In the “Ugly” section of his piece, David Hogberg, like so many conservative pundits, pooh-poohs government subsidies for renewable energies. He’s right, and he’s wrong.
He’s right about ethanol. As a motor fuel it is a gross waste of resources. A recent, exhaustive study (78-page pdf file) by a scientist working out of Berkeley, of all places, found that it takes seven times more energy (farming, transportation, refining, etc.) to produce a gallon of corn-based ethanol, than the energy released when that gallon of ethanol is burned. Yep, subsidizing ethanol is a boondoggle. I’m withholding judgment for or against bio diesel, as I have yet to see a thorough examination of the economics of that fuel.
Hogberg is wrong, however, about wind power. It is not a boondoggle. Wind power appears to be one example of a government subsidy that has actually worked as advertised. Just stand under one of those ugly, noisy little wind turbines east of San Francisco installed over 20 years ago in the Altamont Pass. Next, stand under one of these sleek, whisper-quiet, magnificent feats of engineering being installed today. The new turbines generate over 30 times more power per machine than the old ones, for about a nickel a kilowatt. The old ones needed over 35 cents per kilowatt to make a profit. The tax credits made the wind turbine sales possible, and then the turbine manufacturers had to use their sales revenue, in part, to develop better and better turbines, or lose their business to their competitors.
I haven’t seen the actual figures associated with wind power tax credits, but just like the Bush tax cuts have produced higher gross tax revenues due to the increased economic activity spurred by the tax cuts, the tax credits for wind power, in the end, probably cost the government (meaning us, the tax payers) nothing, thanks to the resulting growth in the wind power industry.
Hundreds of wind turbines have recently been installed here around Abilene, Texas. It’s been an economic boon. I wonder how many thousands of welders have been hired to build the tower tubes. I wonder how many welders’ jobs have been created just to build the funky-looking custom trailers required to transport those big tower tubes. They all have FIT withheld from their paychecks. It takes hundreds of construction workers to build a wind farm. They all have FIT withheld. Upon completion, dozens of FIT-paying skilled technicians are needed to maintain the turbines in a wind farm. The demand is becoming so great a local trade school, Texas State Technical Institute, is now offering a Turbine Tech program. The turbines have more than a 20-year service life; the land leases are typically for 25 years, with options to renew; the contracts to sell the wind power to the utilities are usually 20-year contracts, so these skilled labor jobs will be there for decades to come. Furthermore, the landowners receive thousands of dollars per turbine per year in royalty payments. All of these dollars are subject to tax.
As a fuel, the wind is free. Every kilowatt generated by wind is a kilowatt that didn’t burn fossil fuel or create nuclear waste. However, it cannot replace our need for fossil fuel or nuclear power to generate electricity. Instead, it makes a great supplement. It slows the growth of demand for fossil fuels to generate electricity.
Our demand for power is so great, and the wind doesn’t blow all the time. That’s why wind power is called non-firm power. That’s why it’s priced lower than power from traditional sources. And that non-firm nature is why somewhere near those wind farms, a gas or coal or nuke plant (or even hydro) is throttling up and down to make up the difference. Grid operators are accustomed to this as it is the nature of AC power: supply must always equal demand, and electricity demand is always fluctuating. Adding non-firm wind power to the grid is simply another wrinkle in this age-old challenge for grid managers.p>Finally, Hogberg says the subsidies and tax credits make investment capital flow to these government favored renewable energies, “While other types of alternatives, that might prove more cost effective, get short shrift.” Oh? Just what are those “other types of alternatives”? br> —
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online