Current and Future Life Journeys Hanging on a Suit Rack

The following commentary by Nick Deiuliis highlights the unique partnership between for CNX Resources and Dress for Success, which includes preparing The Mentorship Academy students for job interviews with professional attire, headshots, mock interviews, and resume writing workshops.

I’ve had the opportunity to participate in many exciting and inspiring efforts over my career. Being part of the CNX Foundation’s Mentorship Academy has been one of the best of the best, both personally and professionally. The Academy successfully captures all the great players in western Pennsylvania and joins them together to bring about impactful, positive change to the next generation.

A side benefit to the Mentorship Academy effort is getting to know the standouts across this region’s businesses, nonprofit organizations, industries, and educational institutions. ​ One such shining light is the nonprofit Dress for Success Pittsburgh.

Toward the end of the inaugural class of the Mentorship Academy, we partnered with Dress for Success to outfit the students with professional attire. The transformation was unbelievable, both in visual appearance as well as in personal demeanor. You change a person’s look, and you change their confidence level.

With that type of high impact, Dress for Success instantly became a crucial partner to the Mentorship Academy. CNX and Dress for Success grew closer, and CNX recruited Dress for Success to take up office residence in our headquarters building (part of our HQ at CNX initiative). Now we work alongside each other daily and are a proud sponsor of their mobile boutique providing services to women across Fayette, Greene and Washington Counties.

Which brings me to how CNX, the Mentorship Academy, and Dress for Success serendipitously had me contemplating life in, of all places, my bedroom closet. Allow me to explain.

First, understand I am somewhat of a hoarder, albeit an organized one. It hurts me to throw away things that I may end up using again or that, more importantly, hold the slightest sentimental value. I have the ticket stubs to every sporting event I attended in life (at least for ones where they used to print tickets). Every book I read finds a home on a shelf somewhere in the house. I suppose these are not simply inanimate things to me; they are living memories.

For some reason, I followed suit with this behavior when it came to suits, as in my professional business attire. Over three decades ago, I started out as a young, 21-year-old engineer who didn’t own a suit (or know how to knot a tie). So, I had to purchase a few and started with the classic basics of navy blue, grey pinstripe, and black pinstripe varieties. ​

Through the years I would buy a suit or two, but because my measurements didn’t change much, I never ended up letting go of the older suits. This steady expansion of the wardrobe went on for decades. It spanned nearly ten apartments and houses in the Pittsburgh area, with each move having a step of swiping up the suits on the old closet rack and then hanging them up on the new closet rack. With each progressive move, the closet got a little bigger, but the line of suits got a little longer.1

I see nothing wrong with those suits, including the originals; they are in great shape and a classic gray suit does not go out of style. But in today’s more business casual world, I only need a couple. ​

That leaves a lot of suits just hanging in the closet. I thought of the male Mentorship Academy students from this year’s class. And then I thought of Dress for Success and the thousands of people they assist across the region. It was time to give up the suits.

That’s how I ended up contemplating life in my bedroom closet. I was staring at that line of suits, ready to take them down to the car to bring them in to Dress for Success. But then it hit me as a scanned the line from left to right.

My adult life was looking back at me on that rack. A suit when I was single and in my 20s. One I was wearing in heavy rotation around the time my kids were born. There’s one I wore at a family wedding and one next to it that I wore at a family funeral. A row of suits covering me at board meetings for the lineage of great companies I worked for. ​

The older the suit, the more cumulative the history. An adult life’s alpha and omega found, in of all places, on a closet clothes rack. How could I part with them?

Well, it came down to impact. The suit can remain in the closet, never be worn, and have one person appreciate it. Or it can be repurposed and find new life. And maybe, just maybe, help take someone in this region to the next level of realizing their potential.

The car got loaded up. Tanya from Dress for Success was helping me unload them at the office and asked, “Where did all these come from?” I told her it was a long story but that I would try to explain it to her as best I could.

Dress for Success Pittsburgh is always looking for men’s and women’s professional attire (including dress shoes!) in good condition. CNX sponsors the Dress for Success mobile boutique, which provides services to women across Fayette, Greene, and Washington Counties in western Pennsylvania. Contact CEO Tanya Vokes at to find out how you might help.

For daily insights and commentary from Nick Deiuliis, follow Nick on Twitter at @NickDeiuliis and on LinkedIn.

