Archive for February, 2010

Wind power is a complete disaster

February 25, 2010

By Michael J. Trebilcock

There is no evidence that industrial wind power is likely to have a significant impact on carbon emissions. The European experience is instructive. Denmark, the world’s most wind-intensive nation, with more than 6,000 turbines generating 19% of its electricity, has yet to close a single fossil-fuel plant. It requires 50% more coal-generated electricity to cover wind power’s unpredictability, and pollution and carbon dioxide emissions have risen (by 36% in 2006 alone).

Flemming Nissen, the head of development at West Danish generating company ELSAM (one of Denmark’s largest energy utilities) tells us that “wind turbines do not reduce carbon dioxide emissions.” The German experience is no different. Der Spiegel reports that “Germany’s CO2 emissions haven’t been reduced by even a single gram,” and additional coal- and gas-fired plants have been constructed to ensure reliable delivery.

Indeed, recent academic research shows that wind power may actually increase greenhouse gas emissions in some cases, depending on the carbon-intensity of back-up generation required because of its intermittent character. On the negative side of the environmental ledger are adverse impacts of industrial wind turbines on birdlife and other forms of wildlife, farm animals, wetlands and viewsheds.

Industrial wind power is not a viable economic alternative to other energy conservation options. Again, the Danish experience is instructive. Its electricity generation costs are the highest in Europe (15¢/kwh compared to Ontario’s current rate of about 6¢). Niels Gram of the Danish Federation of Industries says, “windmills are a mistake and economically make no sense.” Aase Madsen , the Chair of Energy Policy in the Danish Parliament, calls it “a terribly expensive disaster.”

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported in 2008, on a dollar per MWh basis, the U.S. government subsidizes wind at $23.34 — compared to reliable energy sources: natural gas at 25¢; coal at 44¢; hydro at 67¢; and nuclear at $1.59, leading to what some U.S. commentators call “a huge corporate welfare feeding frenzy.” The Wall Street Journal advises that “wind generation is the prime example of what can go wrong when the government decides to pick winners.”

The Economist magazine notes in a recent editorial, “Wasting Money on Climate Change,” that each tonne of emissions avoided due to subsidies to renewable energy such as wind power would cost somewhere between $69 and $137, whereas under a cap-and-trade scheme the price would be less than $15.

Either a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system creates incentives for consumers and producers on a myriad of margins to reduce energy use and emissions that, as these numbers show, completely overwhelm subsidies to renewables in terms of cost effectiveness.

The Ontario Power Authority advises that wind producers will be paid 13.5¢/kwh (more than twice what consumers are currently paying), even without accounting for the additional costs of interconnection, transmission and back-up generation. As the European experience confirms, this will inevitably lead to a dramatic increase in electricity costs with consequent detrimental effects on business and employment. From this perspective, the government’s promise of 55,000 new jobs is a cruel delusion.

A recent detailed analysis (focusing mainly on Spain) finds that for every job created by state-funded support of renewables, particularly wind energy, 2.2 jobs are lost. Each wind industry job created cost almost $2-million in subsidies. Why will the Ontario experience be different?

In debates over climate change, and in particular subsidies to renewable energy, there are two kinds of green. First there are some environmental greens who view the problem as so urgent that all measures that may have some impact on greenhouse gas emissions, whatever their cost or their impact on the economy and employment, should be undertaken immediately.

Then there are the fiscal greens, who, being cool to carbon taxes and cap-and-trade systems that make polluters pay, favour massive public subsidies to themselves for renewable energy projects, whatever their relative impact on greenhouse gas emissions. These two groups are motivated by different kinds of green. The only point of convergence between them is their support for massive subsidies to renewable energy (such as wind turbines).

This unholy alliance of these two kinds of greens (doomsdayers and rent seekers) makes for very effective, if opportunistic, politics (as reflected in the Ontario government’s Green Energy Act), just as it makes for lousy public policy: Politicians attempt to pick winners at our expense in a fast-moving technological landscape, instead of creating a socially efficient set of incentives to which we can all respond.

Financial Post
Michael J. Trebilcock is Professor of Law and Economics, University of Toronto. These comments were excerpted from a submission last night to the Ontario government’s legislative committee On Bill 150.

Read more here.

Solar Panels – another Silly Roof Scheme

February 25, 2010

By Viv Forbes, Carbon Sense Coalition

The Carbon Sense Coalition today called for the immediate suspension of another of Mr Garrett’s silly roof schemes – the Roof Solar Panel Scheme. “This scheme is driven by the Renewable Energy Target Scheme, Renewable Energy Certificates and obligations on power companies to buy the inconsistent dribbles of electricity produced by solar panels on domestic homes.” The Chairman of Carbon Sense, Mr Viv Forbes, said that like the roof insulation scheme, the Roof Solar Panel Scheme was dangerous, ill planned and a massive waste of community funds.

“There are two aspects of electricity demand. “First is base load demand, which is present 24 hours a day, every day. However, sun power is maximised for only a few hours around noon and fluctuates with the seasons. Thus solar panels cannot replace even one iota of base load generating capacity. Coal, gas, hydro, nuclear or some expensive power storage system must sit there, ready to supply 100% of base load demand every night and on all cloudy days.

