Life:Powered 101

Our mission is to raise America’s energy IQ — to inform policymakers and the public about the benefits of affordable, reliable energy to the human condition.

Why energy, when there are so many avenues to improve human lives?

It’s simple: without energy, nothing about modern life — from clean running water and medical care to smartphones and online banking — is possible. It is the essential building block that touches literally every aspect of our lives. In the Western world, we take for granted that the lights will come on when we hit the switch. But that wasn’t always the case, and it still isn’t in many countries. Yet politicians in Washington too often lose sight of this in the “green” power fad. Life:Powered exists to make sure humanity continues to benefit from the economic, health, and environmental benefits of energy.

Why does energy matter?

Energy powers life — quite literally. You’d be hard pressed to get through your day without fossil fuels, and not just to power your car and your toaster. Almost 80% of the products we use daily come from fossil fuels, not to mention shipped to you or to the store you bought them from.

Watch this and think about how different your day would be without fossil fuels and the affordable, reliable energy they provide:

Shouldn’t we be focused on ending poverty instead?

Yes — and the easiest way to eradicate poverty in America and across the globe is access to affordable, reliable energy.

Around the time of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th century, the world saw the most dramatic improvement in life expectancy and economic growth (two of the clearest indicators of quality of life) in human history.

Having ready access to energy doesn’t just make our lives more comfortable. It dramatically improves the human condition through better health and reduced poverty. Life expectancies today are fully 20 years shorter in countries without widespread electricity because they lack the basic infrastructure we take for granted: clean water (which eliminates many infectious diseases), heat during the winter, and medical technology, from the most commonplace vaccines to the most complex surgical procedures.

More than 40 people died in a recent week-long power outage in Venezuela, many because hospitals couldn’t provide basic care without electricity. One woman described the struggle to find food and water without power as “a return to the Middle Ages.” Yet this is the reality many people face daily — a reality that exporting American energy nationwide can change.

Energy also reduces the need for hard physical labor, which takes a toll on the human body. In the developing world, women and girls collectively spend 200 million hours a day walking just to get water for their families. Those are hours they can’t spend on education, civic engagement, or work. Similarly, fossil fuels revolutionized the agriculture industry thanks to both machinery and to natural gas-derived fertilizers, allowing farmers to grow more food with less land and fewer man-hours.

Energy plays a critical role in “human flourishing,” which is people’s ability to move beyond basic subsistence living to a healthy, fulfilling, purpose-driven life.

What about climate change? Aren’t fossil fuels bad for the planet?

Most climate scientists agree that human carbon dioxide emissions gradually warm the planet, but there is no evidence to suggest that the current trend of mild and manageable warming will suddenly become rapid or catastrophic. Past “doomsday” predictions, such as a UN official’s claim that coastal cities would be underwater by 2000, have been based on worst-case scenario calculations that significantly overestimated warming. For more information about how the climate has fluctuated throughout history, click here.

Although you wouldn’t know it from the mainstream media’s headlines after a hurricane or other natural disaster, there has been no statistically significant increase in the number or severity of natural disasters, according to weather data from NOAA and the EPA.

There’s more good news: Deaths due to flood, drought, extreme heat, extreme cold, storms, and wildfires have decreased by 97% in the last 100 years. Climate change alarmism ignores our adaptability to mild changes in climate, not to mention the continued trend of Americans moving to warmer states. Energy and technology have made humanity more resilient, not less.

The environmentalist crusade against fossil fuels isn’t based on sound science. Data models used by the United Nations project that even banning all fossil fuels in the United States would have no discernible impact on climate change. If America switched to 100% renewable energy and banned gas-powered cars by 2030, global temperatures would be just 0.139 degrees Celsius lower by 2100. So much for the End of Days.

But there’s pollution. Can’t we all agree to fix that?

Absolutely! The good news is that United States is a world leader in clean air. The six key pollutants tracked by the EPA have fallen by a record 74%! These are toxic substances known to cause human harm, like lead and carbon monoxide, as well as airborne “particulate matter” like soot that contributes to respiratory and cardiovascular disease. When it comes to particulate matter, we’re also the only highly developed country in the world to meet the WHO’s standards for safe air.

We’ve achieved these unprecedented advancements even while increasing our population, energy use, GDP, and vehicle miles traveled. Thanks to affordable, reliable energy, scientists and business leaders have had the opportunity to experiment with new and innovative pollution control methods — the kind of scientific advancements that would be impossible (or at least much, much slower) without reliable electricity.

