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Going With the Wind

A tax credit that works? Defeatism is in the air. Also: August 7 in Tanzania. Chicago's new Rev. Ike. Find a new global warming thesis. Plus more.

1.24.07

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THE ANSWER, MY FRIEND
Re: David Hogberg's The Good, The Pretty Good, and The Ugly:

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.

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"?
-- Bruce Clark
Texas Independent Oil Producer

DEFEATIST DEMS
Re: John Tabin's Making An Effort:

While the American public may not be ready to accept slaughter in Iraq now, those of us who love freedom and abhor genocide should be prepared for the inevitable with Democrats in power. The Democrat Party since the administration of FDR has had at best a track record of indifference to tyranny and genocide. While the trend can be traced to the cynical administration of FDR, one only has to look back to Carter and Clinton to see how Democrats not only accept, but condone dictatorships and death. Jimmy Carter, America's worst President, may have talked about human rights, but his legacy was the theocratic tyranny of the ayatollahs in Iran and a burgeoning Islamic imperialism spearheaded by terrorists. Bill Clinton, who preached regime change in Iraq and did nothing, actually condoned and abetted genocide in Rwanda, the Sudan, Darfur and the Balkans. The only time he used US troops was to restore a dictator to power in Haiti and defend Iranian-backed Muslim and terrorist groups in the Balkans. His vaunted military operations in Kosovo were aimed at supporting Muslim terrorists, drug dealers and the number one human traffickers in Europe. That's a military "victory" the American people can be "proud" of. Let's not forget it was the party of Jim MINO Webb that abetted genocide in Southeast Asia too.

Happy days are here again and Democrat's willingness to condone tyranny and genocide will lead to a bloody future.
-- Michael Tomlinson
Jacksonville, North Carolina

AN AL JOLSON STORY
Re: Thomas Craughwell's Abraham, and Martin, and John... and Barack?:

Thomas J. Craughwell states that "Father Pfleger is the Archdiocese of Chicago's version of the Rev. Al Sharpton. Granted, he's not as flamboyant as the Reverend Al..."

If Mr. Craughwell ever saw Father Pfleger perform, he might change his mind. Pfleger ain't bad for a no-rhythm honky. He can even sound like the Reverend Ike. I'd suggest that he'd be more convincing in some Al Jolson blackface -- but the white liberals wouldn't tolerate that!

Just about everyone in Chicago ridicules Pfleger. In this letter, I am as moderate as I can be.
-- Jack Hughes
Chicago, Illinois

DO YOU REMEMBER DARES SALAAM?
Re: Shawn Macomber's Do You Remember Nairobi?:

I was on Active Duty, serving in the United States Air Force, stationed at Ramstein Air Base, and August 7th [1998] was supposed to be my last day of duty at the job. I was being transferred back to the United States, a little closer to home (if Arizona was closer to Ohio than Germany was).

I took the initial telephone call, from a person assigned to the American Embassy in Nairobi, "We've been bombed!" Immediately I made numerous telephone calls, the Base Commander recalled the Battle Staff, and lots of people would be converging in a few minutes. In the middle of all this -- a new wrinkle, where was the bombing, Tanzania or Kenya? I had people insisting it was one or the other, not both. It 20 minutes I got confirmation -- embassies in BOTH countries were bombed, and alerts were going out for the others.

The group that "claimed" the responsibility WAS NOT a stranger to many of us, and it seemed we waited for "the other shoe to drop" for days.

In the days that followed, my social plans were canceled, seems many of my friends were going "South." I packed up my apartment, waited on movers and then had a few days living out of a suitcase in transit billeting, waiting to out-process. I was at work, doing what I could. I assisted in arranging "honors" for the bodies of some of the American Embassy staff killed in both bombings, I helped to get people, especially medical teams out of Germany and South to two far away countries in Africa.

