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DRIESSEN: Wind down wind subsidies
Facts should cause fad to blow over
A growing national coalition opposed to perpetuating industrial wind giveaways and mythical wind-power benefits has inspired thousands of Americans to call their senators and representatives - and defeat four different subsidy bills. A shocked American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) began aggressively recruiting well-connected political operatives and co-sponsors, Republican and Democrat alike, who introduced more proposals to extend the production tax credit (PTC). It also launched parallel efforts in many state legislatures.
To confront AWEA claims, taxpayers and ratepayers should seek an education in wind energy.
Energy 101: It is impossible to have wind turbines without fossil fuels, especially natural gas. Turbines average only 30 percent of their “rated capacity,” and less than 5 percent on the hottest and coldest days, when electricity is needed most. Hydrocarbon-fired backup generators must run constantly, to avoid brownouts, blackouts and grid destabilization owing to constant surges and fall-offs in electricity to the grid.
Energy 201:Despite tens of billions in subsidies, wind turbines still generate less than 3 percent of U.S. electricity. Thankfully, conventional sources keep our country running - and America still has centuries of hydrocarbon resources, if only our government would make them available.
Economics 101:It is impossible to have wind turbines without perpetual subsidies - mostly borrowed from Chinese banks and future generations. There is no credible evidence that wind will be able to compete economically with traditional energy in the foreseeable future, especially with abundant natural gas costing one-fourth what it did just a few years ago. It makes more sense to rely on the plentiful, reliable, affordable electricity sources that have powered our economy for decades, build more coal and gas-fired generators - and recycle wind turbines into useful products (while preserving a few as museum exhibits).
Economics 201:As Spain, Germany, Britain and other countries have learned, wind-energy mandates and subsidies drive up the price of electricity - for families, factories, hospitals, schools, offices, churches and shops. That means two to four traditional jobs are lost for every wind or other “green” job created. It means the 37,000 jobs that the AWEA claims the U.S. wind industry creates (via $5 billion to $10 billion in combined annual subsidies, or $135,000 to $270,000 per wind job) are likely costing the United States 74,000 to 148,000 traditional jobs every year.
Environment 101:Industrial wind-turbine projects require enormous quantities of rare-earth metals, concrete, steel, copper, fiberglass and other raw materials; for highly inefficient turbines, multiple backup generators and thousands of miles of high-voltage transmission lines. Extracting and processing these materials, turning them into finished components, and shipping and installing the turbines and power lines involve enormous amounts of fossil fuel and extensive environmental damage.
Environment 201:Wind turbines, transmission lines and backup generators also require vast amounts of crop, scenic and wildlife habitat land. A typical 600-megawatt coal or gas-fired power plant requires 250 to 750 acres, to generate power 90 percent to 95 percent of the year; a 600-megawatt wind installation needs 40,000 to 50,000 acres (or more), to deliver 30 percent performance. Because wind installations must go where the wind blows, hundreds of miles from our cities - transmission lines add thousands more acres to every project.
Environment 301:U.S. wind turbines slaughter nearly half a million eagles, hawks, falcons, vultures, ducks, geese, bats and other rare, threatened, endangered and otherwise protected flying creatures every year. But while oil companies are prosecuted for the deaths of even a dozen common ducks, turbine operators have effectively been granted a “007 license to kill” exemption from endangered- and migratory-species laws and penalties.
Environment 401:Even if carbon dioxide does contribute to climate change, there is no evidence that even thousands of U.S. wind turbines will affect future global temperatures by more than a few hundredths of a degree. Carbon-dioxide emissions from backup generators (and wind-turbine manufacturing) offset any reductions from wind installations, and rapidly increasing emissions from Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and other developing countries dwarf any possible U.S. wind-related CO2 reductions.
Human Health and Welfare 101: Skyrocketing electricity prices owing to “renewable portfolio standards” raise heating and air-conditioning costs; drive families into fuel poverty; increase food, medical, school and other costs; and force companies to lay off workers, further impairing their families’ health and welfare. Audible and inaudible turbine noise causes fatigue, headaches, dizziness, irritability, sleep problems and vibro-acoustic effects on people’s hearts and lungs. Landowners receive royalties for having turbines on their property, but neighbors receive no income and face adverse health effects, decreased property values and difficulty selling their homes.
Real World Civics 101: Politicians take billions from taxpayers, ratepayers and profitable businesses to provide subsidies to Big Wind companies, who buy turbines mostly made overseas - and contribute millions to the politicians’ re-election campaigns, to keep the cycle going.
It is truly government gone wild and is unsustainable. Americans can contact their elected representatives to demand science-based energy policies. These reasons could be a good way to start the conversation.
Paul Driessen is senior policy adviser for the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow and author of “Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death” (Merril Press, 2010).
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