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Acciona blows out of the energy picture

The Santa Maria Times recently reported that Acciona Energy will not build the proposed wind farm near Lompoc, deciding not to move forward with the project originally approved in 2008.

Sixty-five wind turbines were expected to generate 80-120 Megawatts of power that would have been sold to Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

Only Acciona knows why it decided as it did. John Stahl, managing partner of Pacific Wind Power LLC, an Acciona subsidiary, believes “Acciona just got tired of spending money.”

There is no doubt the Santa Barbara County regulatory process is a black hole that sucked who-knows-how-much money from Acciona’s pockets. Then, after the county picked Acciona’s pockets, local NIMBYs stepped forward with litigation, another black hole into which both time and money disappear.

Whatever the reason, badly needed jobs will not be created and badly needed property taxes will not be paid. For that matter, a fair amount of electricity will not be generated. But before we become too maudlin, let’s look deeper. There is more to the story.

Perhaps we should begin with the fact that Acciona is a Spanish company, and recall that not long ago Spain and its commitment to a green economy were touted as an exemplar to be emulated. More recently, the Spanish economy has certainly been green – green as a gourd, as in sick. In fact, Spain continues to teeter on the brink of economic oblivion.

Spanish policies – driven by those who wanted Spain to be known as a world leader – were fashioned to sustain the unsustainable. They tried to simultaneously create jobs, ignore increasing power-generation costs, and cover up failed policies by dolling out subsidies as if money was like wind and sunshine – free!

Sound familiar? It should. We have people here who want to lead us down the same path Spain has traveled.  Worse still, they expect you to pay, just as Spanish taxpayers paid. We should not follow. They would lead us over the same cliff, at the bottom of which Spain now lays prone.

There is no doubt green energy creates jobs, but they are highly subsidized jobs. That’s not all. In Spain, 2.2 net jobs were lost for every green job claimed to have been created. Furthermore, researchers found that nine times out of 10, green jobs were temporary, primarily construction and installation jobs. It was also found that more than 1 million Euros were spent on each job created in the Spanish wind industry.

What a deal!

It’s a confidence game and a well-traveled one. It has been to Italy, where 4.8 jobs were lost for each green job created. And to Germany where researchers at the state-funded think tank RWI-Essen concluded that, “Germany’s promotion of renewable energy is … a cautionary tale of massively expensive environmental and energy policy that is devoid of economic and environmental benefits.” Household electricity costs in Germany have increased as the amount of electricity from renewable sources has increased.

If there was ever a time to emulate Europe, this is it. As Europe is doing, we should rethink our green hysteria.

Rather than lamenting Acciona’s decision, we should look at the bright side. By not having the jobs that would have been created, perhaps we averted the loss of even more jobs. By forgoing the tax revenues that would have been generated, perhaps taxpayers were spared the need for higher future taxes. In fact, our future electricity rates may even be lower than they would have otherwise been.

Trent Benedetti is a member of the board of directors of the Committee to Improve North County and a longtime local business owner.