Just when you thought that perhaps sportsmen and women of Maine could take a breather from the assault of anti-trappers, anti-hunters, and anti-everything but Mom and apple pie, here comes another. This time the threat is well disguised as something we all think we want, but beware the Trojan horse! Industrial wind power it turns out is not what it appears to be.
Like most NWJ readers, I’m a sportsman, a conservationist, and by and large a good steward of what mother nature has given us. I was therefore quite excited when commercial wind power first started to appear in Maine. Hey, how could I not be? We’ll finally wean ourselves off of foreign oil; it’s earth friendly green technology; the source is renewable and free so it’ll lower our electric bills; and it’ll bring many new jobs to Maine – something we’re in dire need of. At least that’s what Governor Baldacci was touting on all the news broadcasts at the time.
But a funny thing happened on my way to energy production bliss …. I discovered that wind power in Maine wouldn’t produce any of the desired results. What? How can that be? Lets take a look at some of the facts:
* Maine is already a net exporter of electricity – we produce more than we use so we sell it into the ISO New England grid. Maine has over 4,200 megawatts of generating capacity, yet load (demand) is only 1,000-1,500MW.
* “The Big Lie” – it’ll cut our dependency on foreign oil. Wind power creates only electricity and we don’t heat our homes or fuel our vehicles with it. In fact, only 1% of our current electricity production in Maine comes from an oil fired plant, so that can hardly be considered as cutting our dependency. At 30+%, Maine’s Renewable Electricity Portfolio Standard is already the highest of any state in the nation due to our longtime use of hydro, biomass and clean natural gas.
* While the source might be renewable and free, it actually will cause considerable rate increases in your electric bill. The capital expense required is hugely expensive and guess who gets to foot the tab for most of it? If you’re thinking “us the taxpayers”, this isn’t your first rodeo. The developers’ lobbyists have done an exceptional job at ensuring that the taxpayers foot the majority of the bill through ridiculous Federal subsidies, gifts of 100s of millions in “stimulus” funds, capital equipment depreciation schedules that all manufacturers would die for, and many other federal, state, and local ‘gifts’. One thing this industry is very good at is feeding at the taxpayer trough.
Here’s one quick example: Federal subsidies per MW/hour:
Natural gas and oil $ .25
Coal $ .44
Hydro $ . 67
Geothermal $ .92
Nuclear $ 1.59
Wind $ 23.47
No that’s not a typo. A $23.47 per MW/hour subsidy from your taxpayer dollars goes to the producers of wind powered electricity! Shocked? So was I.
And let’s not forget the $1 billion transmission line upgrades that will be required to get that energy to market. You guessed it, here comes additional rate increases in your electric bill to cover that.
So you’re thinking, well this is mostly federal incentives that are available nation wide so how come every day when I turn on the news, there’s another wind power project being proposed to be built in Maine? You can thank Gov. Baldacci and his ill conceived “Expedited Wind Power Zoning” legislation. The high prices at the gas pump at that time caused this bill to sail through the legislature and be approved in record time, with no true opportunity for research and questions. In one quick stroke, Gov. Baldacci served up 2/3 of this state to the wind power developers on a silver platter. This legislation removed the majority of the regulatory steps and with it, the checks and balances that would normally be required to develop any industrial/commercial energy generating plant in Maine. Put another way, the developers are now assumed innocent until proven guilty.
The developers see Maine as “easy pickings”, not just because of the Governor’s developers’ welfare legislation, but also because we’re a state who’s residents are by-and-large always trying to do the right thing. So when the developers came along with their well scripted tale of free energy, cutting dependency on foreign oil, and all the other WP myths, we were very trusting and bought into their proposals. We’re also viewed as a target rich environment because the areas targeted are usually small rural towns, townships, and plantations. These areas are usually governed by a select board or council of well meaning, hard working individuals who freely give of their time for the good of the community ….but they’re not lawyers, professional politicians, or energy experts, so often they are lured into approving these projects because they don’t have the resources to properly evaluate them. And even if they try to stop the developers, they often don’t have the budget to support the legal costs necessary to fight them in court. It’s truly a “David vs. Goliath” situation.
So all this is well and good, but how does this affect me as a sportsmen? Stay tuned for part two next month.
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