- - Wednesday, July 8, 2020

For most individuals, tragedy is simply tragedy. For some, though, tragedy spells opportunity. Prominent among them are the chieftains of the “green” revolution who intend to seize upon the coronavirus pandemic turmoil to revamp global energy. It may be a venerable tradition of power grabbers to advance under cover of adversity, but it’s not the American way.

Plans for capitalizing (if the term hasn’t been banned by the “woke” folk) on the viral health crisis debut on July 9, when the International Energy Agency (IEA) hosts its virtual Clean Energy Transitions Summit from Paris. It’s a chance for change that environmentalists fearing the global-warming apocalypse have been dreaming about for years: “Governments have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reboot their economies and bring a wave of new employment opportunities while accelerating the shift to a more resilient and cleaner energy future,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol is a statement.

Projected expenditures and other details are laid out in the IEA’s accompanying 174-page report titled “Sustainable Recovery,” prepared with the help of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The blueprint contains more than 30 measures policymakers are promoting to choke off greenhouse gases caused by human activity. Carbon-dioxide emissions measured 17 percent lower in April compared to the prior year, but they are expected to rise once economies idled by the pestilence shift back into high gear.

Among the opportunities to be touted during the online conference are the expansion of electricity generation from wind and solar installations, subsidization of the transition to electric vehicles, refitting of buildings with energy-efficient updates, promotion of biofuels while carbon-based energy industries are losing money, and funding of innovation in energy production from hydrogen, batteries and small, modular nuclear reactors. All these ideas might prove to be smart — or they might not — depending on their costs.

“Once-in-a-lifetime” deals score suckers every day. When there’s a catch — and there usually is — it’s often the price tag. The sticker on the IEA scheme launching from Paris is $1 trillion — each year for three years. That’s likely just for starters. After all, the G-20 nations, made up of developed states plus the European Union, have kicked in more than $9 trillion to save their virus-sickened economies, according to the IMF.



Alternative energy initiatives often induce governments to opt for trendy programs that end up hiking costs for consumers, disadvantaging those who can least afford them. For example, Great Britain’s Low Carbon Transition Plan, which encourages the replacement of conventional energy forms with renewables, drove up the kilowatt-hour cost of electricity by 60 percent between 2010 and 2019, according to the market data firm Statistica. And in Los Angeles, researchers at UCLA’s California Center for Sustainable Communities found that U.S. government subsidies for electric vehicles and solar panels primarily benefit residents of higher-income communities.

President Trump recognized a similarly dodgy deal in the Green Climate Fund, a United Nations program that collected money from wealthy nations for renewable energy projects in underdeveloped countries. Mr. Trump halted contributions to the fund when he pulled the United States from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. It was not before his predecessor, Barack Obama, had ponied up $1 billion in taxpayer funds on his way out of the Oval Office. Since the U.N. climate agreement and this week’s IEA Clean Energy Transitions Summit are both plugged into “the city of lights,” the renewable revolution will likely always have Paris.

Few nations were meeting their greenhouse gas reduction goals, meant to prevent global temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, until COVID-19 tanked the global economy. Witnessing the subsequent slide in carbon-dioxide emissions resulting from the temporary deindustrialization, climate crusaders have acquired renewed conviction that their initiatives undertaken amid the current global chaos might help move the mercury downward. Whether trillions for global energy transformation would be money well-spent, though, is as widely debated as the efficacy of wearing a coronavirus face mask.

Of paramount concern for a world knocked off its axis by disease — aside from mourning the dead — is re-employing the hundreds of millions whose livelihoods have been ruined by the pandemic. If opportunists can stifle their elation over the opportunity that tragedy has wrought, their ideas are most welcome. But Americans should stay wary of power grabbers whose “green” energy products would just deepen their financial hole.

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