- The Washington Times - Monday, December 14, 2009


The article “China races to invest in green energy” (Page 1, Friday) is larded with unchallenged “renewables”-industry talking points, putting a highly misleading gloss on centuries-old energy sources that were tossed aside as soon as we were able to liberate the natural-energy bounty of hydrocarbon energy (“fossil fuels”).

Despite the puffery about how the Chinese “have seen how government support of wind can help it take off,” decades and tens of billions of dollars in direct and indirect subsidies later, wind still accounts for about 1 percent of America’s electricity. This dwarfs solar power’s contribution. Seeking to return us to the inefficient and expensive “renewables” age is folly.

The most critical clarification needed relates to the notion that China’s massive investment in producing the contraptions offers evidence of their worth. This is nonsense. Please understand a very basic economic fact: When rich countries vow to spend billions on projects for reasons other than their performance - say, political vanity - China and India will be right there to produce them for us.

We might as well be talking about giant hamster wheels for us to run on to produce electricity - the model does not change. If we mandate it, electricity from giant hamster wheels will “take off” with a very low ceiling of opportunity, just as with wind and solar. Promise to invest billions of dollars toward them, and jobs in the giant hamster-wheel industry will appear.

However, the unseen economic costs will be just as they have been in other countries that fetishize wind, such as Spain. Spain witnessed an opportunity cost of more than two jobs avoided for every job created by the transfer of resources to inefficient uses. Remember: Wind and solar power exist only with mandates and subsidies. Existing jobs were lost because of the impact on energy prices, such as Spanish steel jobs exported to Carroll County, Ky., as a direct result. And no, you do not make up those losses with volume.


Senior fellow

Competitive Enterprise Institute


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