Legacies and Adages for Domestic Energy’s Future: Texas A&M Visit

Ask a business leader what their most important asset is, and the answer will typically be: our employees. That answer rings especially true for the domestic energy industry, where the ability to manufacture affordable and reliable natural gas and oil hinges on continually developing the next generation of workers and leaders.

So, getting out there and engaging with students in engineering and science who are about to enter the workforce is time well spent.

When it comes to producing high-potential future leaders of the natural gas and oil industry, you’d be hard-pressed to find a program as effective as Texas A&M (TAMU). So when the TAMU Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) student chapter asked me to spend an evening with them, my response was immediate and affirmative.

Off to College Station, where the SPE student chapter turned out, led by officers Kassem and Teresa. Ready to cover industry, technology, and career. After a few minutes, one couldn’t help but be bullish on the prospects of this next generation of industry leaders. Domestic energy nirvana!


We discussed how natural gas is a catalyst fuel for the future, not a bridge fuel with a near end. Addressed the importance of tabulating the true life-cycle carbon footprints of different energy sources when setting policy and making decisions, and how natural gas stacks up favorably compared to wind and solar on Scopes 1-3 CO2e. Examined what’s going on in the exciting Appalachian basin and how the Appalachia First vision is a blueprint not just for one basin, but also for others and the nation.

We thought through how the timing of two opportunities for domestic natural gas demand growth, LNG export and vertical market capture of transportation fuels, should be logically sequenced. Domestic natural gas displacing foreign-sourced gasoline/diesel/jet aviation fuel should come first since it is the superior opportunity on a carbon footprint reduction, supply chain shrinkage, energy cost savings, and human rights improvement set of metrics. LNG export will have its time, but only after domestic natural gas seizes the transportation market opportunities.


We traded thoughts on career and culture. Strong culture must ensure the ‘walk’ of decision-making is consistent with the polished ‘talk’ of stated company values. We discussed how the most crucial types of diversity are those of thought and background; when you strive for that duo and couple them with a true meritocracy, physical diversity should be an expected result.

I could sense students sought assurance of solid future career prospects for professionals in the domestic natural gas and oil industry. It’s not hard to deduce why. The steady, ideological drumbeat of messaging by some outside the industry is that the future economy will not require these life-sustaining fuels. I hope that after the evening’s discussion, those concerns were put to bed and students left excited about how the demand for their skills and our products will skyrocket into the future.


“Only aim to do your duty, and mankind will give you credit where you fail.”


Toward the end of the evening, I left a couple of closing thoughts.

The first spoke to the duty of students to live up to the legacy of TAMU, epitomized by two great individuals. General James Rudder graduated from TAMU in 1932, later led the unprecedented Army Ranger assault on the cliffs of Point du Hoc in Normandy during World War II, and ultimately became President of TAMU and grew it into the iconic institution of today. And George Mitchell, who graduated from TAMU in 1940 and became the father of the shale revolution, made enormous positive impacts on the human condition. Giants who started on the same ground where these students stand today.

The second closing thought pertained to the Aggie Adage: “From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. From the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.” By the time I left campus and that special place, I got it. But one of my objectives for the evening was to convince the students and faculty that leaders in the energy industry carry a responsibility that is the inverse to the Aggie Adage: leaders inside the domestic energy industry have a duty to explain so those outside the industry understand. I hope they got it.

Gig ‘em, Aggies!

For daily insights and commentary from Nick Deiuliis, follow Nick on Twitter at @NickDeiuliis and on LinkedIn.

VFW Post 4793. Waynesburg, PA. Appalachia. America

The Vietnam War claimed over 50,000 American lives.  American wounded numbered in the hundreds of thousands.  Today’s Vietnam vets are nearing the end of their journey, some in their 80s. Time is running out to right a wrong.

From 1964 to 1973, young men across Appalachia and western Pennsylvania dutifully answered a notice from the draft board to enter the armed forces and serve in combat. Most didn’t want to go.  Many were afraid to go. Yet off they went, leaving jobs at the mills and mines or delaying the start of college.

The lucky ones made it back home.  The luckier ones made it back home without physical injury.  The luckiest few made it back home without physical or mental scars.  None returned home to enjoy a hero’s welcome.

Upon returning home, these newly minted veterans were subjected to their second war of attrition.  This time it wasn’t NVA or Viet Cong sniping from distant, concealed positions, hidden in dense jungle foliage. Instead, it was the Left and their minions on campuses and in Hollywood, building and feeding a culture of disdain for Vietnam veterans.

