By Drew Johnson
Environmental activists regularly scare Americans about our domestic energy resources — and urge us to abandon development of them. Witness the various efforts to stop hydraulic fracturing, offshore and onshore drilling, and the like.
What life would look like in this new green world, though, rarely gets coverage. Considering environmental activists aren’t very secretive about their agenda, it’s worth looking at the dramatically different lifestyle they envision for all of us.
When you wake up in your new sustainable home, the first thing you notice is the cramped quarters. Today, the average home size in the United States is around 2700 square feet. That’s about five times more than environmentalists think you need.
The founder of treehugger.com, for instance, just moved into a sustainable home many consider a model for the future. At 420 square feet, the home comes with movable walls to create separate spaces when you need them.
The upside is you won’t need much space for appliances. Environmentalist guru Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, notes that a 60 percent reduction in fossil fuel usage would result in a dramatic reduction of carbon emission per person. Says McKibben, “If you carpooled [six miles per day], you’d have about three pounds of CO2 left in your daily ration-enough to run a highly efficient refrigerator. Forget your computer, your TV, your stereo, your stove, your dishwasher, your water heater, your microwave, your water pump, your clock. Forget your light bulbs, compact fluorescent or not.”
But surely your electric vehicle will get you around greenly? Unfortunately, no.
A recent study by the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership suggests electric powertrains actually have a bigger carbon footprint than internal combustion engines once you take manufacturing the battery and producing the electricity into account. Electric cars don’t even out with their gas counterparts for about 80,000 miles.
You’ll be biking everywhere. But not to the shopping mall. As McKibben has said: “[S]lash your stock of clothes to a comfortable (or even uncomfortable) minimum… If we reached that point-the point where great closetfuls of clothes seemed slightly absurd, unnatural-then we might have begun to climb down from the tottering perch where we currently cling.”
It’s a long way down. The Internet, for example, collectively generates emissions equivalent to half the fossil fuels burned in the United Kingdom. That’s a lot of CO2. No more web-surfing for you.
But surely we can move heavily into renewables and stave off these extreme lifestyle modifications, right? Again, no.
The Worldwatch Institute notes the problem with that approach, “[I]n order to produce enough energy over the next 25 years to replace most of what is supplied by fossil fuels, the world would need to build 200 square meters of solar photovoltaic panels every second plus 100 square meters of solar thermal every second plus 24 3-megawatt wind turbines every hour nonstop for the next 25 years. All of this would take tremendous energy and materials-ironically frontloading carbon emissions just when they most need to be reduced.”
It turns out that building solar panels and wind turbines takes a lot of power and emits a lot of carbon – to say nothing of the effects of the extraction of the rare earths, metals, and other materials required to produce them.
But don’t worry, the same environmental groups opposing oil and gas production are also opposed to rare earth extraction. So environmentalists themselves have made sure these alternative energy sources will remain out of reach for some time.
To sum up, you’re back in your postage-stamp home after work. Your clothes are sweaty from riding your bike. You mustn’t buy new ones. You don’t have a washing machine. You’re off-line for good. Some life, huh?
Fortunately, Americans still have access to clean and abundant energy thanks to the oil and natural gas industry — a sector that depends on market demand, not government subsidies.
Drew Johnson is a senior fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA), a nonpartisan, nonprofit educational organization dedicated to a smaller, more responsible government. Visit TPA online at www.protectingtaxpayers.org.