Any storage facility must be large enough to cope with several consecutive cloudy days. “The second power consideration is peak load demand, which tends to occur around meal times, night and morning. Solar panels contribute nothing at these times either.

“Therefore every dollar spent on roof solar panels duplicates capital already spent on conventional power generation – ie community capital is wasted. And the more panels, the more waste. “Roof solar panels also induce householders into danger. “Even quite small amounts of dirt, dust, bird droppings, tree leaves or suicidal kites will dramatically reduce the electricity generated by a solar panel. Someone must climb onto the roof to clean the panel. Inevitably, someone will fall off. “Solar power is not free. Whilst the sunshine is free, it can only be harnessed by the construction, collection, distribution, maintenance and replacement of solar panels and transmission lines, which are not free.

Solar power is an expensive option that will always need taxes or hobble-chains on competitors, support from taxpayers or coercion of consumers to survive. “Surely our parliament cannot be so negligent as to allow rock singers and lawyers to pretend that solar playthings have the reliability, capacity and safety to provide any useful contribution to the future energy needs of our homes, cities, trains, factories, mines and farms? “If solar panels are so good, consumers will buy them without coercion and subsidies. In reality they are a dangerous waste, so why should other consumers and taxpayers be forced to fund such folly?

“Places like Germany and California have learned to their dismay that massive stimulation of the solar power industry has done three unwelcome things. It has driven up electricity prices, driven away other industries and stimulated the manufacture of solar panels in foreign lands, mainly China.

And unless it is propped up by conventional power generation, the inevitable consequence will be network instability and blackouts. “Solar energy is useful for solar hot water systems, for power in remote locations, for small installations with battery backup and for growing plants. It is not useful for generating electricity for modern power grids. “The Roof Solar Panel Scheme should be suspended immediately and an independent enquiry made into its engineering and financial feasibility.” See this newsletter here.

See also: Solar Power Realities: Solar Power Hits the DustSolar Power – a subsidised Appendage: Solar Energy Costs and Economics: Dust on a solar panel will reduce its efficency by up to 50%.

Solar power project in Mojave Desert gets $1.4 billion boost from stimulus funds

February 24, 2010
 By Steven Mufson, Washington Post, Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Energy Department on Monday announced a “conditional” $1.4 billion loan guarantee for a solar thermal power complex in the Mojave Desert that would ultimately produce as much as 392 megawatts of electricity.

The loan guarantee would be drawn from the resources given to the Energy Department under the economic stimulus bill adopted last year. While the terms of the solar loan guarantee — like the terms of nuclear loan guarantees announced last week — are still being negotiated, the Obama administration highlighted the jobs it said would be created.

BrightSource, the project developer, estimates that during the construction phase, the solar power complex will employ about 1,000 people. Operation of the plant will require 86 permanent jobs (That’s $16.3 Million Spent for Every Permanent Job Created). BrightSource’s construction contractor is negotiating labor agreements with various trade unions, the Energy Department said.

Construction could start as early as later this year if BrightSource gets the necessary permits. Earlier this month, the company scaled back the proposed size of the third and final phase of the project because environmental groups had objected to the project’s impact on rare species such as the desert tortoise.

The solar plant is on federally owned land. So, while the Energy Department is seeking to promote the project, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management is supposed to be protecting the area.

BrightSource said it would reduce the footprint of the entire complex by 12 percent and cut the maximum power output to 392 megawatts (enough to power 140,000 California homes) from its initial proposal of 440 megawatts.

The plant would generate electricity using heat generated by the sun’s rays. BrightSource plans to erect thousands of “heliostats” on three solar fields. Each heliostat will have two mirrors that track the sun, and reflect it onto a boiler filled with water atop a tower. The boiler will produce steam for a turbine. The company says the mirrors will capture a greater percentage of solar energy than other solar thermal technologies.

The first of three fields is expected to begin construction in the second half of this year and come on line in 2012. The company plans to start commercial operation of the second plant in mid-2013 and the third later that year. Electricity from the project will be sold under long-term power purchase agreements with Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison Co.

BrightSource has $160 million in backing from Silicon Valley venture capital firms, Morgan Stanley, BP, Chevron, Google and others. Post is here.

Should Congress Embrace A ‘Clean Energy’ Standard?

February 22, 2010

Standard Still A Production Quota

By Marlo Lewis

Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute

Sen. Lindsey Graham’s Clean Energy Act is, like cap-and-trade, calculated to raise energy prices and expand government control over the economy for the benefit of special interests.

The public – and therefore the Senate – isn’t buying cap-and-trade, and no informed adult really believes we can “repower” America with wind turbines and solar panels. So Sen. Graham has come up with a slick alternative to both cap-and-trade and a national renewable electricity standard (RES) – a national “clean energy” standard (CES).

RES advocates claim they want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on Mideast oil, yet won’t allow nuclear power and coal with carbon capture and storage (CCS) to contribute to those goals. Graham’s CES avoids this rank inconsistency. (Or it does …

Sen. Lindsey Graham’s Clean Energy Act is, like cap-and-trade, calculated to raise energy prices and expand government control over the economy for the benefit of special interests.