The Left converted the noble into the evil (the Left excels at that). Jane Fonda saw Vietnam as a photo op and in 1972 posed in Hanoi wearing NVA gear atop an anti-aircraft gun. The prior year, John Kerry used his Vietnam service as an opportunity to boost his political career, testifying to Congress that American soldiers were monsters.

Enough. America’s national security rests in the hands of a military made largely of volunteer citizens.  They don’t start wars; they are called on to finish them, no matter what the quality of leadership is from policymakers, Washington DC, or generals.

Last week, on March 29, our nation marked another Vietnam Veterans Day. I work for a company that is stacked with men and women who served across the military. And we put our hearts and souls into making tangible, impactful, and meaningful positive differences in our local communities and wider region of Appalachia.

You can probably guess where this was going.

On Wednesday evening we headed down to Waynesburg, to the Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) Post 4793. We stopped in to say hi to some of our neighbors, fellow domestic energy workers, friends, and coworkers. To find another way to have the CNX Foundation and Appalachia First come alive. And to do it on Vietnam Veterans Day.

Wednesday was the always popular wing night at Post 4793, which was filled with regular members, from families with small kids to old timers. So, we bought the wings for the night (food never fails to please). We raffled off four Penguins tickets. We ate wings and had a tap beverage or two. Talked some, listened more. Forgot to sign ‘the book.’ And promised we would be back.

March 29 at Waynesburg VFW Post 4793 marked the start of something new at CNX and for the CNX Foundation. We are all in with supporting this region’s veterans through the VFWs and American Legions spread across the communities where we operate and live: western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, West Virginia, and western Virginia.

See you soon, veterans. On taco Tuesdays or wing night. At events to honor a recently departed member. To say hi and…thank you.

Waynesburg and its vets are the epitome of western Pennsylvania. And western Pennsylvania is the heart of Appalachia. And Appalachia is the soul of America.

Talking Energy, Region, and Careers at the Rock: Another Best Day Ever

The summary below follows Nick Deiuliis’ March 2, 2023, presentation to Slippery Rock University students and faculty.

Life in the digital age leaves much to be desired, but occasionally offers serendipitous moments. An unexpected opportunity pops up and turns out to be engaging.

I received a message on LinkedIn from an undergraduate student in petroleum engineering at Slippery Rock University who recently took on the role of chapter president for the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE).

He introduced himself and asked if I would be willing to come speak to the SPE chapter.

That’s impressive initiative that deserved an affirmative answer.

Shared Appalachian Connections

And with so much shared history, how could I resist such a request?

Slippery Rock University traces its western Pennsylvania roots back to 1889, which is a few decades after the founding of the company I work for, CNX Resources, in Appalachia. Both share a history and are long time regional leaders of western Pennsylvania and Appalachia.

The request was a chance to spend time with engineering, physics, chemistry, and safety management students. Disciplines I’ve had the pleasure of toiling in, working with, and proudly associating with for decades. My kind of crowd.

There are zero degrees of separation between company and university. The employee ranks of CNX are filled with Slippery Rock alums. From a vice president (who pressed me to remind the audience of his gridiron glory) to an intern who recently became a full-time engineer (who clearly had a more popular following by students and faculty than our vice president).

I never want to turn down a chance to hear from and fire up the next generation of Appalachia, the domestic energy sector, and the manufacturing industry. Making sure every student knew the massive career opportunity set waiting for them. Letting them know they indeed have what it takes to succeed in their craft. And listening to gage where their heads are in an increasingly chaotic world.

I always welcome opportunities to unabashedly promote Appalachia, western Pennsylvania, domestic energy, CNX Resources, and Slippery Rock University. An economic and social ecosystem where it’s all for one and one for all.

The visit also served an opportunity to recruit. Not just for CNX Resources, but on behalf of all the fabulous partners we work with in the energy industry and within Appalachia. I hoped to return from Slippery Rock with a roster of connections and a stack of resumes. Mission accomplished.

CNX embraces its Appalachia First vision for the region, and it doesn’t get more Appalachia First than this.

Let’s Talk…

Slippery Rock offers a strong array of STEM-centric majors: physical sciences, engineering, and safety management to name a few. Students and faculty convened in the Vincent Science Center auditorium and we got right into it.