For example, the catalytic converter, which turns toxic car exhaust into harmless gases like water vapor, was developed by a French scientist who became a U.S. citizen in 1942 and popularized in the 1970s as an efficient way to meet Clean Air Act standards. The EPA calls the catalytic converter “one of the greatest environmental inventions of all time” that has essentially eliminated smog. Today, many industrial plants use baghouses to prevent particulate matter from entering the air, and many private businesses including energy producers are experimenting with innovative environmental technologies.

We should celebrate America’s environmental successes. The best path forward is to allow businesses and scientists to experiment freely with new environmental innovations, paired with reasonable regulations that prioritize our well-being.

Environmental policy should serve humanity, not the other way around.

Isn’t renewable energy the way of the future?

Renewable energy plays a marginal and slowly growing role in our electricity generation mix, but wind and solar energy will never become a  main power source in most locations because their output is too variable. Put simply, the wind doesn’t always blow, and the sun doesn’t always shine. The real cost of switching to renewable energy lies in its intermittency, or unreliability, which can only be compensated for by a combination of overbuilding generation, massive battery storage, backup from dispatchable generators, and demand reductions (also known as brownouts). A traditional natural gas- or coal-fired power plant can increase or decrease power output throughout the day to meet demand, but renewables on their own would require large-scale batteries to keep the lights on.

This is not a problem that technology alone can solve; it is a problem of scale. To put this in perspective, the entire battery storage capacity installed on the grid worldwide in 2018 (around 8 gigawatt-hours) wouldn’t be enough to power New York City for a single hour. Though battery capacity is expected to grow significantly in the coming years, it still won’t be enough to power entire economies on wind and solar.

Many people also don’t know about the massive land requirements for renewable energy. It would take 27 times the acreage to replace a natural gas power plant with solar panels and 100 times for wind turbines, not counting additional transmission lines. This requires massive land clearing, eminent domain to seize land from private property owners, and unnecessarily placing wildlife habitat in jeopardy. Fossil fuels help us sustain more people with a smaller physical footprint on the planet.

But wait, I thought renewables were getting cheaper.

Like a lot of things you read on the Internet, this one’s only sort of true. The parts for wind turbines and solar panels are becoming gradually less expensive. However, actually generating electricity with renewables isn’t. No city, state, or country has succeeded at going 100% renewable because of the astronomical battery storage requirements above and because of backup power needs. The more renewables we add to the grid, the more expensive their backup power becomes.

That’s the reason electricity costs have risen over 50% in Germany and doubled in Denmark. It’s the reason utility bills are going up in cities like Georgetown, Texas, that think they can switch to renewables with no consequences.

Wind and solar energy aren’t inherently bad — but their low density and high variability make them unsuitable as a primary power source for an economy that demands 24/7 energy without interruption. Even after tens of billions in subsidies paid for with your tax dollars, wind and solar still comprise less than 4% of our total energy.

Hang on, don’t fossil fuels get subsidies too?

They do, roughly the same amount as wind and solar over the past 15 years, but compared to the size of those industries, those subsidies are a drop in the bucket. Not so for wind and solar. Only recently has wind energy reached the point where it is generating more in revenue than it has received in federal subsidies, and solar still isn’t to that point. If you consider the subsidy dollars per unit of energy produced, wind and solar receive nearly 50 times the money (paid for by our taxes) of fossil fuels per terawatt-hour of electric generation, and nearly 100 times that of nuclear, despite producing just 8% of the country’s electricity.

We don’t defend fossil fuel subsidies. Instead, we believe the government should stay out of the way and let companies and individuals direct their energy choices — that means using the most dense, most abundant, and most reliable energy resources available. That advantage clearly falls to oil, natural gas, and coal. The only advantage of diffuse and intermittent renewable energy is its lack of emissions, but the billions of dollars of subsidies poured into renewable energy have produced minimal emissions benefits while harming our electric grids and raising prices.

So what should we do next? What does America’s energy future look like?

America leads the world in energy production, economic output, and environmental quality, not to mention commitment to the rights and freedoms of individuals. We should celebrate those successes and work to improve them by embracing our affordable, reliable, and abundant energy resources.

We have the means to promote freedom and independence around the world and right here at home. A reliable energy supply can feed the hungry, take care of the sick, and ensure a prosperous economic future for society. Through American ingenuity and innovation, responsible production of reliable energy will make the world safer, our environment cleaner, and each and every citizen more prosperous.

Energy powers life.