The public – and therefore the Senate – isn’t buying cap-and-trade, and no informed adult really believes we can “repower” America with wind turbines and solar panels. So Sen. Graham has come up with a slick alternative to both cap-and-trade and a national renewable electricity standard (RES) – a national “clean energy” standard (CES).

RES advocates claim they want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on Mideast oil, yet won’t allow nuclear power and coal with carbon capture and storage (CCS) to contribute to those goals. Graham’s CES avoids this rank inconsistency. (Or it does in principle – it’s anybody’s guess whether in practice any new nuclear facility would qualify as “qualified nuclear,” or if CCS ever becomes economical.)

Nonetheless, Graham’s proposal does not deserve even one cheer from free marketers. A CES is still a Soviet-style production quota – an attempt to decree what percentage of America’s energy comes from what kinds of sources. And Graham proposes to fix these percentages not for the duration of a mere five-year plan, but for the next 40 years! For sheer hubris, that clobbers the ethanol mandate, which establishes production quota for 15-years.

Graham professes to believe that we cannot “clean the air” until we “price carbon,” but because cap-and-trade has hit a wall in the Senate, he is proposing a CES as a “bipartisan” alternative. However, the notion that we cannot clean the air without pricing carbon is bunk.

History is clear on this point. U.S. air quality has improved, decade by decade, for almost as long as we’ve been measuring it. Particulate matter, for example, has been dropping since at least the late 1950s. Between 1980 and 2008, nationwide air pollution levels decreased 79% for carbon monoxide, 25% for ozone, 92% for lead, 46% for nitrogen dioxide, and 71% for sulfur dioxide. Between 1990 and 2008, air pollution levels decreased 31% for coarse particulates (PM10) and 20% for PM2.5. This progress will continue under regulations already on the books or planned, as motor vehicle fleets turn over to cleaner vehicles and new capital stock replaces old.

Graham claims his main concern is not saving polar bears but saving American jobs. “Every day we wait in this nation [to price carbon], China is going to eat our lunch,” he explained at a February 3 conference (Business Advocacy Day for Jobs, Climate, & New Energy Leadership) in Washington, D.C.

The Senator is mistaken on two counts. First, “clean tech” industries that cannot compete without policy privileges are now and very likely will remain less competitive than the industries Graham would have them replace. That is a recipe for reducing wealth- and job-creation. In Spain, subsidies for “green energy” destroy about 2.2 jobs for every single job created. Similarly, Germany’s feeder tariff system promoting wind and solar power has produced net job losses.

Like many conservatives, Graham is a fan of nuclear power, but corporate welfare, whether right wing or left wing, benefits special interests at the expense of the overall economy. Federal nuclear subsidies have totaled $178 billion during 1947-1999, according to economist Doug Koplow. Yet as Cato Institute energy analyst Jerry Taylor points out, despite this largesse, no new nuclear plants have been built in 30 years. Why? Because the economic risks are too great:

“In short, even during the go-go days prior to the September 2008 crash – a time when Wall Street was allegedly throwing around money left and right to all sorts of dubious borrowers – the banks that stand accused of recklessly endangering their shareholders on other fronts were telling utility companies that they would not loan them anything for new nuclear power plant construction unless the feds unconditionally guaranteed every last penny of those loans. That’s how risky market actors think it is to build nuclear power plants.”

Piling mandate on top of subsidy would feed corporate welfare dependency, not ‘incentivize and reward the future,’ as Graham supposes.

Second, the notion that China will “eat our lunch” unless we handicap the most competitive sources of U.S. electric generation is deeply confused. China, after all, does not put a price on carbon! Indeed, one reason China has become a leading manufacturer of solar voltaic panels is that Chinese energy prices are low. Putting a price on carbon would jeopardize Chinese manufacturers’ access to abundant, affordable coal-based power (China’s consumption of coal for electric generation is projected to more than double from 2006 to 2030).

Nor is it the case that a nation must produce lots of zero-carbon energy for domestic consumption in order to compete in global “green tech” markets. China has become the world’s largest producer of solar panels, producing about 820 megawatts of PVs in 2007. But, due to their relatively high cost, China in 2007 deployed only about 20 megawatts of PVs domestically, mostly for “remote off-grid applications.”

A final point – enactment of Graham’s bill would not preclude subsequent enactment of a cap-and-trade bill or a more stringent CES. Recall how quickly the ethanol mandate grew between 2005 and 2007 – from 7.5 billion gallons per year by 2012 to 30 billion gallons per year by 2022. Recall also that Al Gore says we need it all – cap-and-trade, renewable energy mandates, tougher energy efficiency standards, and a carbon tax. Enactment of the Graham bill will surely embolden rather than mollify the global warming movement. As we should all know from Captain Hook, feeding the crocodile your hand does not make it less aggressive.

 

Chu on this

February 22, 2010

Energy Secretary “Nervous” that Congress’s Proposed Plan to Mandate the Use of Expensive, Unreliable Power Nationwide Doesn’t Quite Go Far Enough.

The Hill (2/20) reports, “Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Saturday that major Capitol Hill renewable electricity proposals would not prompt additional generation from sources like wind and solar power beyond the increases expected under existing programs. A “renewable electricity standard” (RES) that forces many utilities to supply escalating amounts of their power from renewable sources over time has long been a pillar of Democratic energy and climate bills, but has not become law. An RES approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last year sets a 15 percent renewable target by 2021, but roughly a fourth of that could be met through energy efficiency measures.

