Post-Pandemic, a Sustained, Essential Recovery Will Depend on Energy

Jul 06, 2020 12:02 AM

David Holt, RealClear Energy | July 6, 2020

As states attempt to slowly return to some degree of normalcy from COVID-19, the pandemic with its incalculable consequences clearly illuminates how essential it is to reinvigorate our economies and critical industries to allow us to better offset any future disruption.

And the vital ingredient required to do that - based on every historic recovery from other major disruptive events - is energy. It always plays an intrinsic role in sustained economic growth that generates permanent, middle-class jobs.

This post-disaster recovery will prove to be no different. It will depend more than ever on maintaining a secure, reliable and affordable supply of energy from a combination of oil, natural gas, wind, solar, hydro and increasingly efficient technologies. Like our economic path ahead, our environmental future will require that. If we’ve learned anything from this disaster, it is that America needs to ensure it does not rely on other nations for critical supplies of medicines, packaging, cleaning supplies, protective clothing, manufactured goods and so many more. Going forward, we need to ensure we make things in this country – and that starts with meeting our energy needs with American energy.

To achieve it, however, our business and political leaders must chart a course toward a future that creates more homegrown essential, supply-chain industries that begins with the ability to employ our diverse domestic energy resources. This will demand that we ignore anti-energy groups who offer fact-free opposition to our energy future – opposition that will do nothing more than will harm consumers, businesses – and the environment.

How does this opposition hurt us? By, among other things, preventing new and existing transmission, offshore wind development, oil and natural gas access, and oil and gas pipeline projects – all of which are needed to meet basic energy demand and help grow critical supply chain business. We must recognize that those who use fear and misinformation to say “no” to reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible energy solutions will wreck our economy and global security and safety for decades to come.

Consider that in pushing for the immediate elimination of oil and gas pipeline projects, anti-energy forces nonchalantly forget that renewable energy supplies won’t be sufficient to adequately serve and fuel consumers, farmers, businesses and industries for years as our economy recovers. Further, increasing our reliance on renewables will require that we build and develop co-energy sources, such as natural gas, to power our homes when solar and wind resources that depend on certain weather or external conditions beyond our control cannot generate.

Recent research from the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute – written by a former economic adviser to President Obama – found that “the installation of renewables are frequently paired with the construction of natural gas ‘peaker’ plants that can quickly and relatively inexpensively cycle up and down, depending on the availability of the intermittent resource,” which is usually solar or wind. Something has to make up the shortfall.

In other words, we still require conventional power sources. If the pipeline project prohibitions go into effect, energy prices will climb and high-paying pipeline jobs will vanish, severely hurting millions of unemployed and underemployed consumers as well as those on low or fixed incomes. Not to mention the loss of tax revenues for cash-strapped communities and schools.

While anti-energy groups have touted how during the pandemic the lockdowns helped reduce pollution in our cities (and that has occurred to some degree), cooler weather and other factors contributed to that improvement as well. Still, it has all come at the expense of hard-working Americans who now are unemployed or who have sheltered in place for months.

Consequently, we have glimpsed the radical future some extremists want to force on us. And, with over 40 million unemployment claims, we should take heed of the enormous costs. Instead, we must focus on the undisputed reality that energy from conventional and emerging sources is essential for a sustained economic recovery and a rebound that serves all businesses and industries, large and small.

What has been remarkable during the pandemic is the strength and flexibility of energy delivery systems worldwide, underscoring that they are built to last. Contrast that experience to the fragility and vulnerability of the health care, retail, services, and travel and tourism sectors.

So, this fact needs repeating: The dependability of reliable and reasonable energy supplies rests with regulators and lawmakers – as well as an informed citizenry -- recognizing that as we move into recovery, energy is central to our economy and its growth. Our new normal must continue to allow vital energy infrastructure projects to move ahead until alternative energy supplies are sufficient to fulfill our needs without adding hidden and unnecessary costs.

To do otherwise will merely slow our economic recovery at the expense of countless families and businesses who are just trying to get back on their feet again.