Energy is an issue in the presidential campaign, but not the major issue. The major issue is a lack of jobs. An appropriate national policy of energy independence would generate thousands of good-paying jobs. America has the technology to achieve total energy independence by utilizing its resources of coal, oil, natural gas, hydro and nuclear.
Energy contributions by solar and wind to the U.S. power grid are miniscule when compared to coal, oil and gas, hydro and nuclear. In addition, the renewable energies are not cost effective and it is doubtful they will be.
In a recent article in The Gadsden Times, a writer complained that one of the major issues for wind and solar was states lagging in incentives for solar and wind.
Was the writer joking, or did he not understand that huge governmental subsidies for solar and wind power come from taxpayer dollars?
The U.S. Department of Energy reported that federal subsidies for solar are $775 per megawatt hour and for wind $57 per megawatt hour. Conversely, subsidies for oil and gas are $0.64 cents per megawatt hour, hydro power was $0.82 cents, coal $0.64 cents and nuclear $3.14 per megawatt hour. The difference in the subsidy for wind and solar versus traditional energy sources is obscene.
In 2011 the wind turbine industry received $5 billion in subsidies, in spite of the fact it produced only 2.3 percent of the total energy used in the United States.
The Wall Street Journal reported in its Aug. 18 opinion page that for every tax dollar that goes to coal, oil and natural gas, wind gets $88 and solar $1,212. Subsidy comparisons don’t consider that the oil, coal,and natural gas industries paid more than $10 billion in taxes in 2009. Wind and solar are net drains on the United States Treasury.
The Journal suggested that maybe it is time to eliminate all federal subsidy programs for the energy industry. This is a proposal that should be taken very seriously. Why subsidize industries that historically generate huge profits?
An Indiana newspaper reported that the company E-on Climate & Renewables is in a race against time for construction of 125 wind turbines in the Tipton, Ind., area. E-on is concerned federal subsidies they now enjoy will expire at the end of 2012. That’s unlikely because subsidies for wind and solar have been around since 1992 and have been extended seven times.
E-on has stated that each wind turbine will generate enough electrical power for 350 homes. So it would follow that 125 turbines will generate enough power to supply 43,750 homes. This is more than enough electrical power for all of Tipton and Kokomo, Ind.
The problem is the cost of the power. If the two communities had to pay for the power without taxpayer help, it would bankrupt every family living in the two communities.
What about times when there is no wind to power the turbines? Would these communities have to supplement electrical needs with power from alternative sources?
As utilization goes down for traditional electrical suppliers, unit costs go up. This means that alternative power supplied by traditional sources would also increase in cost. Tipton and Kokomo would be caught in a “Catch 22.” Implementation of wind turbines is a loser for the American taxpayer until the supplies of coal, natural gas and oil are depleted. Even then new nuclear power plants could supply 90 percent or more of the United States demand.
Wind farms are “feel-good projects” with enormous associated costs to the American taxpayer. For irrelevance, wind farms are only exceeded by the solar industry. Sometimes, it is not good to be No. 1.
To answer the question are American taxpayers lagging in incentives for renewable energy sources? I don’t think so.
I understand startup costs and the time it takes to establish appropriate operating numbers. Wind and solar power are far removed from the realm of cost effectiveness.
There is much doubt wind and solar will be more than a drop in the ocean in relation to contributing to power requirements for the United States.
John F. Floyd is a Gadsden native who graduated from Gadsden High School in 1954. He formerly was director of United Kingdom manufacturing, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., vice president of manufacturing and international operations, General Tire & Rubber Co., and director of manufacturing, Chrysler Corp.