“My fear is that unless Congress passes something that is a little bit more than that, there will not be that incentive,” he said at a forum on energy issues at the governors’ meeting. Chu said he would like to see a standard that is “a little bit more aggressive than what’s being considered.” He noted that Vestas is “nervous” that unless there is a strong national standard, the market will not have sustained growth.

Don’t Show This to Tom Friedman (or Steve Chu): Top Wind Developer In China Tells Reporters “The Blades Do Not Work As Well As We Thought.”  

China Daily (2/22) reports, “Businessman Xu Zhichun’s plans were thrown up in the air when demand for the wind turbine blades his company made suddenly crashed. The vice-general manager of Tianjin Dongqi Wind Turbine Blade Engineering Co discovered few any longer wanted the 37.5-meter blades that were popular two or three years ago. “We were caught unprepared,” said Xu. “The blades do not work as well as we thought, and we had to step up production of longer. “It’s like taking a roller coaster: We are falling all the way from the top to the bottom,” said Xu.

Prices of turbine blades have decreased by about one third compared with those in 2004. Profit margins in some companies were 25 to 30 percent in 2004, but now the figures are just about 10 percent, said an industry insider.”We are not losing money, but not making much profit, either,” said Liang Xiaobing, deputy- general manager of Dongfang Electric (Tianjin) Wind Power Technology Co, a turbine-making unit under DEC.

China's wind energy industry sees challenges

NRCM isn’t working in Maine’s best interest

February 14, 2010
By J Dwight
Feb 14, 2010 12:01 am

The Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) has earned a reputation for protecting the environment and the people of Maine.

It has championed wind power development, delayed Plum Creek’s plan in Greenville and removed dams from Maine’s rivers in recent years. These actions have had an impact Maine’s economy.

To this columnist, the staff and board members of the NRCM seem to have lost their way. It appears they have gone from protecting Maine’s environment and people to harming them.

This can’t be good.

Leader in Wind Power Development

The NRCM’s 2008 annual report boasts that the organization helped produce a plan “to make Maine a leader in wind power development, ensure Maine people receive tangible benefits, and protect Maine’s quality of place.”

Because of this plan, an estimated 15,000 to 40,000 acres of Maine’s most beautiful and essential mountain top wildlife habitat will be destroyed by industrial wind developers.

Is a plan that causes permanent destruction of fragile mountain-top habitat protecting Maine’s “quality of place”?

Full implementation of wind power, it is estimated, will double electricity rates.

Is a plan that threatens high-paying, high-tech jobs at world-class semiconductor manufacturers by driving up utility rates leadership?

Few jobs are being created, and according to the Maine Revenue Service, few tax revenues will be forthcoming from wind development.

Is a plan that will bring few permanent jobs to Maine, and provide little or no tax revenue, while adding billions to the Federal deficit and debt, “ensuring tangible benefits”?

In Vinalhaven and Mars Hill, harmful mental and physical effects are troubling some citizens.

Is this a plan for protecting the people of Maine?

Delaying Plum Creek’s Development Plan

According to the NRCM, Plum Creek’s plan “will forever damage one of Maine’s most remarkable areas.” The NRCM is proud to have delayed Plum Creek’s development plan, on procedural grounds, not the validity of the plan.

Plum Creek’s plan will disturb only 1,500 acres for homes, buildings and roads, when allowed to move forward.

Compare that to a minimum of 15,000 acres permanently destroyed, and holes literally blasted out of mountainsides to make foundation sites for 25-story industrial wind turbines.

Don’t they see contradiction in this?

The Greenville area will gain 975 new homes, 100 rental cabins, two new hotels, a golf course, a new marina, new convenience stores, barber and beauty shops, and gas stations. New sources of tax revenue to the localities and the state are estimated between $25 million and $75 million.

Sounds like good community development to me.

Plum Creek’s plan could bring some 500 new permanent jobs, and perhaps over 1,000 temporary jobs, to the Moosehead region, five times what wind power development can claim.

How can they justify delaying jobs for working people in rural Maine?

A long-term conservation easement will be placed on 430,000 acres of forest by Plum Creek’s plan as well.

Does NRCM think that stopping the protection of these forests is wrong?

Hydro Electric Compared to Wind Turbines

NRCM pushed for the removal of three hydroelectric dams on the Penobscot River, the removal of the Edward’s hydroelectric dam on the Kennebec River, and prevented the building of the Big-A dam on the West Branch of the Penobscot.

Ironically, their work wipes out 200 megawatts of clean renewable energy, and kills some 50 sustainable jobs in Maine.

Comparing the Big-A hydroelectric dam to the similar amount of erratic wind power output is not equal, but I’ll do it anyway.

Side-by-side comparison for 40 megawatts: Big-A Hydro, cost $100 million, 20 acres disturbed; Wind power, cost $825 million, 2,500 acres destroyed.

Clearly, putting in the Big-A project would have been much better economically and environmentally for Maine. Ripping out more dams should be reconsidered. Investing the same $825 million in modern fish ladders and modern hydro-turbines is a better idea.

So, the questions begin to mount up.

Why is the NRCM for policies that destroy essential fragile habitat?

