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Not-So-Smart ALEC: The Right Wing vs. Renewable Energy

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Yves here. This post is useful not simply for its discussion of the economics of green energy but also for showing how think tanks fabricate findings to support their political message.

By Frank Ackerman, senior economist at Synapse Energy Economics, and a senior research fellow at GDAE at Tufts University. Cross posted from Triple Crisis

Renewable energy is clean, sustainable, non-polluting, reduces our dependence on fossil fuels, improves the health of communities surrounding power plants, and protects the natural environment. Who could be against it?

Answer: The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a lobbying group that is active in drafting and advocating controversial state legislation. They’re not just interested in energy: in recent years ALEC has supported Arizona’s restrictive immigration legislation, the “Stand Your Ground” gun laws associated with the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, and voter identification laws proposed in many states. ALEC’s priorities for 2013 include making it harder to bring product liability suits against manufacturers of defective products, ending traditional pension plans for public employees, promoting the diversion of public education funds into private schools and on-line education schemes, and supporting resistance to “Obamacare” health policies.

When it comes to energy, ALEC wants to speed up the permitting process for mines, oil and gas wells, and power plants – and to eliminate all state requirements for the use of renewable energy. The latter goal is packaged as the “Electricity Freedom Act.” In numerous states, ALEC has used studies by Suffolk University’s Beacon Hill Institute (BHI) to claim that the “Electricity Freedom Act” will free ratepayers from the allegedly immense costs and job losses of renewable energy standards.

In a recent study for the Civil Society Institute, my colleagues and I at Synapse Energy Economics analyzed the ALEC studies of the costs of renewable energy. Our report found fundamental flaws in both the energy data and the economic modeling used by BHI.

The ALEC/BHI energy analysis begins with wild overstatement of the costs of wind energy. They develop low, mid, and high cost scenarios, just as if they were doing a reasonable job of reflecting uncertainty. Yet there is more than a decade of data available on actual costs of wind power in the United States – and the ALEC/BHI low cost estimate is higher than the costs paid in essentially every real-world transaction to date. We added the ALEC cost estimates to a graph of actual wind transactions created by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (see graph; “PPA” means purchased power agreement). We had to extend the vertical axis upward in order to display ALEC’s astronomical mid and high cost estimates.

There are other problems in the ALEC energy analysis. They assume that expensive backup capacity is always needed, and always runs, when wind energy is used. New transmission capacity to connect renewables to the grid is assumed to be almost as expensive as generation; one of the data sources cited in the ALEC report actually estimates transmission costs at one-fourth the ALEC level. In reality, states with above-average reliance on wind power have below-average electricity rates; this would be impossible if wind power were as expensive as ALEC claims.

Having exaggerated the cost of electricity from renewables, the ALEC studies go on to exaggerate how much will be needed. Their estimates of the expected growth in electricity use per customer are far above those developed by the Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook, the widely cited government forecast of near-term energy supply and demand. This inflates the projected per-household costs of renewable energy, and makes it appear unduly difficult to meet demand with increases in renewables and energy efficiency.

The ALEC/BHI economic analysis is equally unsound. BHI uses STAMP, an idiosyncratic model that has never appeared in academic publications, or in work by anyone outside BHI. STAMP is a computable general equilibrium (CGE) model, developed by BHI to analyze tax policy changes. Like most (though not all) CGE models, STAMP assumes that there is automatic full employment for all those who are willing to work. Thus the failure of Keynesian stimulus programs is built in by assumption.

Yet despite the full employment assumption, STAMP routinely reports huge estimated job losses from government policies such as renewable energy standards. This is done by assuming hypersensitivity to tax rates. In STAMPworld, higher tax rates lead to higher prices, decreasing demand for goods and hence demand for labor, causing a reduction in wage rates. At lower wage rates, fewer people choose to work; in addition, more people are assumed to migrate out of the area and fewer migrate in. While there is still full employment for all who are willing to work, there are fewer willing workers after a tax increase – allowing STAMP to estimate job losses.