The Vincent Science Center is home to the Physics and Engineering Department at Slippery Rock University.

We covered the potential of the Appalachian basin, recognizing it is the second-largest natural gas field on the planet when you combine the Marcellus and Utica shale horizons. Natural gas is not a bridge fuel, but instead a catalyst fuel for the future.

We discussed the need for resilient businesses to secure competitive moats within their industry and market.

To illustrate, I explained how CNX Resources enjoys three moats of resilient, competitive advantage: stacked pay acreage of Marcellus and Utica shales, vertically integrated assets of upstream production wells and midstream pipelines, and an avenue of new growth offered by the development and commercialization of new technologies to provide future energy solutions.

We dove deep into culture and values of organizations.

By example, CNX embodies the three core values of responsibility, ownership, and excellence. We might invest time defining them with words for a website or brochure, but in the end the values will be understood and evident by seeing them come alive in the decision making throughout the organization. From the newest employee to the CEO; from the smallest to the largest decisions.

Values and culture are crucial filters when making decisions in the real world. If you see the culture/value ‘talk’ not aligning with the ‘walk,’ there is a problem. When encountering such a conflict, always look to the ‘walk’ for the true culture/values.

We also addressed timely topics one hears about everywhere these days, but topics that are typically not subjected to sufficiently rigorous thought. I referenced such topics as a select grouping of popular ‘urban legends’ in energy and business.

At the front of the group was ESG investing; how it is labeled as a cure-all remedy and the inevitable future of investing. But reality has exposed a stratified layer of good, bad, and ugly applications of ESG.

Of course, climate change was included in the agenda. The certainty of rising atmospheric CO2 levels from human activity. But the far from certain and hopelessly inaccurate climate models when it comes to predicting the impact of CO2 on past, present, and future climate.

Is there a bigger urban legend these days than the myth of zero carbon/emission-free wind and solar?

We walked through the complex, murky, and often ugly supply chain of producing an intermittent kWh of electricity in Pennsylvania from wind or solar. And what happens to stakeholders along that supply chain: from child workers in Africa, to slave laborers in Xinjiang, to ruined ecosystems in the developing world, to stressed and unreliable grids in America and Europe, to the regressively taxed middle-class ratepayers.

Climate policies that protect, subsidize, and mandate wind and solar are stacking up a resume of failure across global grids. Power grids in the EU, UK, California, Texas, and here in Pennsylvania (PJM nearly broke during this past Christmas Eve cold snap) have all stressed or broke at the worst possible times due to the consequences of a mandated energy transition that was not well thought out.

Wind and solar, along with EVs, comprise quite the sustainability horror story. Worse yet, their life cycle carbon footprints are far from zero, and likely grossly exceed the life cycle carbon footprints of domestic energy sources such as power generation fueled by regional natural gas. It’s simply a matter of performing a basic carbon mass balance across supply chains.

The geopolitical implications of energy policy were not left out of the conversation.

Climate policies that mandate wind and solar are de facto projections of geopolitical power for China, the primary American adversary today, who enjoys dominant control of the supply chains for wind, solar, and EVs. Conversely, allowing domestic energy to ‘do its thing’ in the competitive free market serves as a projection of American power as effective as military might.

The expert class shouts endlessly about a Code Red for humanity as it relates to climate change. But the real Code Red for humanity pertains not to climate change, but instead to climate change policies.

Wanting to believe wind, solar, and EVs are zero carbon and sustainable is blind ideology bordering on religion. Daring to know the harsh reality is true to the scientific method and is faithful to rational thought.

Thymos: Propellant of Futures and Careers

Toward the end, things turned a bit philosophical. The Greeks introduced the concept of thymos, an individual’s drive to be recognized and to achieve.

Different people exude different levels of thymos. Same with teams, companies, and groups. Students need to assess where they sit on the thymos meter, and then seek out a culture and team that matches their personal level.

There is no right or wrong level of thymos. But a mismatch between the individual’s and organization’s thymos level will result in a bad fit. Recognize the importance of inner thymos, assess how it lines up with that of the team, and career choices become clearer.

A great proxy for high levels of thymos is a preference for in-person work over remote work. That’s true for individuals as well as companies. With the availability of remote work in a post-pandemic world, young professionals have a useful gage for matching thymos levels. If one is high-thymos, they may struggle on a team that embraces a remote work environment.

