Cheap coal, oil and natural gas are out competing wind and solar power despite massive government support, and environmentalists are really upset about it.
“I believe low energy prices may complicate the transformation, to be very frank, and this is a very important issue for countries to note; all the strong renewables and energy efficiency policies therefore may be undermined with the low fossil fuel prices,” Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), told reporters in Brussels Thursday.
Americans are spending less on energy than they have at virtually any other point in recent history. Energy prices dropped by 41 percent in 2015 due to innovative new techniques to extract hydrocarbons, like hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling.
Environmentalists are also terrified that the rise of cheap conventional energy will hurt wind and solar.
“Increasing reliance on natural gas displaces the market for clean energy,” reads The Sierra Club’s website. This concern notably did not impact The Sierra Club when it took $26 million from natural gas interests to oppose coal power.
Natural gas electricity, in particular, is so cheap that it’s already passing coal power as the most used source of electricity.
Projections from the IEA estimate that developing wind and solar power to substantially impact global warming could cost up to $16.5 trillion between now and 2030. To put such numbers in perspective, the U.S. government is just under $19 trillion in debt and only produced $17.4 trillion in gross domestic product in 2014.
American taxpayers spend an average of $39 billion a year financially supporting solar energy, according to a 2015 report by the Taxpayer Protection Alliance. The same report shows President Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus package contained $51 billion in spending for green energy projects, including funding for failed solar energy companies such as Solyndra and Abound Solar.