Why is the NRCM for industrial policies that hurt Maine economically?

Why is the NRCM for policies that are physically harmful to people and animals?

Why is the NRCM for policies that threaten high-paying high tech jobs at world-class semiconductor manufacturers?

Basing economic and environmental policies on the questionable theory of anthropogenic global warming seems very thin.

These are just a few of the questions the people of Maine need to ask the staff, and the board members of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and their supporters.

J Dwight is President & Chief Investment Officer of Dwight Investment Counsel

See post http://www.sunjournal.com/node/792690

Stimulating Green Jobs For China

February 14, 2010

Energy: When even Chuck Schumer is upset with the White House, you know something’s amiss. In this case, it’s news that efforts to boost wind power with taxpayer stimulus dollars are filling foreign coffers and creating foreign jobs.

According to the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University, nearly $2 billion in money from the American Recovery and Investment Act has been spent on wind power. The goal was to further energy independence while creating American jobs. It has done neither.

Of the money spent, according to the report, nearly 80% has gone to foreign manufacturers of wind turbines.

“In all due respect, I remind (Energy Secretary Steven Chu) there is a four-letter word associated with the stimulus — J-O-B-S,” Sen. Schumer, D-N.Y., told ABC News, which interviewed him for a report done in coordination with the workshop’s investigation. “Very few jobs here, lots of jobs in China.”

The only good thing one can say is that at least China is a real place, as opposed to the phantom ZIP codes and congressional districts in which the administration has claimed to have created jobs.

But how does buying wind turbines made in China create energy independence or create jobs?

Last October, on the day the workshop first reported on this story, a consortium of U.S. and Chinese companies announced a deal to build a $1.5 billion wind farm in Texas, using imported Chinese turbines.

The project is expected to create some temporary construction jobs in America. Some 2,000 manufacturing jobs will be created in China. In a message posted on his Facebook page, Secretary Chu wrote that the point of the grant program was “ensuring America leads the world in creating jobs in manufacturing the parts that go into wind farms” and even export components to foreign wind farms. It hasn’t worked out that way.

Of the 1,807 turbines erected on 28 wind farms receiving grants, foreign-owned manufacturers built 1,219, according to the workshop report. The installation of these turbines may have created as many as 6,838 manufacturing jobs overseas.

When the American Wind Energy Association released its 2009 year-end report on Jan. 26, CEO Denise Bode acknowledged that despite billions in stimulus spending, there had actually been a net loss in manufacturing jobs. Bode told USA Today she estimates the manufacturing job loss at 1,500.

Last March, a cargo of steel towers was unloaded at the port of Vancouver, Wash. They were made in Vietnam for a Danish wind company and destined for a Portuguese wind farm in Indiana that got a stimulus grant.

Read more here.

Cheap Natural Gas and Its Democrat Enemies

February 12, 2010
By Ed Lasky
 
We have the power to tap vast shale gas reserves that lie under our feet through large swaths of America, but special interest groups aligned with the Democratic Party are trying to frustrate plans to bring this cheap, plentiful, and clean energy to the surface. Who are the irresponsible parties?

 A primer on shale gas

Shale gas is natural gas trapped in rock formations far below the earth’s surface. These gas-bearing rock formations run in layers. American energy companies have developed the technology to drill horizontally through the layers. Then “fracking” happens. This is a process whereby a pressurized fluid (composed almost completely of water and sand, with a miniscule potion of commonplace chemicals that speeds the flow of the gas) is used to crack the rock and release the gas.  

We are the Saudi Arabia of shale gas. The potential is enormous. Already, landowners and states have benefited from royalty payments. Hard-hit communities are experiencing an economic revival. Small business, people looking for jobs, community centers, fire departments, and schools have all been beneficiaries.

More importantly, Americans have all benefited from low natural gas prices because of the bonanza of shale gas that has just begun to come our way. The talk of the need to build giant, expensive liquefied natural gas ports has ended. Threats of a natural gas cartel formed by our adversaries are just so much gaseous talk. Our national security has been bolstered (if Europe taps their own substantial shale gas reserves, the threats from Iran, Russia, and Algeria will be empty). Even the Russians are fretting about our fracking, expressing concern that this revolutionary development will weaken their own power. There is so much shale gas waiting to be tapped that the dream of natural gas-powered vehicles can very well reach fruition.
 
Who could possibly want to throw a wrench into these bright prospects?
 
Low shale gas prices create a problem for the renewable energy industry and for the promoters of solar, bio-fuels, and wind power.
 
These alternative energy sources all have problems associated with them. They are vastly more expensive than gas. For example, generating a megawatt-hour of electricity using natural gas costs $80; with wind it would cost $142, and solar would cost $396. Wind power is intermittent, interferes with birds, and is terribly inefficient; ironically, wind farms often must be backed up with natural gas-powered plants. Solar farms have a huge footprint and must be located in sunny areas; huge transmission lines trigger the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) reflex. Ethanol, created by refining corn, has caused a spike in food prices, may require more energy to produce than it creates, and depletes aquifers (corn is a thirsty crop).
Renewable-subsidies have been enormously wasteful, says Michael Liebreich, chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Even nuclear power, recently touted by Barack Obama as a way to bolster his political prospects, has no chance of meeting our energy needs. Even if any plants are able to navigate through all the obstacles that have prevented the building of any new nukes for decades, they will take additional decades to go online — if ever — and will merely replace the old nuclear power plants being decommissioned.
 
