In a Los Angeles Times editorial, climate activist Bill McKibben claims, “In the last 10 years, engineers have driven the price of sun and wind power down below coal.” This is a falsehood that climate activists frequently tell, but here is the truth.

What McKibben doesn’t disclose is that he’s only counting the price of wind and solar on days when they are operating at peak capacity, while ignoring their capital costs. Also, he is calculating the costs of operating traditional electric power plants when they are operating at less than peak efficiency, due to their need to regulate wind and solar’s ever-fluctuating power supply.

McKibben also conveniently fails to count the tremendous subsidies wind and solar power receive from the government. Indeed, without government subsidies and mandates, wind and solar power would largely be a boutique power supply for the wealthy. As Climate Realism notes, “Wind and solar power receive substantially more subsidies than conventional energy sources. Wind power by itself receives more source-specific government subsidies than all conventional energy sources combined. Solar power by itself also receives more source-specific government subsidies than all conventional energy sources combined.”

An analysis by the Institute of Energy Research, “The Levelized Cost Of Electricity From Existing Generation Resources,” reports, “Continuing to operate existing coal, natural gas, hydroelectric, and nuclear plants provides a cheaper source of electricity than replacing them with new plants or renewable sources of power like wind or solar.”

Ultimately, if wind and solar power were less expensive than coal, they would dominate world electricity production. The fact that wind and solar produce so little of the world’s electricity mix is proof positive that they are substantially more expensive than conventional energy.

You don’t need to pass laws and twist people’s arms to incentivize them to not throw away their money. On the other hand, you do need to pass laws and twist people’s arms to make them foolishly waste their money. That is what activists like Bill McKibben seek to do.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is managing editor of Environment & Climate News and a research fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute. Burnett worked at the National Center for Policy Analysis for 18 years, most recently as a senior fellow in charge of NCPA’s environmental policy program. He has held various positions in professional and public policy organizations, including serving as a member of the Environment and Natural Resources Task Force in the Texas Comptroller’s e-Texas commission.

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