The conversation wrapped on the topics of advocacy and duty. It used to be that a professional could keep one’s head down and ignore the discourse of debate. Not so today. STEM professionals share a duty, morally and ethically, to advocate with fact and science. And to do so civilly.

That’s why I answered the call for Slippery Rock. And why I plan on coming back.

Crunching the Numbers: Energy Source Externality Accounting

Nick’s discussion and commentary below follows an inquiry from an academic team conducting research on externality costs. The inquiry asked to identify peer companies that either externalize the smallest or largest proportion of their costs. Externalities were defined as, “costs incurred by third parties, such as local communities, due to a company’s business operations that are not borne by the company itself.”

In his response to the inquiry, Nick suggests externality accounting is first performed across different sources of energy and power generation prior to assessing peers or competitors within a specific type of energy. Nick subsequently compares the externality costs between the natural gas industry versus the wind and solar industries.

Properly Sequencing Externality Accounting

Externality accounting is a useful tool when applied objectively, but one that is often misapplied and mishandled by those looking to dial in desired outcomes. Many fail to appreciate the sequencing of externality screening is crucially important when assessing entities across the energy industry.

Before assessing peers or competitors within a specific type of energy (such as natural gas), one should first apply externality accounting across the different sources of energy and power generation.

Thus, I propose a context of peer/competitor that is a level higher than, and a precursor to, what you proposed in your request.

The first cut of externalities should be done on an energy source-versus-energy source basis. In other words, domestic natural gas compared to wind or solar energy sources.

Society must screen options of energy sources within the wider portfolio first, and then set policy and investments to reflect the math of the externality accounting. First figure out the best energy source, as dictated by externality accounting.

After the first cut, or filtering, by energy source, one can then turn attention to different players within individual energy sources.

Getting the externality accounting/ranking for discrete energy sources (natural gas versus wind or solar) right is much more important than, and is a prerequisite to, screening or ranking individual players within an energy source (CNX Resources versus our natural gas competitors).

Many, including those in academia and government, have failed miserably to perform the rudimentary externality accounting and ranking of different energy sources. That leads to wrong-headed energy and climate policies resulting in dire consequences seen everywhere these days. Conditions will only worsen until this failure is corrected.

So, for the purpose of your inquiry and the discussion that follows, I am the natural gas industry, not just a player within it. And my peers/competition are the wind and solar industries, not another peer in the natural gas industry.

CNX Resources

CNX Resources is not a typical public energy company. We occupy a unique space in both the industry and region we call home.

We are nearly 160 years old – Abe Lincoln was president when we were incorporated. We manufacture natural gas in the northern Appalachian basin (PA/OH/WV/VA). The Appalachian basin “accounts for nearly one-third of all U.S. dry natural gas production,” and looks to be the second largest natural gas field on the planet. We operate in the Marcellus and Utica shales, we collect coal mine methane, and we operate midstream pipeline and processing infrastructure.

At CNX, our sustainable business model is simple: Tangible, Impactful, and Local. We’ve embraced the role as a regional innovator driving Appalachia’s socio-economic revitalization through local talent, homegrown energy, and breakthrough technologies.

We don’t apologize for what we do for society, we proudly celebrate it.

If our industry were to disappear tomorrow, society would come to a complete halt and humans across the planet would suffer greatly. That might not be what the experts or the environmental movement warrant, but that is certainly the engineering reality.

CNX recently unveiled its Appalachia First vision, which lays out many of the key themes I discuss below. Please learn more about our vision at The site includes an approximately 45-minute presentation where I further discuss Appalachia First, which can be best summed up as “produce it here, use it here, first.” I think you will appreciate some of the policy positions.

Natural Gas

There are a few, crucial scientific and engineering realities that are often ignored when assessing the externalities of domestic natural gas.

Natural gas is the most cost-effective form of energy in the United States, providing consumers, businesses, and homeowners savings in energy costs that total in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually. Rampant inflation has caught everyone’s attention these days; the most effective means to curtail general inflation is to simply allow natural gas to provide cheap energy so that energy inflation, and by extension general inflation, is mitigated.

Natural gas is the superior solution to immediate and material greenhouse gas emission reductions. Domestic natural gas has and can continue delivering these benefits while maintaining power grid reliability during the dark days of winter and dog days of summer.

Power grid reliability cannot be underscored enough. From college campuses to homes, from hospitals to emergency responders, and from government buildings to other businesses and facilities, America needs power all day and night, 24/7, 365 days/year.

