When President Biden talks, there may or may not be any connection between what he says and the real world. Yes, you need to give every politician some leeway, since most of what any politician says will fall in the general realm of political exaggeration or hyperbole. But even within the disreputable category of politicians, Biden can take the lack of connection with reality to a whole new level.
You may have your own favorite among Biden’s preposterous statements. For me, the very most preposterous is one that he has been making repeatedly for the past several months, namely that his energy plans, including expansion of wind and solar electricity generation together with fossil fuel suppression, will save American families the very specific amount of $500 per year each. This claim has popped up in multiple places and multiple formulations. One example came in the State of the Union speech back in March, where Biden said, “Let’s cut energy costs for families an average of $500 a year by combatting climate change.”
It’s just not possible for anyone who thinks about the subject for even a few minutes to believe that building more and more wind and solar generation facilities as our primary sources of energy will do anything other than vastly increase the costs of energy for the American people. Even in the early phases of the process, where wind and solar generation are well less than half of electricity generation (and electricity is then only about a third of total energy consumption), you obviously need full backup from some dispatchable source, almost always fossil fuels, to make your electricity grid work. That means that you will come to have two fully redundant electricity generation systems, when previously you had only one to produce the same amount of electricity. Two fully redundant systems can’t possibly be cheaper than just one. Then, if you insist on phasing out the fossil fuel backup and replacing it with battery or some other storage, you have to add the cost of that storage to the mix. Readers here know that the cost of backing up wind and solar electricity generation with battery storage is truly monumental, potentially a large multiple of the entire U.S. GDP. For more on that subject, see some of my prior posts, for example here and here.
And this is not just a question of models and projections that can be debated. As more and more wind and solar generation facilities have been added to the electrical grid in various places, the inevitable dramatic rise in cost to the consumer has in fact occurred. Steven Hayward at PowerLine in a post on Wednesday reproduces graphs showing the results for two of the most enthusiastic adopters of the wind and sun for electricity, California and Australia. Here is the chart for California:
As California has added more and more wind and solar generation, its electricity rates to the consumer have followed a sharply increasing pattern, up some 58.3% from 2008 to 2021. Even after adding all that renewable capacity, the percent of California’s electricity production from the wind and sun in 2020 was still only about a third, according to a February 2022 Report from the California Energy Commission. Thus California has not yet even begun to confront the challenge of phasing out fossil fuel production and trying to back up its electricity grid with batteries — that will occur when the percentage of electricity from intermittent renewables gets past 50%. But note that dotted red line near the bottom of the chart: the 41 states with “low penetration” of wind and solar generation only had rate increases of 9.5% between 2008 and 2021.
And here’s the chart for Australia:
After declining gradually for decades, Australia’s consumer electricity prices have about doubled since 2005. The doubling coincides with the rapid addition of new wind and solar generation facilities since that time. And as with California, Australia’s generation from the intermittent renewables remains well below 50% of electricity generation, meaning that again the vast cost increases inherent in phasing out fossil fuel backup have not yet begun to hit to any significant degree.
Similar patterns of electricity prices soaring as renewable generation increases can be found in other places with high penetration of renewables, for example Germany and Denmark.
With these data and plenty more like them out there, Biden continues to double down on his assertion of the supposed $500 per family per year “savings” from his plan for green energy transition. In a an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal on May 30, Biden put it this way:
A dozen CEOs of America’s largest utility companies told me earlier this year that my plan would reduce the average family’s annual utility bills by $500 and accelerate our transition from energy produced by autocrats.
That line finally got the Washington Post’s “fact checker,” Glenn Kessler, on the job. Kessler’s June 2 piece has the headline “Biden’s fantastical claim of $500 in annual utility savings.” Kessler started by tracking down a White House transcript of the meeting that Biden held in February with the group of utility executives. There was no mention at all of a supposed $500 projected saving in “annual utility bills”:
But when we located the transcript of Biden’s conversation with utility executives on Feb. 9, we found no reference to $500 in utility savings. The figure was also not mentioned in the White House readout of the meeting.
When Kessler asked the White House for the source of Biden’s number, he was then referred to a report of something called Rhodium Group that projected an approximate $500 per household saving by 2030 not from lower utility bills, but largely from consumers switching to electric cars. Putting aside for a moment whether consumers switching to electric cars could save anybody any money as the government strives to destroy the electrical grid, Kessler points to these obvious flaws in Biden’s statement:
But he didn’t hear that [$500 figure] from utility executives. And the report he is citing is not about household utility-bill savings. Most of the claimed savings comes from the reduced cost of driving. And the estimate is for 2030 — when he would no longer be president, even if he served a second term.
Kessler then awards Biden four Pinocchios.