By S. Fred Singer
The US Senate’s proposed Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) would force electric utilities to generate a large and increasing percentage of their power from wind and solar – rising to 15% by 2021. These goals resemble those of the Waxman-Markey bill that barely passed the House in June 2009. It’s disturbing that some Republicans on the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted for ACELA (American Clean Energy Leadership Act). If the Senate were to take up an energy bill, it is likely that Sen. Brownback (R-KS) will introduce an amendment for RES.
Now, it is quite clear that wind and solar are not economic -- and probably never will be competitive, even when fuel prices rise significantly. So the RES mandate would mean that all of us taxpayers would support even more the RE rent-seekers and lobbyists, who are already milking the government for subsidies and tax-breaks for the construction of wind farms and solar energy projects.
In addition, electricity users (rate payers) would pay more for electric power to cover the higher cost. The so-called “feed in tariff” would force utilities to buy expensive wind and solar electricity and average the cost into the rest of the power produced. The consumer, meaning all of us, would pay for this extravaganza. It’s just a huge transfer of money, yet another regressive tax on consumers, with the electric utilities forced to become tax collectors.
The hoax part of the RES is that “clean electricity” is being advertised as a way to save the earth from the ‘dreadful fate’ of anthropogenic global warming (AGW). To accept this outlandish proposition, one would have to believe that the carbon dioxide generated in the burning of fossil fuels has a noticeable influence on climate. The data argue against it. The constantly advertised “scientific consensus” is phony; it does not exist. The evidence that the UN climate panel, the IPCC, puts forward in support of AGW is pitifully inadequate—and wrong. It is easy to show that no credible evidence exists; just look at the summary of the NIPCC report “Nature, not human activity, rules the climate;” it is available for free on the Internet.
The fraud relates to the idea that energy produced without CO2 emission is “clean.” This word ‘clean’ is being misused, and that’s a huge part of the problem. Of course, removing the genuine pollutants like sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides and mercury from smokestacks is a real clean up. It is already mandated by the Clean Air Act and being pursued adequately. But CO2 is not a pollutant – in spite of the claims of the EPA in its ‘Endangerment Finding – which has yet to be tested in court. CO2 is neither toxic nor irritating nor visible—nor a climate forcer of any significance, so the idea that we have to stop emitting CO2, or capture and sequester it, is a pure fraud.
And finally, the whole scheme is a financial rip-off. We all know that wind and solar energy are intermittent. If their use should rise beyond the present few percent, we would require either on-site storage of electricity or we would have to have standby capacity, probably fueled by expensive natural gas, to kick in when the wind kicks out. Either scheme would impose huge additional costs.
The biggest part of the swindle is that the RES is being sold on the basis of creating “green jobs.” But since when does wasting money create productive jobs? Why not leave it with consumers who can save and invest it to create real jobs. A study conducted in Spain, which has gone overboard on renewable energy, shows that each so-called green job displaces between two and three real jobs. In any case, the manufacture of wind turbines and photovoltaic cells is now in the hands of lower-cost Chinese industry. So the green jobs would consist of sweeping the mirrors clean from dust and dirt and fixing the blades and gearboxes of the turbines when they fail.
In all of this, the proposed legislation ignores nuclear power, which is not only “clean” in the sense of not emitting carbon dioxide, but is also competitive in price with most fossil fuels. Nuclear is most likely to become the major source of electric power once low-cost fossil fuels are depleted. Yet ACELA explicitly says that new nuclear power, updates to existing nuclear facilities and generation from municipal solid waste incineration are not included in the base quantity
The hypocrisy of the RES advocates is appalling. It’s OK for the taxpayer to subsidize low-carbon energy that doesn’t work (wind, solar) but not low-carbon energy that does work (nuclear).
S. Fred Singer, professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, is the founder of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) www.NIPCCreport.org