The technology to meet our energy demands is just not there; but for shale gas production, the technology is ready to go and being used today.
 
Unlike shale gas (which fills the coffers of communities and governments), all these renewable ventures consume our tax dollars. They could not survive on their own merits. They get billions in grants, subsidies, and tax breaks. The clean-energy industry is among the biggest winners among stimulus money recipients. The windfall? Over thirty billion dollars (and counting), including millions flowing to a geothermal-drilling technology company that has its address at an empty office. Ethanol and bio-fuels get subsidies that, measured on a per-unit-of-energy basis, are 190 times any subsidies given to oil and gas, and the subsidies given to the former are on the way up, while the latter are on the way down. California force-feeds utilities renewable electricity at a price five times more than the current price of electricity.
 
Democrats pass mandates requiring that a percentage of power be generated by renewable sources, and they force utility companies to buy power from renewable producers at vastly inflated prices. Green jobs are absurdly expensive to generate; studies have shown that for every “green job” created by artificial subsidies, more than two jobs are lost in the real world. Most such green jobs are temporary. Barack Obama’s dream to have them filled with felons reveals an agenda at work that has little to do with energy. Green jobs are just another government boondoggle.
 
Meanwhile, in the real world, Americans who hold acreage in the vast lands above shale gas fields are enjoying having their retirement needs met and their dreams of affording college for their kids and grandchildren fulfilled. Many of them are elderly farmers and are otherwise hard-hit. Should their dreams be denied so that well-connected venture capitalists and their political pals can become enriched with taxpayer dollars?
 
Because shale gas is cheap and plentiful, it poses a mortal threat to the avaricious dreams of venture capitalists and other “green” and “clean”  energy proponents. Their response: Bring in their political pals. Crony capitalism begets many sins.
Democrats are in hock to what can be called the “clean energy-political-legal-environmental” complex. Companies such as General Electric are huge beneficiaries of governmental largess and have been pushing “clean energy” for the past few years as the Democrats took over Congress. They are big purveyors of wind turbines, among other doodads. Wind power gets vast subsidies from the Feds. Indeed, it is the government that brings good things to GE.
 
Are we surprised that the networks owned by GE (NBC, MS-NBC) are so often considered biased in favor of Democrats? MS-NBC’s Chris Matthews is Barack Obama’s biggest fan in the media. My favorite magazine cover in 2008 is National Review‘s photo of Barack Obama patting his pet peacock…or is he feeding the peacock? You be the judge. He may not have been feeding the peacock back in 2008, but he sure is now, as he showers money onto GE and cavorts with Jeffrey Immelt, its chairman and CEO. Bartering positive coverage for taxpayer bucks? Stranger things have happened.
 
Then there is Ted Turner, who, when he is not running and slaughtering buffalo, wants to slaughter the taxpayer. He happens to be the largest individual landowner in America, and a chunk of it is in the sunny Southwest. He is now seeking to put this land to (his) good use by entering in a solar venture with a big utility company. But where else has he been investing his money? He has become a spokesman for “clean energy,” but he also puts his money where his famous mouth is by being the primary funder of the D.C.-based Environmental Working Group http://www.ewg.org — a front group that has been spreading specious stories about environmental problems associated with fracking.
 
These claims have been belied by states where fracking has been employed for years. But the goal of the critics is not education, but propaganda. Man-made climate change is not happening around the world. But it is happening in Washington, helped along by front groups such as the Environmental Working Groups and “investigative groups” such as Pro-Publica that may have their own less-than-clean motives (see “Cheap Natural Gas and Its Enemies” and “The Sandlers, Soros and The Marcellus Shale Reserves.”)
 
Not only do environmental groups get funding from people such as Ted Turner, but they may also benefit if they are successful in getting passed laws that lead to the splitting of shale gas royalties with them. The late Michael Crichton wrote of the ulterior motives of environmentalists in State of Fear, but ulterior motives don’t exist just in the fictional world. Do Democrats just want to throw the drilling process into the hands of environmental radicals, as a recent Investors Business Daily editorial speculates?
 
Politicians themselves are huge beneficiaries of the push for renewable or clean energy. The list of politically-tied beneficiaries of government dollars harnessed to clean energy can be as picayune as a window company that received government funds and is headed by the husband of the White House official in charge of weatherization to a nuclear power player with close ties to David Axelrod.
 
The money can also be redolent of earmarks. FutureGen — a project to create clean coal — is slated to be built in Illinois, courtesy of a billion or so in tax dollars. Is it a coincidence that Illinois was chosen for this plum, given that it is Barack Obama’s home state, as it is Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s, and Senator Richard Durbin’s — the second-most powerful senator in the Democratic Party?
 
Is it a coincidence that the government plans to spend billions of our dollars to fund high-speed rail projects, touted as energy-savers, in Illinois (also the home of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood)? Not if you read an article in the Chicago Tribune regarding how high-powered Democratic money men reached out to Chicagoans in the White House to pull strings to get the rails placed in Illinois. Is it also a coincidence that California, a fiscally tottering blue state, gets a line from Anaheim to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s district?
 
