What’s the plan? | Don Brunell

This summer, the nation sweltered in a deadly heat wave ... This fall, the nation froze in near-record cold.

This summer, the nation sweltered in a deadly heat wave.

High temperatures hovered near 100 degrees, the heat buckled highways in several states, and firefighters in Indianapolis evacuated 300 people from a senior living community when the air conditioning failed. Cities from New York to Seattle set up cooling centers as demand for electricity hit all-time highs.

This fall, the nation froze in near-record cold.

Temperatures in the upper Midwest recently plummeted to -31 degrees. Freezing temperatures and ice storms snarled air traffic across the nation. Overnight lows in the normally temperate Puget Sound region plunged into the teens and 20s — and stayed there for a week. Cities across the state opened public buildings during the night for the homeless, and electricity demand skyrocketed as homeowners pushed up the thermostat to fend off the bone-chilling cold.

The one constant in these two extremes has been a high demand for electricity. In suffocating heat or freezing cold, ample power supplies are literally a matter of life or death.

Yet, if some environmental activists get their way, the U.S. will eliminate almost 90 percent of its electricity.

The Sierra Club and others have mounted an aggressive national campaign to eliminate the use of all fossil fuels. They started with coal and quickly expanded their purity crusade to all forms of fossil fuels, including clean-burning natural gas. Their “War On (insert-any-fossil-fuel-here)” targets anything related to the use of fossil fuels — from coal mining to gas exploration to power plant siting to pipelines to transmission lines to supply trains to shipping terminals.

But renewables — wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower combined — produce only 12 percent of our energy needs. Yet even that is under attack in some quarters.

Hydropower is the single largest form of renewable energy, producing 6.7 percent of the nation’s electricity. Here in Washington, hydropower produces more than 75 percent of our electricity. Nevertheless, many activists want to severely restrict hydropower production because of the dams. They even push to tear down key dams.

They have been successful to some degree. For example, our state law does not allow large utilities to include hydropower in their mandated renewable energy portfolio. Even environmentally conscious California embraces hydropower.

If these anti-hydropower activists and their fellow “no-fossil-fuel” warriors succeed, they will eliminate the source of 95 percent of our energy.

What then?

How do they intend to replace it? What is their plan? How will they ensure that we can heat and cool 135 million homes, businesses, grocery stores, hospitals and schools?

They need to answer these questions, or we will freeze in the winter and swelter in the summer.

Yes, we must embrace all practical forms of energy, and the use of renewable energy has increased significantly over the years. But that increase comes with a cost — a cost that has been subsidized by taxpayers.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the federal government awarded $16 billion in energy subsidies in 2013 — 74 percent of it for renewable energy and energy efficiency. Fossil fuels received 20 percent of the total, and nuclear power received 7 percent. We also need to realize that, as costs for alternative energy rise, so do our electric bills hitting the poorest and most vulnerable families the hardest.

Finally, how will the opponents of fossil fuels solve the massive job losses and economic collapse that would follow the destruction of the U.S. energy industry?

The American Petroleum Institute reports that the oil and gas industry supports 9.2 million jobs in the U.S. and pays $86 million a day in taxes. How do the “no-fossil-fuel” purists plan to replace that?

We need to have the answers to these questions before we lurch blindly forward on a campaign to eliminate the use of fossil fuel. Otherwise, we’ll all be left out in the cold.

More in Business

GE’s tumble from grace | Don Brunell

General Electric, once the world’s most valuable company, has been topped by Walgreens.

Vintage items, gifts and more at new Enumclaw shop

Featuring an eclectic mix of merchandise, partners Tori Ammons and Melissa Oglesbee… Continue reading

The role models around us

Sometimes, being a good role model is a good business decision, too.

Seattle’s misstep highlights need for new approach

Last week, Seattle’s City Council did an “about face” revoking the onerous… Continue reading

Washington’s expensive culvert court case

Too much money is spent in court where it should go to increasing the salmon population

Straw pulp looks like a game changer

250,000 tons of straw will soon be pulped for paper products.

Bad labels tough to shed

Seattle’s going to have a hard time battling the “anti-business” label.

Lt. Dan needs lots of helping hands

Gary Sinise formed the “Lt. Dan Band” in early 2004 and they began entertaining troops serving at home and abroad. Sinise often raised the money to pay the band and fund its travel.

New Enumclaw wine bar aims for broad audience

Bordeaux Wine Bar is scheduled to be open Wednesdays through Sundays.

Streamlining regulations makes more housing affordable

There were over 21,000 people homeless in Washington State last year.

New approaches needed to fight super wildfires | Don Brunell

Last year, wildfires nationwide consumed 12,550 square miles, an area larger than Maryland.

Skilled trade jobs go unfilled in our robust economy

Known as blue collar jobs, they routinely pay $45,000 to $65,000 a year or more.