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Americans who think it’s a good idea to ban oil and natural-gas development and quickly transition to 100 percent renewables should tune into an energy reality show that will be airing in the form of cautionary news reports from across the pond all winter long.

Europe has rejected energy reality and embraced energy insanity. The result is an energy nightmare of its own choosing.

The continent’s push aimed at reducing greenhouse-gas emissions at all costs has actually led to record emissions this fall, along with unprecedented soaring energy costs and heightened dependence on Russian President Vladimir Putin. And the situation will only get worse as temperatures start dropping this winter.

Although the continent is heavily dependent on natural gas, virtually every European country has banned hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), a technology used on almost all new oil and natural-gas wells drilled in the United States to make them commercially productive. Fracking has drastically reduced U.S. energy dependence and could have done the same for Europe, which has instead chosen to import almost all the natural gas it consumes.

The continent has also shunned nuclear and coal, putting all its energy eggs in a wind and solar basket.

Predictably, these weather-reliant technologies haven’t even come close to meeting the continent’s energy needs as the weather has failed to cooperate in recent months. Europe typically relies on wind for a quarter of its power generation. But with the usually blustery North Sea very calm of late, the continent’s wind generation has dropped to just 5 percent of capacity. Natural-gas demand has spiked as a result. But with storage at all-time lows, Europe’s natural-gas prices have soared 600 percent this fall to the equivalent of $200 for a barrel of oil.

Electricity prices in the United Kingdom specifically have doubled and factories across Europe have shut down. Coal and fuel oil have become go-to alternatives to natural gas, leading to record greenhouse-gas emissions.

There is a clear lesson to be learned: Energy transitions have consequences if they aren’t executed pragmatically. U.S. policymakers who want to model Europe’s obtuse approach should take note and ensure it is not duplicated in the United States.

The key is acknowledging a simple fact: Contrary to what has been widely reported, the world not only needs a lot of oil and natural gas right now, but for decades to come as well.

Experts expect global oil demand to surpass pre-pandemic levels as soon as next year. A recent Department of Energy report also shows petroleum will likely remain the world’s top energy source and global oil and natural-gas consumption will grow steadily through at least 2050. And although renewables will grow dramatically, they likely won’t replace fossil fuels, instead serving as a supplement to overall energy consumption that will grow at an even more rapid pace than renewables.

The world will likely need all forms of energy — including oil and natural gas — to simply keep pace with demand growth. Fortunately, the United States is the top oil and natural-gas producer in the world and has the means to retain that title for quite some time, potentially shielding us from an energy crisis of the scale Europe is experiencing. But current policies aimed at reducing domestic energy production threaten to move us much closer to Europe’s position under Putin and OPEC’s thumbs than many realize.

Just months removed from the U.S. obtaining net-petroleum-exporter status on an annual basis for the first time on record, the White House has restricted domestic drilling while hypocritically begging OPEC to increase production to keep pump prices from soaring.

With much more stringent environmental safeguards than foreign suppliers and technologies such as carbon capture advancing quickly, the oil and natural gas America needs can be produced here in a much more environmentally sound fashion than any other place in the world.

Understanding and embracing this energy reality can help the United States avoid the nightmare that will likely haunt Europe all winter long. Here’s hoping our policymakers wake up to this fact before it is too late.

Seth Whitehead is executive director of the Illinois Petroleum Resources Board, which provides public awareness and education programs regarding the upstream Illinois oil and gas industry and works to clean up and restore abandoned oilfield sites throughout the state. Its programs are funded entirely by voluntary contributions of oil and natural gas producers and royalty owners in Illinois.

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