To connect this to the attack on renewable energy, STAMP assumes that an increase in electricity rates is paid by businesses everywhere and passed on to customers in higher prices. So higher electricity rates function as a sales tax, with all the job-destroying effects STAMP always sees in taxes. (If all you have is a hammer…)

University of Arizona economist Alberta Charney has examined STAMP’s findings for her state. Charney compared three models’ analyses of a combined $1 billion increase in state taxes and $1 billion increase in state government spending. The IMPLAN and REMI models, widely used to study employment impacts, both projected that Arizona would gain about 8,000 net new jobs from this package; STAMP estimated a net loss of about 9,000 jobs. Charney attributed this to the biased assumptions underlying STAMP’s treatment of government spending and taxes.

It’s no wonder that ALEC favors BHI’s economic model: STAMP has never seen a government program that it liked or a tax cut that it disliked. Those who want an objective analysis of the costs and benefits of renewable energy, however, will need to look elsewhere.

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82 comments

  1. Mary Bess

    Moving on another front, prominent climate denier David Koch is now sponsoring “science” programs on PBS. Here is PBS’s description of a recent Koch sponsored program in the NOVA series:

    Nova
    Earth from Space #4006 Duration: 1:56:46

    Description: Earth from Space is a groundbreaking two-hour special that reveals a spectacular new space-based vision of our planet. Produced in extensive consultation with NASA scientists, NOVA takes data from earth-observing satellites and transforms it into dazzling visual sequences, each one exposing the intricate and surprising web of forces that sustains life on earth. Viewers witness how dust blown from the Sahara fertilizes the Amazon; how a vast submarine “waterfall” off Antarctica helps drive ocean currents around the world; and how the sun’s heating up of the southern Atlantic gives birth to a colossally powerful hurricane. From the microscopic world of water molecules vaporizing over the ocean to the magnetic field that is bigger than Earth itself, the show reveals the astonishing beauty and complexity of our dynamic planet.

    If you watched about an hour and 50 minutes of the program, you would draw the conclusion that the earth’s weather is the result of cosmic forces beyond human control. The last few minutes mention that human activity might have something to do with pollution and other climate issues.

    Someone with solid credentials in climatology should review this program. The satellite footage is stunning, but is the program promoting good science?
    The program is labeled “Earth from Space,” but the subtext is climate. Very slick.

    1. Sufferin' Succotash

      Sounds like a nature film out of the 1950s. The viewers are supposed to be rendered ga-ga with wonder at the marvels of Our Planet and thereby incapable of comprehending what we’re doing to it. Just more dezinformatsia.

    2. Brooklin Bridge

      Personally, I thought it was a great documentary. My take on all the inter-related web of life stuff was just how fragile these networks are and therefore how susceptible they are to human intervention.

      In general, I couldn’t agree more with you that the Koch participation in these programs (such as the one on drones) renders them highly suspect. But in this case, Earth From Space, I even wondered how it was that such a Nova program got past the Koch brothers.

      1. Susan the other

        I wondered that too. The documentary did not elaborate on all the destruction we have done like the great barrier reef, like the gyre of plastic in both oceans poisoning marine animals; it raved on about the plankton cycle but it avoided anything about the frequency of red tides, and the fragility of it all – but it was indeed spectacular and calming – a little too Zen for me. I could almost hear Siddhartha telling me not to worry about all the misery and sadness in this world; just be happy. I’d prefer the hard facts and some good ideas toward remediation.

    3. Min

      “If you watched about an hour and 50 minutes of the {NOVA} program, you would draw the conclusion that the earth’s weather is the result of cosmic forces beyond human control.”

      You would also draw the conclusion that there is vast renewable energy available to us. All we have to do is to tap it. :)

  2. ambrit

    Friends;
    An interesting perversion of science. Yet, the local Mississippi Power Company, (a Southern Company, [there you go LBR!])is applying for an 18% rate hike to pay for a new lignite coal burning electricity generating plant in central Mississippi. {It’s going to burn local coal! Check up on the differences in particulate emissions attendant to the different types of coal. Then try to decide if you’re choking from laughing so hard, or from the smog.} Not being a climatologist or wind farm engineer, but it would look like a dead cert to put up wind turbines along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. No one has ‘officially’ put forward the proposal, that you can learn from the MSM.
    Oh for a couple of Savonius Rotors in the front yard!

