in legal and political fights from the opposition of states and communities along the projects’ paths.

An even bigger problem is that building long transmission lines has always been hampered by what developers call the “three P’s”: planning, permitting, and paying for it. “These long-haul transmission lines take eight to 10 years to build,” said Lauren Azar, a transmission expert and former DOE adviser, and former Wisconsin state commissioner. “And we as a nation don’t even have the right planning processes right now to identify the right transmission that is needed.”

Wolfe’s article failed to point out that one can never please environmental extremists since they oppose all sources of energy and all means of transmission/transportation of energy as well as many uses of energy. It would appear that they yearn for life in mid nineteenth century when heating was with wood, air conditioning nonexistent and transportation was by horse.

Industrial wind machines are opposed by neighbors on the very valid grounds of deep vibrating sound, shadow flicker, and ugliness. Solar panels that spread out over huge tracts of land render the land unsuitable for farming.

To make hydropower useful, you have to have a large flow of water, a big change in elevation, and a huge lake to store the water. The lake floods huge areas, much to the consternation of environmentalists. To grow energy crops, such as corn for ethanol, requires water, fertilizer, and pesticides, all annoying to the average environmentalists.

Oil and natural gas pipelines meet opposition wherever they are proposed. The most notable recent example is the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada, which, after years of struggle, was finally canceled by the brain trust in Washington. Yet railroad tank cars and tanker trucks that will be used in the pipeline’s place are far more dangerous than pipelines, and also regularly meet opposition.

Environmentalist nannies tell us to turn down the thermostat, eat raw vegetables, stop eating food that came from distant places, drive less, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and so forth. In other words, the battle against power lines is a mere skirmish. There is an even larger war against energy production, energy transport, and energy usage. It is a fair bet that 80% of the environmental road blockers are Democrats but don’t expect them to back down for President Biden’s master plan. This will clearly be a case of the extreme left fighting Biden and the more moderate left.

Regardless, the hypothetical and largely impossible wind/solar grid that Biden and his allies promote is not—repeat, not—a source of electricity. “The grid” merely delivers electricity from where it is generated to where it is used by virtue of transmission lines. Some might require a million volts of direct current, for noon solar power to be delivered from Arizona to New York, Chicago, Boston, and Atlanta.

The real problem, however, is that even on this grid, every source of energy must be able to provide power all the time, because the requirement for every grid is 99.9% reliability. When the current on the grid is lowered even a tiny amount, automatic circuit breakers activate throughout the system and in a very few minutes the entire system shuts down to save itself. Catastrophic destruction occurs throughout the system and weeks are required to put the grid back in operation. Texas dodged that bullet last February by only about 5 minutes as they cut off power to enough companies and locations to get everything back in balance.

America might not be so fortunate if Joe Biden gets his way. 


[1] Eric Wolff, “Down to the wire: Biden’s green goals face a power grid reckoning,”04/08/2021 

NOTE: Portions of this article were excerpted from THE ENERGY ADVOCATE Vol. 25, No.10, a monthly newsletter promoting energy and technology, with permission of the author Dr. Howard ‘Cork’ Hayden, professor of physics emeritus of the University of Connecticut.

Dr. Hayden will be our guest on The Other Side of the Story this Saturday and Sunday at 11 AM ET, with an encore at 8 PM. Listen on iHeart Radio, our world-class media player, or our free apps on AppleAndroid, or Alexa. Each episode goes to major podcast networks early in the week and can be heard on-demand anywhere in the world.

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Dr. Jay Lehr is a Senior Policy Analyst with the International Climate Science Coalition and former Science Director of The Heartland Institute. He is an internationally renowned scientist, author, and speaker who has testified before Congress on dozens of occasions on environmental issues and consulted with nearly every agency of the national government and many foreign countries. After graduating from Princeton University at the age of 20 with a degree in Geological Engineering, he received the nation’s first Ph.D. in Groundwater Hydrology from the University of Arizona. He later became executive director of the National Association of Groundwater Scientists and Engineers.

Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition, and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute. He has 40 years experience as a mechanical engineer/project manager, science and technology communications professional, technical trainer, and S&T advisor to a former Opposition Senior Environment Critic in Canada’s Parliament.

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