Environmental Benefits of Natural Gas

Today, much attention is focused on methane emissions. Natural gas produced in Appalachia has the lowest methane intensity (0.09%) of all major U.S. oil and natural gas-producing basins, according to Clean Air Task Force data. Additionally, Rystad Energy analysis of CO2 intensity performance “brings Appalachia to the top quartile among all oil and gas fields globally” with the firm expecting the basin to “improve further in its CO2 intensity dimension in the next three to four years.”

When natural gas competes with alternative energy sources in a free market, emissions drop, and environmental quality improves. As natural gas-fired electric generation topped 40% of the total grid, power sector emissions dropped by nearly the same, per the U.S. EPA. “The decrease in coal-powered electricity generation and increase in natural gas and renewable energy electricity generation contributed to a decoupling of emissions trends from electric power generation trends over the recent time series,” the agency wrote in its April 2022 inventory.

Consider the specific example of the PJM power grid. Power sector emissions declined 11% year-over-year as natural gas grew to 44% of PJM’s total capacity. And, Pennsylvania had the highest absolute decline of energy-related CO2 emissions of any state between 1990 and 2018, with emissions falling as natural gas became the state’s largest electricity source. The data and facts are unequivocal, yet rarely heard.

Economic Benefits of Natural Gas

The environmental gains tied to natural gas come with additional economic and job creation benefits.

Natural gas development across Appalachia has breathed new life into forgotten Rust Belt communities and brought the building trades and apprentice programs to full employment.

Careers paying family-sustaining wages offer on-ramps to the middle class for young adults in urban and rural communities who are not able or wanting to attend college. Manufacturing, which relies on reliable and cheap energy inputs, is experiencing a resurgence across Appalachia and the Midwest, creating a downstream benefit to the natural gas industry. These create huge, positive externalities.

Investment and growth in the natural gas industry grows tax base for governments and communities. Today governments are desperate for sustainable endeavors and economic sectors that pay their fair share of tax. You won’t find another industry in Appalachia that pays more of a fair share of tax than the natural gas industry.

And natural gas is the catalyst that accelerates and de-risks the integration of next-generation technologies, such as hydrogen, into our economy. That creates optionality for innovation, a serious and positive contributor to the externality math.

Bottom line: there’s never been a better climate jobs program than the shale gas revolution. Performing an objective and clinical externality accounting would prove it.

Intermittent Wind and Solar Energy Sources

Now, let’s discuss the externalities of wind and solar.

The most fundamental misunderstanding about wind and solar is the myth that they present a zero carbon footprint. That is simply not true, not by a long shot.

Carbon footprint must be assessed on a life cycle, scopes 1-3, basis. It doesn’t matter to the atmosphere where the CO2 is emitted in the life cycle of making and running a wind turbine or solar panel; just because there is not a significant emission once in place does not mean there is a zero carbon footprint.

To accurately account for the carbon footprints of wind and solar, the supply chain of how wind and solar power ‘happen’ must be traced:

  • First, massive environmentally destructive mining must occur in Russia, China, and Africa for the metals and materials comprising wind turbines and solar panels. That presents a huge carbon footprint and large CO2 emissions.
  • The raw mining products must be processed to purify them, which also requires huge inputs of carbon power and the associated CO2 emissions.
  • Then components need manufactured in factories, often in China, that are carbon-powered.
  • Manufactured components are then shipped thousands of miles on carbon-fueled planes, trains, ships, and trucks to arrive in places like America.
  • Trees and land must be cleared to site pads and concrete will be used to build the pads for the turbines and panels, emitting more carbon dioxide.
  • New transmission lines must be run to every wind turbine and solar panel block/array, requiring the felling of more trees to create the rights-of-way and the manufacturing of the new power lines, adding to the CO2 emission tally.
  • Backup and reliable sources of generation will be required for when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing, which will typically be carbon-based power generation (often coal) creating more carbon dioxide emissions.
    • There is no such thing as a wind- and solar-only grid, because both sources of electricity are intermittent (battery storage cannot be scaled to serve as backup and it has a carbon footprint worse than wind and solar).
    • It’s also worth noting the double-building and maintenance of power generation units increases costs to consumers.
  • In seven to 10 years, you need to perform this process all over again, because the turbines become obsolete and must be scrapped (there is no way to recycle wind turbine blades) and solar panel efficiency declines year after year. The repeat of the cycle doubles the carbon footprint.