      1. ambrit

        Dear AbyNormal;
        The Southern Company strikes again!
        And they’re not even pebble bed designs.
        I wonder if there are any good studies out there comparing Nuclear vs. Green electric generation systems, since this is NeoLib America, after all, from a financial perspective. Or even comparing jobs created per kilowatt/hour of production built. The NYT says the Georgia plants would be employing 5000 people soon. To build, or to run? And, as an extra added bonus, do the operator/builders figure decommissioning costs into the equation?
        We live in a degenerate age.

      2. nonclassical

        Puget Sound Electric was “studied” by 5 man bushit commission-then sold off=”privatized” to Canadian-Australian consortium, just in time for electric vehicles; about as much “accident” as millions of Americans going bankrupt, beginning 2 years after bushitters allowed credit card co lobbyists to re-write bankruptcy laws…(who didn’t know?)

  3. AbyNormal

    Iran Judiciary has handed down death sentence to four people convicted of involvement in the biggest embezzlement case in the country’s banking history.

    “The president of Bank Melli branch in Kish was slapped with life imprisonment and former deputy minister Khodamorad Ahmadi was sentenced to 10 years in prison,” Mohseni-Ejei, who is also Iran’s attorney general, added.

    Other defendants were handed down sentences varying from flogging to paying cash fines and being barred from public office, he said.

    http://www.presstv.com/detail/2013/02/18/289652/iran-sentences-4-to-death-in-scam-case/

    AbyN, no comment.

  4. taunger

    Unfortunately, our wind experience in the Bay State has proven the most contentious in the country. Teh wealthy have stymied Cape Wind for over a decade, and are in the process of the same regarding land-based wind (we have very little installed capacity, and now groups are getting turbines turned off). And a smaller number of towns are finding exotic ways to restrict solar installation (on the usual crazy aesthetic and property value basis). I’m not surprised we have a horrible, inaccurate report on wind power economics coming out of here.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      Large windmills near densely populated ares (dense compared say to a desert in Arizona), do have problems. The noise, though low, travels for miles and is a real irritant in that it’s always there. It bothers some people more than others. The light/shadow patterns of the blades revolving against the sun if the WM is between the sun and your house can be a real health hazard for some.

  5. Robert Ricketts

    Message to MFS … when you won’t let people click out of your ad, you anger the people you are trying to persuade. It’s negative advertising.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      There is an x in the lower left corner. Black circle. I don’t know why people are having so much trouble finding it.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        On my machine (slow) at least, that darned little X in the circle keeps skipping away from my mouse arrow as if on purpose. Frustrating.

      2. taunger

        Yep – I had trouble getting that little circle to square up in view a couple times too. Truly the most irritating thing I’ve had to deal with on the interwebs in a while.

      3. Carla

        I can never get to the x. I just keep scrolling and clicking and scrolling and clicking until finally it goes away and I get NC. It is without doubt the most annoying pop-up I have ever encountered. Yves, if you doubt the loyalty of your readers, this pop-up is the ultimate test. I would never put up with it for any other blog. But then, I’ve never sent a contribution to any other blog, either.

  6. Sleeper

    First for comparative energy costs try this site http://www.hydro.org/why-hydro/affordable/

    Second remember that many of the power companies are state regulated monopolies that is within their territory they are allowed to charge a percentage to make a profit. This used to be 5% above cost.

    So as any business the power companies routinely want to maximize cash so they generally build the biggest most expensive generation.

    After all 5% of a million is just 50,000 but 5% of a billion ?

  7. Emperor Wang of Market Mongo

    On Mongo we had macro energy economists and they concluded a family of 2.75 residents screws in 6.47 light bulbs and it takes 3.2 solar panels to power them.

    We sent the macro energy economists to Mongo Commons and had the local utility units of the Mongopoly Inc Online Catalog do case by case feasibility studies and publish the results for your Emperor and his advisers to analyze. These studies also included data from operational results of existing installations along with geo,weather and grid data of these existing installations.

    Things moved along much quicker, and in more or less the right direction after that. Of course, the invention of fusion power helped a lot.

