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Europeans risk death by cold for green folly — and we could be next

The Hill logo The Hill 2022-08-17 Kristin Tate, Opinion Contributor
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Wonder what would happen if the Green New Deal took hold in the United States? A deadly winter is the result of Europe’s own energy experiment. A combination of utopian climate initiatives, inflation, a decline in American fossil fuel production, and an unwillingness to buy Russian oil or natural gas could lead to as many as several hundred thousand deaths across the continent this winter. 

While European nations have mostly stopped purchasing Russian fuel this year, which supplied 15 percent of the continent’s natural gas prior to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the seeds of the continent’s current energy crisis were planted years ago. Efforts to replace traditional energy with green sources have been disastrous. Germany, for example, spent $150 billion on renewable energy sources in their own version of the Green New Deal, only to find itself with some of the highest energy prices in the world and wind power production plummeting by a quarter in early 2021. By rushing a transition away from nuclear power and fossil fuels, former Chancellor Angela Merkel and her successor, Olaf Scholz, made the country nearly dependent on a hostile Russia for years.      

At the same time, Germany’s decision to dismantle its nuclear power plants after Japan’s 2011 Fukushima disaster led to not only a reliance on Russian fossil fuels but also extensive (often Russian) coal burning and an increase of carbon emissions. The nation is now attempting to backtrack on its earlier decision and keep its nuclear plants on while reopening coal plants.      

Meanwhile, France and Britain banned fracking within the past five years, after a Putin-funded effort, supporting green groups and cloaked in progressive buzzwords, campaigned heavily to stop the practice. The United States has been filling in a crucial gap in Europe’s natural gas for almost a decade, but declining American production means that the ability to save the day is more than limited. The head of the International Energy Agency is already predicting an energy shortage in Europe this winter.  

Slavish commitment to green politics, coupled with foolish idealism, will cost lives this winter. Britain alone suffers more than 28,000 excess winter deaths a year. About 200,000 such deaths occur in all of Europe each year, with mortality increasing by 1.5 percent for every 1-degree Celsius decrease. A bitterly cold winter and a sharp decline of constant heating could potentially trigger a six-figure increase in excess deaths continent-wide. In particular, areas with a high urban population (less able to provide wood as a backup heating source) or especially high dependence on Russian heating oil — such as France, Britain, or Germany — will be at much higher risk.      

If efforts to rush unreliable, expensive green energy sources or ban fracking are successful in the U.S., we could face comparable outcomes to our European cousins. Short of fracking, the U.S. would have faced similar shortages following the Ukraine invasion and gasoline likely more than double its current cost. The sheer fact that the Democrats couldn’t regulate the gas and oil extraction technique out of usefulness is the underpinning that is keeping our economy afloat.

We’ve seen such foolish actions lead to widespread suffering before. Sri Lanka, off the coast of India, implemented its own version of woke energy economics. Rapid money printing, debt and a government-mandated switch to organic fertilizer all combined to lead to its economy imploding this summer. Its government was toppled by protesters following more than 50 percent inflation, while 85 percent of farmers faced crop losses after the fertilizer change. Green policies crippled the nation’s crucial tea industry and forced the formerly self-sufficient country to import rice.       

First world nations are not immune to similar fates. Energy shortages are already harming the average American family; $5-a-gallon gasoline played a role in both enduring inflation and a falling GDP this year. Imagine the potential damage inflicted by a full-blown shortage crisis. Those prognosticating a swift phaseout of fossil fuels are usually too young or too poorly educated to remember the 1973 and 1979 oil crises. Green energy may get us to a utopian future one day — but not soon enough. Recall the sharp increase in wind energy production in Texas, which collapsed during a freak winter storm last year. More than 250 Texans died during the catastrophe.

Our state or federal governments have made the situation only more likely to spiral into crisis. An Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency rule banned traditional woodstoves, depended on by 12 percent of households for winter heat. President Biden famously slashed new oil exploration on federal lands shortly after his inauguration. Surcharges and mandates on electricity costs in states such as California and New York further increase consumer cost for little discernible gain.

Europe’s coming deadly winter should serve as a wake-up call for the United States. European feel-good, but ultimately fruitless, energy policies are creating what could be the largest energy crisis of our time. In service of virtue signaling, people across the continent will face shortages, and potentially many deaths, amidst frigid temperatures. 

While the Biden administration and progressive politicians have done their best to destroy domestic energy production, American capitalism has succeeded — at least so far. Four more years of Joe Biden or Kamala Harris, however, ultimately may mean that Europe’s year of cold and death may be the prologue of one here in the not-too-distant future.

Kristin Tate is a visiting fellow at the Independent Women’s Voice and a libertarian writer. Her latest book is “How Do I Tax Thee? A Field Guide to the Great American Rip-Off.” Follow her on Twitter @KristinBTate.

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