Shawn Macomber, I never made it down to Kenya, I volunteered to be on the team, but a group from a CONUS base was deployed to set-up operations there and in Tanzania. There are many of us that "remember." I do not need a museum, I close my eyes and can see the images from the video that we saw "real time" from when cameras were on site from various news organizations.
-- S. Dent

THROWING OUT JUNK SCIENCE
Re: Peter Hannaford's Greenhouse Gasbaggery:

For many years, my wife's cousin worked as a meteorologist at the regional weather center located in the Kansas City metro area until his retirement in the late 1990s. Much of his career occurred before the introduction of the sophisticated weather tracking equipment and satellite technology in use today. Meteorologists of his day relied heavily on historical data and experience to predict weather trends and severe storms. At family gatherings, he would regale us with many interesting and often humorous anecdotes about the wildly unpredictable world of weather forecasting. The thing he stressed over and over was his belief that certitude about global weather conditions and their consequences was a characteristic that people in his profession should disdain.

When I asked him about global warming his response was predictable. He scoffed at the notion that current climactic conditions warranted the panicked responses emanating from the media, academia, environmental extremists and political hacks like Al Gore. He cited similar weather conditions from the past, i.e., the Dust Bowl era of the '30s that demonstrate that weather patterns are cyclical in nature and that historical evidence supports their reoccurrence every 60 years or so.

It suddenly occurred to me why schools in this country don't teach logic anymore. If they did and took it seriously, much of what passes as science would need to undergo severe revision or be discarded entirely. In the '70s, I recall seeing Paul Ehrlich preaching gloom and doom on The Tonight Show, and calling for draconian remedies to thwart the plague of over-population. In his book, The Population Bomb, he made dire predictions about global starvation brought on by famines caused by too many people living on the planet. Of course, none of his prognostications came to fruition, but he remains unrepentant. After being completely discredited on that issue, he is back promoting a new wave of hysteria by jumping on the global warming bandwagon. Most of the folks promoting this madness begin with deeply flawed premises from which they derive equally flawed conclusions. How many times do quacks like Paul Ehrlich, radical environmentalists and their willing lackeys in the media have to be proven wrong before we tell them to do the rest of us a favor by assimilating themselves forever into the temporal cosmos they so fervently worship?
-- Rick Arand
Lee's Summit, Missouri

WRITING CLASS
Re: William Tucker's The Global Warming Two-Step:

Mr. Tucker's distinction between "liberals" and "conservatives" in the global-warming standoff misstates the issue. The real divide, which I've been following for more than ten years now (although the Time magazine cover scare some months back marks the time when I started tuning out), is between those who are using dubious science to push a socio-political agenda and those who say it's wrong to do so. To frame the issue abstractly as just another fault-line, like gun control or capital punishment, is to obscure the sinister and corrupt features of the issue.

Since his real concern is frankly to rescue his book, I think Tucker should consider the standard writing-teacher's advice for dealing with an untenable thesis: just change the thesis. He seems to have enough material on the topic to turn his book into a useful analysis of the debate itself -- and thus a best-selling exposure of the corruption of science and public discourse.
-- John R. Dunlap
San Jose, California

I am not sure that Mr. Tucker's conclusion is adequate in order to justify spending a lot of money on global warming, even if it is real but not proven that man is a substantial factor.

First of all, if man is not a substantial factor in the production of global warming, it is unlikely that there would be any possibility that the existing economies could be rearranged to reverse it. Also, when would we know when to stop reversing it?

For the past decade or so, we have had about 40,000 highway deaths a year and that total stubbornly stays with us. It is worth it to spend something on reducing this total but, I don't think it wise to reduce the speed limit to five miles per hour to go after this goal.

For the same reason, we do not want to reorder our economies to go after building the infrastructure of a universal thermostat for earth. Mr. Tucker's opinion that it is "worth it" is extraordinary given the difficulty in carrying out such a complex calculation. We have not yet mastered a computer model of the atmosphere and every molecule in it must respond slavishly to the laws of physics. Our economy, on the other hand, responds to wise and unwise investments, is infested with inefficient control, income transfers and counter cyclical measures authored by governments and is the sum of the cumulative decisions of billions of people several times a day.