  8. Jardinero1

    I quibble with the entire notion of “renewable energy”. I believe the phrase is fallacious and sidetracks the whole debate. There is no renewable. There are different methods of power generation that utilize varying combinations of finite resources and finite land. Wind and solar are capital and labor intensive, toxic in their manufacture, and utter hogs of finite land. Other renewables like Hydro power are extremely limited in their application and destructive of the physical environment. Hydro power ruins freshwater fisheries and has been catastrophic for marine estuaries by impeding the normal ebb and flow of water.

    1. dirtbagger

      Not certain where you reside, but when one drives across many of the Western states, the notion of finite land is nonsense. Most of these uninhabited areas are arid and unsuitable for agriculture. The main downside for development of wind and solar is distance from population centers and grid development costs.

    2. James

      As a strong Solar proponent,watching this “debate” infuriates me.
      I use Solar.
      It works.
      While I am cognizant of the manufacturing drawbacks I am only speaking of end use today.
      ALL SOLAR IS SITE SPECIFIC.
      That means it only is practical @ use site (your home).
      Trying to build acres of a solar array for the grid is futile because of voltage drop (or line drop).
      You also will get users heating/cooling – that’s a no -no.
      Look, I live in Florida so I need Air Conditioning.
      It is the only thing hooked to the grid.
      Forever its seemed like an all or nothing game w/TPTB.
      If you can’t light the NY skyline W/solar we won’t promote it says they.

      As far as localities legislating its non-use just build/change your roof line so it’s not visible.
      That’s what I did and nobody even knows I’m solar.

      The only reason solar is’nt used is because once you pay for equipment you no longer get a huge electric bill.
      Can’t have that can we?

    3. American Slave

      “Hydro power ruins freshwater fisheries”

      What holds more fish a tiny 10ft wide river or a huge lake.

      Its simple math really.

      1. Nathanael

        Hydropower on Niagara Falls is perfectly fine.

        It’s not the hydropower per se which causes fishery problems, it’s the dams. Note that Niagara Falls hydropower didn’t need dams. :-)

  9. Jardinero1

    Texas is a state with high use of “renewables”, particularly wind. Texas is also a state with lower electric rates than others. The reason for the low rates is the high use of natural gas and coal for base load power and the direct subsidy of 2.5 cents per KWH to wind producers which depresses electric rates. It has nothing to do with the use of wind,per se. In fact, the excessive addition of subsidized wind power has had an adverse effect on the future addition of more traditional baseload power and threatens the integrity of the the entire power generation grid in Texas.

    The wind generators produce most of their power in the spring and fall when the wind blows and demand is at a nadir. Because they receive a direct subsidy 2.5 cents for every KWH sold they can literally pay to have their electricity fed into the grid in the spring and fall and still make a profit. This kills the ability of baseload operators to cover costs because they also have to feed into the grid at the market rate, which is negative, due to the government subsidy to the wind operators.

    So now, baseload operators are unwilling to invest in new infrastructure going forward because they can’t pay to feed their electricity into the grid in the spring and fall.

    This is only a problem because of the federal subsidy of 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour. Without the subsidy, wind operators would not be able to pay to feed electricity to the grid and still make a profit.

    We have two choices going forward. End the subsidies to wind operators and let them compete on an equal footing with traditional producers. Or, we can pile on even more subsidies and subsidize the traditional producers to make them competitive with the subsidized wind operators.

    In Texas, you cannot get by without traditional power in the summer and winter no matter how many windmills you build in West Texas. Because the wind just does not blow in the the summer and winter in West Texas.

    1. pat b

      I believe in Texas, the sun shines in the summer,

      Texas is a natural for both PV and Concentrating SP, PV is getting cheap fast,
      CSP is in the early stage and still a bit of an engineering developement program.

        1. James

          Peter,Solar users store created energy during the day in batteries for off-hour use.

          Been doing it for years.

          1. peter cini

            Yep… may work for you as an individual over the course of 24 hrs… but not for megawatt system especially operating in the face of heavy cloud cover/ rain/ sleet/ ice/ snow etc.

            Very few people are actually brave enough to disconnect from the grid … I’m sorry but the reality is that people who using “renewables” are sponging off the rest of us.