Maybe the push for rail just shows the European mindset of our Democratic leaders. Maybe Joe Biden has finally found a job (Lyndon Johnson had NASA; Joe gets something more down to earth that he can appreciate as one of Amtrak’s few riders). Maybe there’s a pressing need to spend $42 billion more, or maybe we just have old-fashioned patronage and pork-barrel politics going on, courtesy of the boys from Chicago — as the Washington Post believes.
 
And, of course, there are always the lawyers. They smell blood in the water, turned up by the chum thrown out by this or that environmental group, or by “investigative outfits” such as Pro-Publica. Class action lawyers are a key source of campaign funds for Democrats; the more laws and rules and regulations that are passed, the more profitable their lawsuits may become.
 
One could go on. Al Gore becomes a Green Earth billionaire, helped by heaps of government money (scratch that, our money — amounting to $529 million and change) flowing to his Fisker Automotive — a hybrid car company that has him as an investor, and, in a rare instance of government efficiency, also benefits Joe Biden’s home state of Delaware, where the plant to build the hybrids is located. But that is merely the tip of the non-melting iceberg for Gore: His career as a peddler of climate change hysteria has benefited his myriad investments in “clean” and “renewable” energy.
 
George Soros, the sugar daddy of the Democratic party, allied with the Sandlers (founders of Pro Publica) in various political ventures (among them Moveon.org) and has invested at least a billion dollars in “green projects.” His hedge fund’s biggest stake is in the Brazilian oil company Petrobas; he also has a big stake in a Canadian energy company, InterOil , that has a huge reservoir of natural gas in Papua New Guinea. All these investments will reap him huge rewards if the development of shale gas is hindered or halted in America — maybe they’ll be as good as his return-on-investment in the Democratic Party and Barack Obama.
 
While the Democrats engage in an orgy of spending to line the pockets of special-interest groups, the government is preparing to, as Hillary Clinton so eloquently phrased it, “tax everything that moves.” A molecule of carbon — even in the form of a clean fuel like shale gas — has become the mineral equivalent of an endangered species. The Environmental Protection Agency, headed by regulation-obsessed apparatchiks, is binging on carbon regulations and may well wheel around to regulate the small traces of chemicals found in the fracking fluids. The omnivorous EPA may be angling to take over regulation of fracking from the states — one more way federal power is being aggrandized at the expense of the people and their state governments. Doesn’t the EPA have quite enough on its plate?
Democrats led by Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) are leading the way in trying to tamp down the development of shale gas by playing up the environmental angle and threatening to derail Exxon’s purchase of XTO Energy (a major player in shale gas). Markey is also a strong proponent of cap-and-trade. Why would Markey rather accept subsidized heating oil from Venezuela’s thuggish Hugo Chávez than tap our own reserves? Doesn’t it get rather cold in Massachusetts in winter?
 
The federal government, under Barack Obama and his Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, is busy clamping down on leasing of lands with shale gas potential, toughening drilling rules, and imposing a bevy of taxes that will be recycled into subsidies and grants to their partners in the “renewable energy” racket. While he is turning off homegrown energy, Obama is helping China develop its own shale gas potential with technology developed by the American energy companies he wants to hinder.  
 
Perhaps Barack Obama really is a true believer in climate change (despite the cascade of news stories showing it to be snake oil). Maybe we can nickname him President Moonbeam. Perhaps he just wants to punish Big Oil and Gas, many of whom are headquartered in that red state of Texas. Or perhaps there is an ulterior motive. When campaign time comes, the tax dollars gifted to the executives and venture capitalists behind these endeavors will be recycled back into the Democrats’ campaign coffers — one recycling program that does work all too well. Barack Obama was the top recipient of campaign funds from both alternative energy and environmentalists, and received two million dollars from the agribusiness sector (that includes ethanol producers) during his presidential run.
Robbing Peter to pay off Paul is not a path to prosperity.
 
Who pays the price for this obstructionism? America does. We have the ability to remake the energy profile of our nation, keep our homes warm, our factories buzzing, and our cars fueled up — all with clean energy liberated from the rocks beneath our feet. All with our own technology. But not if the enemies of cheap natural gas have their way.

Ed Lasky is news editor of American Thinker.

Audi’s Gorewellian Super Bowl ad

February 11, 2010
By Jonah Goldberg
I watched the Super Bowl in the chilled air of the GFISZ (that’s Goldberg Family Ice Station Zebra). Here in Washington, we haven’t seen this much snow since at least 1922. The blizzard of 2010 took out our electricity for a day. Digging out from “snowmaggedon” was nothing less than an Augean challenge, though my lower back is, alas, less than Herculean. Meanwhile, snow canceled my daughter’s 7th birthday party Saturday and her school Monday. We’re slated for another foot by Wednesday.

Suffice it to say I’m not panicking about global warming right now.

Perhaps that’s why I was bemused and intrigued by Audi’s Super Bowl ad.

Audi’s “Green Police” (available on YouTube) depicts an America where citizens are arrested — roughly — for even minor environmental infractions. A man at the supermarket asks for a plastic shopping bag and has his head slammed against the counter as he’s cuffed by a Green Police officer. “You picked the wrong day to mess with the ecosystem, plastic boy,” quips the cop. When officers find a battery in the wrong suburban garbage bin, one big cop yells, “Battery! Let’s go! Take the house!”

