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Report: New Jerseys energy plan to go green built on magical thinking

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(The Center Square) — As state and federal policy offers more subsidies to renewable energy like wind and solar, skeptics warn that the money is wasted and undermines the stability of America’s energy system.

Mark Mills, director of the National Center for Energy Analytics and a faculty fellow at Northwestern University’s school of engineering, argued in a new report that New Jersey’s approach to energy policy is built on false hopes that ignores the realities of energy production.

In the report, published by the Garden State Initiative, Mills argued that the seven principles of New Jersey’s energy policy are all flawed, built on “a flawed premise” that leaders must change the energy infrastructure of New Jersey to rely on renewable sources.

“The problem isn’t electricity; the problem is hydrocarbons are used for everything,” Mills said. “There are no paths, despite vigorous searches otherwise, to replace hydrocarbons at scale in the foreseeable future.”

“Governor Murphy’s mandate that New Jersey attain 100% clean energy by 2035 is a laudable goal, but it’s not realistic,” Garden State Initiative President Audrey Lane said. “The bottom line is that the goals set forth in the NJ (Energy Master Plan) are purely aspirational and our report painstakingly makes that clear.”

GSI estimates the cost of the energy plan at $40 billion, but wouldn’t generate jobs or economic growth.

In the report, Mills argues that energy efficiency gains and the expansion of solar and wind power don’t lead to reduced energy consumption, but more demand for energy.

While New Jersey wants to hit 100% clean energy by 2035, he argues that decarbonization efforts have minimal effects on emission levels and work against other goals, like expanding manufacturing sectors.

“It is impossible for all of New Jersey to stop using hydrocarbons,” Mills said. “The real issue is always scale.”

When state officials transform their energy policy with renewable-energy mandates or subsidies for electric vehicles, he argued that the assumptions behind those ideas are built on “magical thinking.” Innovations that find new sources of energy, he said, can’t be legislated.

“Governments pass silly laws all the time,” Mills said. “The future, whether people like it or not, for the next 20 years, will look a lot like the last 20 years — because big systems don’t move quickly.”

Wind and solar energy will “probably double” or triple in the future, he argued, but coal, oil, and natural gas will remain the majority sources of American energy.

“The central conceit of the ‘energy transition,’ one that is novel and unprecedented in history, is the idea that state and federal policies can now create a wholesale replacement of most of society’s primary energy sources and do so without economic or social consequence,” Mills wrote.

Nor is New Jersey alone in their efforts. Pennsylvania and other states spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually to boost the solar industry. Critics warn that the shift could threaten the reliability of the energy grid as intermittent sources replace on-demand sources of energy.