Personally I am all for the idea of “clean energy.” Who wouldn’t be? However, the devil is in the details. Your recent editorial on the subject and the clean energy article on Monday is the first thing I’ve seen in a long time that has hinted at the “details,” even though they failed to provide any.
“Free” power from the sun and the wind is great, except that it isn’t free. It is somewhat like cell phones; you are “given” a “free” phone, but the sellers recoup that “freeness” during your contract – and then some. But there are no taxpayer subsidies involved. Your neighbors are not paying for your cell phone.
The fact is that solar and wind power need massive amounts of your money up front in order to install windmills and solar panels that are made in China and Europe by foreign workers. Then the owners, be they companies or private individuals, are given negotiated, mandated feed-in tariff contracts for each kilowatt-hour (KWH) that they pump into the power grid. These tariffs are greatly above the 12 cents per KWH that we currently pay PG&E. Your power company then gets to pass these high rates, plus their built-in profit, along to you. In Europe these feed-in rates run up to 60 cents or more per KWH, resulting in consumer rates of 30 to 50 cents per KWH. These rate increases are coming under California’s renewable energy laws, but they just haven’t hit yet. And we consumers are being denied the basic data that would help us determine our best public policies in these matters. This issue is not just about money, it is a critical component of the climate change debate and the proposed solutions thereunder.
In Germany, the cost of sequestering a ton of carbon emissions in 2009 via solar panels was about $1,000 per ton, when at the same time Germans could buy a ton of emission reductions on the carbon exchange market for about $20; about 50 times as expensive. Subsidized solar and wind may not be the way to go, and they can’t stand on their own without massive subsidies. Also, significantly higher electric rates will make the U.S. less competitive in the world market. We have a lot to worry about.
We need more information and more public discussion about the wisdom and trade-offs of “clean energy,” including dams and nuclear power. So far we are being herded like a bunch of sheep by good sounding slogans and an undereducated, uninformed public. You at the Record Searchlight can do your part to inform us.
Michael D.D. Madden, Redding
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