There is also the impact on surface land that wind and solar have to add to the externality analysis. For a 100% wind- and solar-powered U.S. grid, wind and solar farms would have to occupy 300 million additional acres of land beyond what’s used to power our economy today. That’s building solar and wind farms across land areas equivalent to Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, according to Bloomberg analysis of Princeton data. A ridiculous non-starter of course, yet no one seems to acknowledge it as such.

Negative externalities exist with the aforementioned disposal of turbines and panels beyond their useful lives. Wind turbines can’t be recycled and are “piling up” in landfills, according to Bloomberg. Solar panels contain hazardous materials which must be disposed of properly or risk environmental damage; most environmentalists would consider it hazardous waste (until you told them it was from solar).

Today, consumers want their eggs to come from cage free chickens, their tuna to be caught with dolphin friendly nets, their straws to be biodegradable, their detergents to not use chemicals harmful to water ecosystems, and their jewelry to have gems that are conflict-free.

Yet there is not a home in America today with rooftop solar that can say with certainty those panels were not partially manufactured by either child- or slave-labor. The human rights abuses tied to the murky global supply chains of wind and solar are egregious. Yesterday we were concerned about blood diamonds; today the concern should be about blood solar. The externality cost of human rights abuses in the manufacturing of wind and solar is sobering.

And there is no wind turbine in America today that can warrant it does not kill scores of birds and bats, many of them endangered. Offshore wind farms near New York and New Jersey are being constructed in the middle of endangered whale habitat, and, wouldn’t you know it, but dead whales are now washing up on beaches in New Jersey and New York. Yesterday we were worried about saving the whales and the bald eagle; today the worry should be how wind turbines lay waste to whales and eagles. Energy production that proves deadly to sensitive species and habitats should be reflected in an externality analysis.

Wind and solar require tax subsidy that exceeds total subsidy of natural gas, coal, or oil by orders of magnitude. When you add up the various programs and subsidies to favor wind and solar, the tally will register in the hundreds of billions of dollars (or perhaps even in the trillions of dollars), depending on what time frame you choose. Those valuable dollars could be invested elsewhere and should be added as an externality cost.

There are serious geopolitical externality costs tied to wind and solar. China’s control of the solar panel supply chain has ballooned to 84% over the past decade, with the country also controlling the bulk of critical minerals production and processing necessary for battery storage. This is a critical risk that presents energy security, supply chain, and national security concerns that manifest as negative externalities.

Wind and solar aren’t keeping pace with global energy demand, falling 165 exajoules short of needed capacity, according to the 2022 BP Statistical Review of World Energy. Growing global energy demand requires massive scale that cannot be met with wind and solar under the laws of physics.

When wind and solar inevitably fail to deliver at scale due to their engineering realities, energy security in places like Europe necessarily falls back to carbon-based fuels from places like Russia. That emboldens despots to use the gifted energy leverage to warmonger, as in the case of Ukraine. Climate policies and the resulting flawed reliance on wind and solar are the root causes of the war in Ukraine. The policies created a de facto EU reliance on Russian energy. What’s the externality cost of Russia in the Ukraine? Whatever it is, add it to the negative externality tally for wind and solar.

Add it Up

Tabulating the externality impacts of energy provided through natural gas and comparing it to those for wind and solar will present a trio of decisive and obvious conclusions:

  1. All economic activity and forms of energy have carbon footprints; there is no such thing as truly zero carbon power or a zero carbon economy.
  2. Natural gas offers the best net externality balance within an energy portfolio. Its externality benefits are substantial and diverse while its externality costs are modest.
  3. Wind and solar present a massively negative net externality cost to society, particularly when the attempt is to deploy them at scale.

These three conclusions are opposite of what is warranted by the environmental movement, and many in government and academia. Climate and energy policies are set that ignore the math. We share a duty to correct that.

Further readings
U.S. natural gas production set a new record in 2021
Benchmarking Methane and Other GHG Emissions of Oil & Natural Gas Production in the United States
“International analysis finds Marcellus best in carbon dioxide intensity”
Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2020
China’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Exceed Those of All Other Developed Countries Combined
Net-Zero America: Potential Pathways, Infrastructure, and Impacts
Wind Turbine Blades Can’t Be Recycled, So They’re Piling Up in Landfills
Statistical Review of World Energy