There is a big difference in feeling like it is worth and knowing that it is worth it. Even if the government does nothing, each sector of the economy that has an impact, good or bad and will adjust to the different temperatures in a way that is best for them. If the government gets involved, that freedom and opportunity will be lost.
-- Danny L. Newton
Cookeville, Tennessee

While coal combustion may produce lots of carbon dioxide, please, let's not write off this fossil fuel and its vast domestic reserves quite yet.

Why?

One, the debate about global warming remains unfinished. It's still full of lots of he-saids, she-saids, as well as genuine "political" science.

Plus there's the global-warming bias of the likes of Al Gore, who apparently doesn't like criticism or being challenged. While globe-trotting to spread his message, Gore recently refused to participate in an interview in Denmark with Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist. According to OpinionJournal.com, Lomborg has "been very critical of Mr. Gore's message about global warming and has questioned Mr. Gore's evenhandedness."

Two, a project called FutureGen focuses on developing advanced coal-fired power-generation technology that will have essentially zero CO2 and other atmospheric emissions, while producing hydrogen and electricity. At FutureGen's heart is the integrated gasification combined cycle, or IGCC, power-plant technology. Also part of FutureGen is carbon sequestration, through capturing the C02 and then injecting it into geologic or other reservoirs.

But just as the debate on global warming won't end soon, neither will coal-fired electricity generation disappear anytime soon. Could broad-scale nuclear work, though? Why not? It's time we gave it more of a chance.

I think we also need to ensure, however, that coal and nuclear can and do coexist to everyone's benefit.
-- C. Kenna Amos
Princeton, West Virginia

Well, it appears my favorite TAS contributor, William Tucker, (hint: think sarcasm here) is slowly finding his way out of the woods once again. Last episode, you might recall, the intrepid Mr. Tucker was regaling us with tales of his inept survival instincts, with his faithful and loyal companion, his Golden Retriever, in mortal peril. Fortunately, the Golden survived. Whew!! Oh yeah, you too, Mr. Tucker.

In today's tale, Mr. Tucker posits a perfectly reasonable discussion on global warming and the liberal's conundrum over the use of nuclear power to counter act its effects. So far, so good. You might even take note that France, the beloved nation of the American Left, uses nuclear power for over 70 percent of its energy needs, with nary a mishap. Paris still stands, granted, less about 10,000 Parisians from a recent heat wave, but that's another story. Yet France's remarkable success is greeted with silence from America's environmental movement.

Mr. Tucker is beginning to see daylight here, thanks, much to his surprise, from "alert readers" of TAS. Yes, it was TAS's reader rabble, something akin to the bleacher creatures who inhabit Yankee Stadium, who alerted Mr. Tucker to the hockey stick fraud and the Medieval Warming Period. Glad we could be of help. Just try to hide your incredulousness next time, if you don't mind.

But seriously, it is indeed Guerrilla warfare, as the American Left, with its academic and media darlings in tow, relentlessly pushes America back into the 18th Century. The Orwellian battle over deliberately vague, yet politically charged terminology is in full gear, with Leftist academics, acting like two bit political hacks, shilling for suspect scientific theories, in order to binge at the huge trough of private and government grants. Even the Weather Channel has $$ dancing in its head. But anyway Mr.
Tucker, you're making real progress here. Yes, to the Medieval Warming. Yes, to the sun being the main agent of temperature change. Who would have thunk it? But unfortunately, yes, to the carbon emission hysteria. Two out of three -- not bad, you're almost out of the woods. Maybe you should let your Golden take the lead.
-- A. DiPentima

Thank you for the interesting article. Steven Milloy, who writes "Junk Science" for Fox News, has a good article on CO2 levels and how they have been manipulated like global temperatures. Here it is.
-- Stuart Pearce, PE
Charleston, South Carolina

WEBB OF INCOMPETENCE?
Re: Richard L.A. Schaefer's letter (under "What Did Webb Know?") in Reader Mail's Oversight Exercised:

Dubuque contributor Richard L.A. Schaefer is to be congratulated for recognizing that a freshman senator may have indulged in an artful bit of deception in his response to the State of the Union.

