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VICTOR JOECKS: What Musk gets right about fossil fuels

Even the world’s most prominent creator of electric vehicles thinks the world needs more gasoline.

On Monday, Elon Musk of Tesla Motors fame spoke at an energy conference in Norway. One might expect him to trash fossil fuels. He has a business interest in doing so. Instead, Musk did the opposite.

“At this time, we actually need more oil and gas, not less,” Musk said. He added, “Realistically, I think we need to use oil and gas in the short term, because otherwise civilization will crumble.”

That thud you hear is environmentalists falling out of their collective chairs.

But Musk is right. Just check your text messages. On Thursday, NV Energy put out an alert asking people to conserve power from 5 to 8 p.m. “Help reduce strain on the western U.S. power grid during this heat wave,” it said.

California is doing the same thing. On Wednesday, its energy officials issued a “Flex Alert” asking people to voluntarily conserve energy.

The Southwest is having a heat wave, which, as you may have noticed, happens frequently around here. People use their A/C units to cool down, which requires more electricity. The demand for energy reaches its zenith during the evening.

That’s not a problem for natural gas or nuclear plants. They generate power regardless of where the sun is. But solar panels produce less power in the late afternoon and evening.

Connect the dots to spot the obvious. As demand for electricity peaks, solar power plants provide less energy. Not great. Funny how the politicians pushing renewable portfolio mandates never mentioned the whole “running out of electricity” thing.

If you think the grid is fragile now, it’s going to get worse. Last week, California regulators approved a plan to require all new car sales to be electric in 2035. That move begins with a 35 percent quota in 2026. In 2028, it’s up to 51 percent. Charging those cars will further strain the electric grid. Ironically, that’s one of the things the Flex Alert asked people not to do.

Other states may follow suit. Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office refused to respond when asked if he’d make Nevada join California’s electric vehicle scheme.

Things are more dire in Europe, where countries have spent years scaling back fossil fuel production. That left them overly reliant on Russian natural gas. Prices skyrocketed due to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

In October 2021, the average household in the United Kingdom paid around $1,600 annually for energy. This October, the price cap will soar to around $4,200 a year. By next April, it could hit $6,300. Goldman Sachs warned recently that U.K. inflation could exceed 22 percent. Energy prices are driving people into poverty, pushing businesses to bankruptcy and likely to cause a recession.

Germany is restarting coal power plants. Its citizens have bought so much firewood that there’s now a shortage of wood and wood-burning stoves.

Musk is right about civilization crumbling.

If you like expensive, unreliable energy, the future looks bright … er, dim. Just remember not to turn on the lights, charge your electric vehicle or run the A/C.

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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