Monday, April 27, 2009

A Menacing Energy Agenda

Here at the CARE Offices, we get many, many e-mails and articles sent to us. They make up the majority of the content of this Blog. We try to sift through them and post the pieces that we believe best fit our member’s interests and that reflect our energy position. For example, we received many copies of the speech featured in the previous posting. Therefore, we know it is of interest.

In contrast, no one brought the New York Times article regarding the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Jon Wellinghoff’s comments stating that no new nuclear or coal plants may ever be needed in the United States--until we received the following from new CARE friend Mike Fox. After reading both the following posting and the NYT article, we had to share it with you. Apparently, it flew under the radar. To have someone at the FERC with this kind of thinking, is down right scary. Please read on.

CARE’s executive director Marita Noon met Mike Fox at the 2009 International Conference on Climate Change in New York in March. She’s invited him to be a regular contributor to our Comments About Responsible Energy. We’d love your feedback here!

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman's Dangerous Agenda:
'US may never need new coal or nuclear energy plants'

Jon Wellinghoff is the new head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Wellinghoff recently suggested that the US may never need new coal or nuclear energy plants. Wellinghoff is a dangerous man, and has received serious criticism.

Coal and nuclear energy now nominally provide more than 70% of the nation’s electricity. Wellinghoff’s proposal stopping coal and nuclear energy and replacing it with wind and solar energy would put the United States well down the road to economic suicide.
Our nation’s decades of prosperity, freedom, and productivity have been directly related to the abundance of low-cost, reliable sources of electricity, nearly all of it being domestic sources. We must recall that in warfare between nations the electrical energy generating plants of the opposing nations are highly prized targets in destroying nations. In this context of destruction of nations, Wellinghoff’s statement is thus reminiscent of the UN’s statement about the destruction of the West: "Isn't the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn't it our responsibility to bring that about?"--by Maurice Strong, head of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and Executive Officer for Reform in the Office of the Secretary General of the United Nations. That is as chilling as it real. Professional associates of this author were in the 1992 Rio audience when Strong spoke these words. His words were met with thundering applause, with much of it from environmental groups from the US.

Thus, we have the horrendous politics of the international left now pressuring our US government policies. The common belief among too many of our leaders holds that wind energy is a viable substitute for our nation and it supports their opposition to nuclear and coal as sources. But for many reasons wind most certainly is not acceptable. It is very worrying to find that so many in leadership are not familiar with, let alone appreciative of, the benefits of electricity, how it’s made, and what it has contributed to our freedom, liberty, security, productivity, and prosperity.

Wind energy is notoriously costly, unreliable, intermittent, and invariably misrepresented by its supporters. Were it not for its 30 years of heavy subsidies, tax credits, and the many laws which require that rate payers pay for all of these follies through Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), the windmills would be shut down by the weekend. The simple reason is that the windmills do not produce sufficient energy and sufficient revenue to pay for themselves and be profitable. This has been going on for 30 years.

The windmill owners, the only ones who benefit from the windmill scams, are avoiding billions in annual taxes by shifting their tax burdens to the rest of us.

Now Mr. Wellnghoff of FERC proposes that the United States do without 70% of our existing electrical energy sources and replace it with wind energy, believing wind energy to be viable source of energy, when it most certainly is not. Wind energy is famously unreliable, intermittent, and costly and has been that way for the last 30 years only as a result of heavy subsidies. This policy of wind subsidies, scams, and major rent-seeking by the likes of Florida Power and Light, T. Boone Pickens, etc., will bring unreliable electrical energy to our nation and cripple our prosperity, security, freedom, and liberty.

That a high government official makes such suggestions is frightening and utterly avoidable with just a few minutes of analyses. Excellent wind energy analyses are available from many places including from Glenn Schleede, and a recent excellent analysis by Michael Trebilcock of Canada.

The Trebilcock analyses provided data from the European experiences with wind energy and provide valuable lessons for the United States, if we’ll learn from them. He says in part “there is no evidence that industrial wind power is likely to have a significant impact on carbon emissions. The European experience is instructive. Denmark, the world’s most wind-intensive nation, with more than 6,000 turbines generating 19% of its electricity, has yet to close a single fossil-fuel plant. It requires 50% more coal-generated electricity to cover wind power’s unpredictability, and pollution and carbon dioxide emissions have risen (by 36% in 2006 alone).”

Trebilcock continues “Flemming Nissen, the head of development at West Danish generating company ELSAM (one of Denmark’s largest energy utilities) tells us that “wind turbines do not reduce carbon dioxide emissions.” The German experience is no different. Der Spiegel reports that “Germany’s CO2 emissions haven’t been reduced by even a single gram,” and additional coal- and gas-fired plants have been constructed to ensure reliable delivery.” And this is only part of the story. Consider the costs of wind energy to the people of Denmark.

Trebilcock continues with the Denmark example, “Its electricity generation costs are the highest in Europe (15¢/kwh compared to Ontario’s current rate of about 6¢). Niels Gram of the Danish Federation of Industries says, “Windmills are a mistake and economically make no sense.” Aase Madsen, the Chair of Energy Policy in the Danish Parliament, calls it “a terribly expensive disaster.” Let us hope that the FERC staff reads this analysis.

“The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported in 2008, on a dollar per MWhr basis, the U.S. government subsidizes wind at $23.34—compared to reliable energy sources: natural gas at 25 cents; coal at 44 cents; hydro at 67 cents; and nuclear at $1.59, leading to what some U.S. commentators call “a huge corporate welfare feeding frenzy.” The Wall Street Journal advises that “wind generation is the prime example of what can go wrong when the government decides to pick winners.”

Millions in the public who are furious at the bailouts of banks and automobile companies would be surprised to know that our same government has been greatly subsidizing wind energy for nearly 30 years. Windmills, even after billions in subsidies remain unreliable and unprofitable sources of energy.

“The Economist magazine in a recent editorial, “Cap and Binge,” notes that each ton of emissions avoided due to subsidies to renewable energy such as wind power would cost somewhere between $69 and $137, whereas under a cap-and-trade scheme the price would be less than $15. Either a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system creates incentives for consumers and producers to reduce energy use and emissions that, as these numbers show, completely overwhelm subsidies to renewable energy forms in terms of cost effectiveness.”

We remain hopeful for a successful presidency and a strong and productive nation. Our nation’s success depends upon wise and intelligent science policies and defensible energy engineering processes.

Michael R. Fox, Ph.D., is a nuclear scientist and a science and energy resource for Hawaii Reporter and a science analyst for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, is retired and now lives in Eastern Washington. He has nearly 40 years experience in the energy field. He has also taught chemistry and energy at the University level. His interest in the communications of science has led to several communications awards, hundreds of speeches, and many appearances on television and talk shows. He can be reached via email at

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