There is some validity to the arguments made by SouthCoast residents in favor of offshore wind development: The industry, which would naturally be based locally due to the abundant wind in Buzzard’s Bay, would bring us some jobs and economic growth – and our area truly needs both.
This argument is identical to the thinking of Iowa corn farmers and ethanol refiners who vote overwhelmingly for taxpayer-funded ethanol subsidies and mandates. It is likewise consistent with voter preferences in the vicinity of defense industry manufacturing plants and military bases when Department of Defense spending increases are being considered or base closures are being contemplated. Using government spending to force taxpayers elsewhere to invest in local prosperity may not be ethically justified but it is certainly common enough.
But when one sees taxpayers like Frederick Hewett from Cambridge arguing in favor of offshore wind development, there is no economic sense to the argument being made. According to the pro-green US Energy Information Administration (Annual Energy Outlook 2015, April 14, 2015), the average levelized cost of offshore wind energy is $196.90 per megawatt hour while the cost of natural gas energy is $72.60 per megawatt hour and the cost of hydroelectric energy is $83.50 per megawatt hour.
Even the EIA’s disproportionately high costs of offshore wind development are misleading in that they fail to consider that, no matter how much wind capacity we develop, we will still need to develop enough fossil fuel or hydro plant energy to meet 100 percent of our energy needs because wind is intermittent and cannot be relied upon to replace more reliable energy sources. When the wind is not blowing, all of our energy needs must be met by traditional energy sources so those traditional sources must be built and maintained in operative condition.
When one argues for the development of offshore wind projects, one is actually arguing for one of two possibilities. We can develop 100 percent of our energy needs from fossil fuels and hydro and also develop some redundant and expensive offshore wind energy. Or we can have devastating brown-outs and black-outs and destroy the too few good jobs that we currently have.
Assuming Mr. Hewett is not advocating for brown-outs and black-outs, he is therefore arguing for all taxpayers to subsidize offshore wind development via governmental mandates so that, when the wind is blowing, we can replace some inexpensive natural gas or hydro energy with expensive offshore wind energy. It really just doesn’t make sense and all of us who pay the tax bills and the utility bills, directly or indirectly, should reject the fuzzy, feel-good arguments of folks like Mr. Hewett and so many of our local politicians.
Lee Nason lives in New Bedford.
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