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Your money’s gone with the wind (and solar)  

Credit:  Mark Landsbaum, The Orange County Register, www.ocregister.com 14 April 2011 ~~

Renewable energy is all the rage. California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law last week to encourage more of it. The law “encouraged” in the way government encourages everything: Do it or else.

Rather than produce a mere 20 percent of California’s energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar by the year 2020, state utilities now are ordered to generate a third of it that way. President Barack Obama trumpets similar lofty-sounding goals for the nation, although he’s not having as much success, considering Congress isn’t as rabidly left-leaning green as California’s Legislature.

When they use your tax money to underwrite their good intentions and to impose their will by force, isn’t it a good thing? Aren’t wind and solar energy low on pollutants and “renewable?” The sun always shines, and the wind always blows, don’t they? Well, not always. More on that later.

At this critical juncture, as global warming alarmism loses momentum after being exposed as hot air, in the political, not atmospheric, sense, and the green-renewable energy movement it spawned picks up speed, we bring you a not-quite comprehensive, but rather revealing look at what it all means. Call it, renewable energy by the numbers.

15-26 – The range of percentage increase that California consumers will pay for electricity by 2020, thanks to Gov. Brown.

34, 44, 74 – These are the percentage increases consumers will pay for electricity from, respectively, Southern California Edison, PG&E and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, after adding the previous additional costs to meet the old 20-percent renewable mandate.

$500 billion – This, according to the World Economic Forum, is the amount that must be spent per year to prevent the worst effects of global warming, requiring a doubling of annual investments in renewable energy. Considering that temperatures haven’t increased by a statistically significant amount since the late 1990s, we shudder to think how much higher this number would be if things really heated up.

$5.2 trillion – The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis says a federal renewable energy standard, such as Washington proposes, would reduce national income by $5.2 trillion from 2012-35. Californians: Get out your calculators to figure what percentage of that is your lost income so you can calculate how much you’ll have left to pay your extra 34 percent, 44 percent or 74 percent in electric bills.

$78 – This paltry amount is the projected price by the year 2016 for a megawatt hour of electricity generated from coal, one of those dreaded fossil fuels. Compare that with these numbers for generating the same amount of power from: onshore windmills, $149; offshore windmills, $191; thermal solar sources, $256; and photo-voltaic solar, $396. Suddenly, $78 looks even more paltry.

40 percent – In states with renewable electricity mandates – do it or else – electricity prices are nearly 40 percent higher than states without, says the Heartland Institute. In addition, the states also haven’t – and probably can’t – meet their mandated production levels.

3 percent – China, which is making stacks of money manufacturing and selling wind turbines to countries like the U.S., mandates that a puny 3 percent of its own electricity must be generated by renewable sources by 2020, compared with California’s new 33 percent requirement. What do they know that Jerry Brown doesn’t?

100 percent – If solar panels were 100 percent efficient, which is impossible, in order to provide all U.S. electricity needs, panels would have to be spread over an expanse of land the size of Connecticut, says Howard C. Hayden in his book, “A Primer on Renewable Energy.” Needless to say, this isn’t going to happen anytime soon, or for that matter, anytime ever.

Nearly 100 – Government subsidies for solar power are nearly 100 times greater than subsidies for natural gas and petroleum. Subsidies and support per unit of production, according to the Energy Information Administration, were 25 cents for natural gas compared to $24.34 for solar in 2008. How about wind, you say? That’s $23.37 per unit. Without massive subsidies from your taxes, wind and solar power generation simply wouldn’t happen.

3.7 – Great Britain has gone down this renewable road already. How did that work out? For every green job “created in the renewable-energy sector (mainly solar and wind), another 3.7 jobs are being lost in the real economy, says the independent study by Verso Economics,” James Delingpole wrote in the UK Telegraph.