It’s a fascinating commercial. They even got Cheap Trick to rerecord “Dream Police” as “Green Police” for the soundtrack. But just as the satire becomes enjoyable, the message changes. Until the pitch for Audi intrudes, you’d think it was a fun parody from a right-wing free-market outfit about the pending dystopian environmental police state.

The pitch involves an “eco roadblock.” A young man driving an Audi A3 TDI is singled out by an inspector. “We’ve got a TDI here,” he says. “Clean diesel,” he adds approvingly.

“You’re good to go, sir,” the cops inform the driver. The smiling Audi owner accelerates to happiness on the open road. The screen fades to black and the tagline appears — “Green has never felt so right.”

So, instead of some healthy don’t-tread-on-me mockery, the moral of the story is that we should welcome our new green overlords and, if we know what’s good for us, surrender to the New Green Order.

Some eco-bloggers disliked the ad because it reinforces the association of undemocratic statism or PC bullying with environmentalism. Perhaps that’s why the New York Times dubbed it “misguided.”

Meanwhile, some conservatives didn’t like it because it makes light of what they believe is actually happening. After all, in America and Europe, the list of environmental crimes is growing at an almost exponential rate. The ad is absurd, of course, but not nearly as absurd as Audi thinks.

What was Audi’s intent? Presumably, to sell cars.

“The ad only makes sense if it’s aimed at people who acknowledge the moral authority of the green police,” writes Grist magazine’s David Roberts on the Huffington Post. The target audience, according to Roberts, are men who want to “do the right thing.” He’s certainly right that the ad isn’t aimed at people (whom he childishly mocks as “teabaggers”) who worry that their liberties are being slowly eroded.

But the message is hardly “do the right thing.”

To me, the target demographic is a certain subset of spineless upscale white men (all of the perps in the ad are affluent white guys) who just want to go with the flow. In that sense, the Audi ad has a lot in common with those execrable MasterCard commercials. Targeting the same demographic, those ads depicted hapless fathers being harangued by their children to get with the environmental program. MasterCard’s tagline: “Helping Dad become a better man: Priceless.”

The difference is that MasterCard’s ads were earnest, creepy, diabetes-inducing treacle. Audi’s ad not only fails to invest the greens with moral authority, it concedes that the carbon cops are out of control, unjustly bullying people and power-hungry (in a postscript scene, the Green Police pull over real cops for using Styrofoam cups). But, because resistance is futile when it comes to the eco-borg, you might as well get the best car you can.

It will be interesting to see whether the ad actually sells cars. The premise only works if you take it as a given that this Gorewellian nightmare is inevitable. But the commercials arrive at precisely the moment when that inevitability is unraveling like an old pair of hemp socks. The global warming industry is imploding from scientific scandals, inconvenient weather, economic anxiety and surging popular skepticism (according to a Pew Research Center survey released in January, global warming ranks 21st out of 21 in terms of the public’s priorities).

Personally, this week, I don’t want a car to get past the Green Gestapo. I’m looking for something that can power through the frozen tundra separating me from the supermarket. See post here.

Study Finds Advanced Coal-Fueled Technologies Could Deliver 13:1 Return by 2020

February 10, 2010

The smart money is on clean coal. That was the conclusion of “Benefits of Investment in Clean Coal Technology,” a new study by Management Information Services on behalf of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE).

Within the next decade, researchers found that the American taxpayer will see a $111 billion return on federal investment in the development and deployment of advanced coal-fueled technology.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE)’s Clean Coal Technology program will deliver $13 in economic benefits by 2020 for every dollar it spends, including 100,000 new jobs.

Management Information Services, which has conducted similar studies for the National Academy of Sciences, arrived at this result by calculating economic advantages from clean coal technologies, including energy-efficiency savings, job creation, increased U.S. exports from energy-intensive industries and the competitive value of stable pricing and energy security from a Made-in-America resource. The study supports an emerging expert consensus that coal with carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) is the low-cost, low-carbon solution to economic, energy and environmental needs and could be 15 to 50 percent less expensive than nuclear, wind or natural gas with CCS.

In the past year, Americans reaped $1.70 per dollar directed to coal-fueled energy technology, and this return is projected to grow:

  • In as little as two years, the cumulative benefits from the DOE’s coal technology investment program are projected to reach more than $12 billion, while cumulative costs will likely total $4.4 billion, for a return of nearly three times the initial investment.
     
  • By 2015, the benefits are expected to total $41 billion and cumulative DOE costs will likely be $5.7 billion, for a return of more than seven times the initial investment.
     
  • And in the next decade, cumulative DOE costs are estimated to total $8.5 billion, for a $13 return for every dollar invested.

The study’s findings are supported by the DOE’s own research. Since the department first began investigating the issue in 1999, the DOE found that publicly funded clean coal projects yielded superior returns for the U.S. taxpayer when compared with competing energy investment programs. In fact, after 50 years and more than $50 billion in investment, wind and solar comprise just 1 percent of today’s U.S. energy mix.

Learn more about clean energy solutions for the 21st Century at CoalCanDoThat.com.


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