SCHNARE: Campaign advice for ‘all of the abovers’

Wind power can be more expensive and dirty than we think

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As most of the Republican presiden- tial hopefuls stake their posi- tions to win the hearts of the party’s base, the Tea Party has made it safe for honest conservatives to stand up and demand more than spin.

If we can demand fiscal responsibility, however, we also should demand fiscal honesty. And, if there is a subject where Republicans should be willing to be honest, it is on environmental and energy policy - in particular, climate change. After all, environmental policy does not sway voters, as it always ranks last on surveys that ask about domestic priorities. Republicans don’t get any of the hard “green” voters and never will, so they should be honest about today’s hallmark environment and energy issue.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is just the latest to state that he doesn’t believe the science on climate change is settled - a nice start. Unfortunately, all the candidates say they support an “all of the above” energy policy, which is problematic. Are they talking about options available within the free market or about an outcome determined by bureaucrats to be forced on the public?

If the candidates understand what “all of the above” has meant traditionally, they would know that it is often “greenwashing” code for reduction in fossil fuel use and support for mandates and subsidies for renewables such as wind as a replacement. That means they oppose the increase in use of cheap, affordable energy in favor of continued heavy intervention by government. We’ve seen how well that turns out.

Texas provides a good example of why “all of the above” mandates as an outcome is a failed energy policy. As Science reported in April 2009, “In the afternoon of Feb. 26, 2008, the winds died down in a stretch of west Texas that is home to thousands of tall wind turbines. Over a span of three hours, the turbines’ combined contribution to the state’s electricity grid fell by 75 percent. That 1500-megawatt (MW) drop - equivalent to the output of three midsized coal-burning power plants - coincided with a spike in demand.” In response, the grid operators shut down several large industrial customers.

As Science put it, “Texans were blissfully unaware that the state’s grid had just dodged a bullet. But the episode was an unsettling reminder that not all electricity is created equal.”

Wind isn’t just unequal in terms of reliability; windmills actually cause more air pollution than coal plants operating as designed. Texas is a nasty reminder of this. Along with other facilities, state utilities often depend on two coal-fired plants to “balance” the wind power, which means they fill in when the wind stops and must continue to “spin” when the wind blows. They still must burn coal to prevent the windmills from crashing the electrical grid when the wind drops, so they can instantly fill in electricity when needed.

This goes on all across the nation. As a result, Texas and other states subsidize and mandate more pollution at higher costs in taxes and electricity rates, all because political rulers have placed a climate-change belief system ahead of good science, with disregard for electricity customers and taxpayers who are least able to pay for more expensive renewables. A 2008 report by the Texas Public Policy Foundation estimated that the Lone State State’s wind industry would benefit from more than $28 billion in federal and state subsidies by the year 2025.

Because dirty, costly wind energy is masquerading as an essential element in “all of the above” as outcomes, the Republican candidates who cite it stray from conservative limited-government principles and instead adopt a coercive policy when it comes to energy. In effect, the “all of the abovers” tacitly support the climate-change “solution” agenda without acknowledging that there’s a problem in the first place.

The presidential candidates who want the support of fiscally conservative, sensible environmentalists should put sound science and free-market principles ahead of compulsion and subvention, and therefore should promote the options for the most economical energy available, without subsidies and mandates.

Otherwise, as we’ve seen from the similar regulatory policies of California’s last Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, that leads to disastrous economic consequences with high unemployment and businesses fleeing the state.

David Schnare is director of the Environmental Law Center at American Tradition Institute.

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