21 percent – Even if they require subsidies (and they do), and destroy rather than create jobs (and they do), aren’t renewable energy sources at least reliable? No, they aren’t. “Britain’s wind farms produce far less electricity than their supporters claim and cannot be relied upon to keep the lights on,” the UK Mail Online reports from a study by the John Muir Trust. Over a two-year period, windmills operated at only 21 percent of full capacity, generating only “enough power for fewer than 7,000 households to boil their kettles,” the paper reported.

2 percent – In light of the previous number, it’s probably a good thing the U.S. got only 2 percent of its electricity in 2009 from wind. But it’s probably not a good thing that the government wants to increase that level to 20 percent. As the Brits discovered, the wind doesn’t always blow.

Twice – Concerning wind-generated energy, we can learn from Great Britain. “It costs nearly twice as much to generate electricity from an offshore wind farm as it does from a conventional power station,” the UK Mail Online reports, citing a government-funded think tank study. Worse yet, “Instead of costs falling as predicted, in the past five years the cost of buying and installing turbines and towers at sea has gone up 51 percent.”

24/7 – “The days of permanently available electricity may be coming to an end,” conceded Steve Holliday, chief executive of Great Britain’s power network, the National Grid. Pointing to an era of increased wind turbine reliance, he said people will have to “change their behavior.” That sounds eerily like President Obama, who told an audience that rising gasoline prices may mean they may have to trade in their cars. It’s more about change, it seems, than 24/7.

5 times – Bird lovers should lament that their winged friends are five times more likely to die when near wind turbines, according to a specialist with the California Energy Commission. The spinning blades shred birds by the thousands.

1/3 – Most renewable energy discussion concerns replacing what already is produced by plentiful, much less expensive and available fossil fuel sources. There’s not much discussion of these less-efficient, much more costly and more difficult to corral renewable energy sources in a future world that demands much more energy. The Energy Information Administration estimates the U.S. will need about one-third more energy in 2020 than it uses today. Not only will renewables be more costly and less reliable, they will need to produce much more.

3.5 percent – At least we can move our cars off the addiction to imported oil, can’t we? “If we devoted all corn grown in the United States to sustainable ethanol production, we could displace only about 3.5 percent of current gasoline consumption,” James Eaves and Stephen Eaves wrote in Regulation magazine a few years ago. Meanwhile, nations with starving populations must be aghast as the U.S. effectively pours three or four of every 10 bushels of corn into our gas tanks.

103, zero and 7 – For those who prefer to buy American, consider that the Obama administration has not approved 103 pending oil drilling permits, not approved a single new exploratory drilling plan in the Gulf of Mexico since “lifting” the president’s deepwater drilling moratorium in October 2010 and placed a seven-year ban on drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts and Eastern Gulf.

1 percent – That is the amount of the U.S. oil demand used to generate electricity, and it generates only about 1 percent of the electricity we use. Consequently, reducing reliance on imported oil would have next-to-no effect on keeping the lights on. But wouldn’t reducing imported oil lower gasoline prices? “Oil is a fungible commodity with a global price,” James Woolsey and Anne Korin wrote in the Wall Street Journal. In 2008, oil prices skyrocketed in the United Kingdom – even though it produces virtually all its own oil. When non-OPEC nations drill more, OPEC drills less, and prices are maintained.

6 cents – That’s the third-quarter earnings on every dollar for the alleged greedy and exploitive oil and natural gas industries. The beverage and tobacco industries averaged 20 cents per dollar; computer and peripheral equipment makers, 15.6 cents.

What does all this portend? Maybe Shell Oil knows. In 2008 Shell pulled out of the consortium building the world’s biggest offshore wind farm, and the UK Guardian reported this month that “Shell has pulled out of renewables.”

It was the contrived emergency of impending global warming doom that gave the renewable energy movement its impetus. Where does it go now? A European Union plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions 60 percent requires, among other sacrifices, banning automobiles in cities.

Ready for a renewable-energy green future? Pull out your wallet, put away your car keys, and prepare to grope in the dark.

Source:  Mark Landsbaum, The Orange County Register, www.ocregister.com 14 April 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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