Privately, Mrs. Clinton is as close as you can get to an energy realist in a party completely in hock to the environmental movement. She wants to defend fracking and natural gas, but daren’t in public. As the WikiLeaks hack reveals, she tells a blue-collar audience that environmentalist activists should get a life, but doesn’t tell them that to their faces. “The honeymoon won’t last ten minutes,” green activist Bill McKibben warned earlier this week, threatening to redouble the green onslaught on her from November 9.
In truth, McKibben and his allies have already won. Whatever she thinks, Clinton is a prisoner of her public positions. She promises to install half a billion solar panels by 2020, a sevenfold increase from today, and has set a target to generate one-third of America’s electricity from renewable sources by 2027. It would mean that the U.S. would beat the EU’s 27 percent target by three years and six percentage points.
This is an absurdly vast challenge. Even the Europeans have soured on the costs and immense practical difficulties of integrating unreliable wind and solar into the grid. The benefits of Mrs. Clinton’s plan would flow mostly to China — eight of the top ten manufacturers of solar photovoltaic panels last year were Chinese. Its costs would fall on Americans in the form of spiraling electricity bills, a large part of which would go to pay for grid-management tools to reduce the risk of blackouts, and even these may not work very well.