When Sen. James Webb referred to President Eisenhower's asking "Whence comes the end?" regarding Korea, Mr. Schaefer recalled that "what Eisenhower decided to do was to threaten North Korea with nuclear weapons, and that brought the war to an end."

Mr. Schaefer correctly observes, "Webb did not tell us, either, whether he thought the Vietnam War, in which he and his brother fought, involved presidential decisions that were also mistaken, if not reckless, actions by Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford." And drives the point home by asking the obvious questions: "If they were, why did he and his brother fight in those wars? If they weren't, why did the U.S. lose? Does Webb think the war was a good cause, but lost because Congress cut off funding any such actions? ... isn't it possible... that Congressional mistakes similar to the one that helped lose the Vietnam War should be avoided regarding the war in Iraq?"

A grateful nation rightly honors the Vietnam service of the newly elected Virginia senator and former Marine combat leader. Many (including me) have found the several books he has authored eminently readable. But there is another factor to consider in evaluating the context of Webb's attempted rebuttal.

Before we rush to embrace a viscerally angry Senator Webb's emotional advice to cut and run -- to abandon our President, our troops now in harm's way, and the Iraqi people we have asked to trust us -- we really should consider the revealing quality of Webb's performance as the man Reagan chose to succeed the magnificent John Lehman as his Secretary of the Navy.

Webb's tenure in that post can most charitably be described as "brief". He wasted no time using a staged disagreement with then-Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci as an excuse to cut and run: he abruptly resigned in a childish fit of pique, leaving those in the Navy and Marine Corps who had thought we would have a tiger in the political halls of power to represent them gazing instead -- in astonishment and dismay -- at the hitherto unsuspected character of this thin skinned pussy cat who had obviously wasted little time getting himself in way over his head. In making this choice to fill a challenging, highly political post, Reagan belatedly discovered he had sent a boy -- with a chip on his shoulder -- in to do man's work. One cannot help but wonder how soon voters of the Old Dominion will also experience buyer's remorse after putting their trust in this rather brittle fellow to represent them in the halls of political power.

Let us resolve, therefore, not to take the counsel of Fear in the face of Adversity as Webb would have us do, but instead count our blessings: In marked contrast with the still wet behind the ears junior senator from Virginia, a seasoned Man For All Seasons now presides as the Commander in Chief in this historic time of a war that will determine if our 231 year experiment as a self-governing democratic republic has at last come to an end ... or if we will instead rise to the occasion as did our ancestors to pass the Torch of Liberty on to our children and grandchildren.

The troops will continue perform brilliantly in the field, but the choice of whether to win or lose this war is not theirs, but ours here at home.

As for me, the WWII ditty says it all: Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!
-- Thomas E. Stuart LCDR USN Ret.
Kapa'au, Hawaii

BUMPER VAN
Re: R. Andrew Newman's Bumper-Sticker Profiling:

I have two stickers on my van, both of which draw occasional questions about what they mean. One reads, "26 + 6 = 1" and the other reads "Pog Mo Thoin!" I always enjoy explaining these. I have seen two others that I particularly enjoyed, one being "Save the Whales, Collect the Whole Set," and the other was, "Visualize Using Your Turn Signals."
-- W. B. Heffernan, Jr.

BEST OF DELAY
Re: Hal G.P. Colebatch's James Patrick Baen, 1943-2006:

I wanted to let you know that the article about James Patrick Baen has been included in the best of the web section at TomDeLay.com, please feel free to check it out.
-- Steve DeMaura

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