One of the happier, historical stories of man’s interaction with our planet is that of wind power. Man has made use of this renewable energy source ever since he crawled out of the primordial soup. Wind-powered machinery has ground grain or pumped water for millennia. For transportation there’s no more satisfying way of getting from A to B than under sail; no noise, no pollution and little physical effort, though I admit to liking the security of a back-up power source for when the wind becalms or rages. I also like the small but ever present threat of this usually benign energy. Just today I was out walking (a couple, alone, save the plows) in the February 9th blizzard. It was a humbling experience. Harness this energy and you could light a galaxy! But that is not to be.
Beginning with the introduction of electricity we have increasingly abused wind energy. It is now, and has been for the last two decades, trumpeted as a cheap, reliable, clean alternative to fossil fuels in feeding our insatiable appetite for power. But it is neither cheap, nor reliable, nor clean; and its contribution to total energy production is almost negligible (currently about 2.9% in the U.S.). There remains a worthy application for wind power in remote, off-the-grid locations, but as an industrial power source it is a pipe dream promulgated by special interest groups and bad science.
Ex-Senator Phil Gramm, (much loathed by all liberals), is in the happy position of not having to pander his principles to gain re-election. In a Wall Street Journal article last year he deplored the duping of the public in the field of wind power; particularly the role of government subsidies in keeping the charade alive. The wind power industry would not exist were it not for the $54 billion in direct subsidies and tax breaks that Uncle Sugar has provided over the last twenty years. Wind power has never been economically viable on its own and is becoming less so. I was extremely disappointed when wind subsidies were extended as part of the recent “fiscal cliff” deferment. Damn you people! That was, incidentally, only for new ventures; those currently in place are already guaranteed another decade of pork.
According to Breitbart News, our newest Maine senator has done well in the field of wind energy, but only because “ he received a $407,000 ‘success fee’ from Record Hill Wind, a Maine wind turbine project that was initiated by Mr. King and his business partner in 2007.” The business, like many similar wind energy enterprises, was about to fail until it received a $102 million federal loan in 2011 from the $800 billion Obama stimulus package. But I want nothing to do with that tar baby.
The web site (windpowerfacts.info) of John Droz Jr., a physicist and environmental activist contains a wealth of information which he enthusiastically puts forth as a scientist and not a lobbyist. He is particularly incensed by Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), mandates that assign required percentages of energy production to renewable sources. These he calls “one of the most incompetent ideas in decades, because the standards do not meaningfully reduce the generation of greenhouse gas and are at the same time ludicrously expensive.” He uses as an example the Ship Renewable Portfolio (and I probably shouldn’t bring this up, because I cannot locate any other reference to it, but it seems a good example anyway). This would mandate that 20% of all civilian and military vessels be powered by wind by 2015. What? We’re to go back to galleons and clipper ships? Absurd! But, hey, I like the idea! Anything to arrest “progress.”
Mr Droz also debunks the suggestion that wind energy creates jobs for communities. Temporarily at best; if you want to increase employment you might perhaps outlaw bulldozers, creating ten jobs for each discontinued bulldozer and reducing CO2 output in the bargain. Why that’s another good idea!
There are other arguments against wind power. The units are unsightly, ( nimby Ted Kennedy pointed this out when he blocked the establishment of a marine farm within view of Hyannis port.) They can be noisy (ask the residents of Vinalhaven). They kill birds (though far below the level of out murdering pussycats). However, it’s the economics which make them unviable, and there seems little promise of technical advances to overcome this.
Apart from the renewing of subsidies, I was also annoyed by the recent renewal of interest in a floating wind farm off Monhegan. One has maintenance problems with turbine towers on land; what can you do in the corrosive marine environment? How is one to transfer the power to the grid? Who supports these cockamamie ideas? The greenies; in this case the green being the money accrued by researchers, developers and their paid staffs.
I hope I haven’t presented too negative a viewpoint. There are good reasons for subsidizing technical initiative and innovation. Preservation of the environment is a very important concern. However, further implementation of wind energy is not the path.
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