          2. Nathanael

            Battery energy storage works just fine on utility scale.

            Unfortunately, you need somewhat better battery technology than is currently available.

            Luckily, such technology has already been developed, vetted by physicists, and is merely awaiting mass production.

        2. American Slave

          “But not at night… or do you or your friends have a fix for that too?”

          If enough solar or wind power is produced that we need to store it for some reason on a large scale than that problem has been solved more than a hundred years ago its called pumped storage hydro and a new system is called pumped aquifer storage I think. And solar thermal power can store heat in wax or salt for the power tower types.

      1. Jardinero1

        In Texas, the sunny part is hundreds of miles from where most of the people live. There is the whole problem of the first mile the middle miles and the last mile for delivery. Solar is a massive hog of land. Solar in any volume, that would make a difference, would require massive condemnations of property. It destroys the land underneath for local wildlife and changes the local albedo and local climate. Environmentally, on any large scale, outside the already built environment, solar is a disaster.

        1. rob

          Actually, your critique of solar energy is garbage.Solar energy does not take up “huge” swaths of land.The entire energy usage for this entire country could be created using a 93 square mile solar field.Now this round number isn’t parsing any of the distinct types of energy needed/electric,liquid fuels,etc.It is just an illustration that this country has a vast underutilized energy source.And to say”the sun doesn’t shine at night”…is hyperbole.The parabolic mirror type of solar generation that doesn’t employ rare earth , is really just a reflective construct that heats water,which holds its heat over night.And produces electric from that steam.The design is a hundred years old.and only political manipulation has kept a large facility of this type from being built in Arizona.
          Then there is the wind that is being used in texas right now.
          I’ve been in many parts of texas, and one thing texas has is land to use.A whole lot of wasted space.Even in east texas.And land that solar panels and wind turbines sit on isn’t wasted at all. It is good for indigenous animals of all kinds.Even birds in the so called turbine danger zone have a better time surviving turbines than household cats.
          To speak of people losing land in texas, you ought to be talking to those people whose family land is being taken by eminent domain to build the XL pipeline.
          Now, I would agree there are smarter ways to locate every energy source, but to ignore renewables, is assinine.And to pretend that there are not real alternatives is disingenuous.
          And to make a statement that these renewables are “labor intensive” , as if that is a bad thing;is a joke. Right now what this country needs is labor intensive jobs that HELP.The reason this stuff is underutilized isn’t because of reality.It is because of special intrests who don’t want the competition.And the coming end of their era.So, if you want to dig out some stats that show, there are steep pricing curves bringing out a new technology, I say… SO WHAT?So what else is new.And like has been shown, the back end of nuclear, and the defense dept bill to keep a world oil market afloat,or the coming enviromental damage from fracking…will bemore costly and less efficient than if we actually started cobbling together a sane energy program.

          Personally, My guess is that you are a troll, on this issue,because the points you make are really just lame.

          1. Jardinero1

            cite please for your 93 square mile number. You won’t find one because you are mistaken. If 93 square miles was all it took, we would have gone solar long ago.

          2. Nathanael

            JArd: he’s correct about the 93 square mile number. Google it yourself.

            The more easily accessible number is the number of square miles in the Sahara needed to power all of Europe.

        2. American Slave

          “It destroys the land underneath for local wildlife”

          Not really at all, solar panels are mounted on poles and plants still grow underneeth them and ive even seen rabbits sleeping under them to escape the hot sun.

    2. peter cini

      Thank you Jardinero for succintly refuting claims that “green alternative” energy is somehow a viable option to power a modern economy. To the contrary, aside from being a blight on the landscape, these pixilated schemes have, at best, created the return to coal-fired generating systems. This is exactly what’s happening in Germany, where nuclear plants are being replaced by coal.

      According to Forbes: “Germany is building about 25 clean coal-fired power plants to offset the loss of nuclear and address Germany’s admittedly ‘unaffordably expensive and unreliable” renewable portfolio’ (Der Spiegel). The German Green Party can now celebrate the opening of a 2,200 MW coal-fired power plant near Cologne. It started spewing out its annual, relatively clean, 13 million tons of CO2, and other nasties, so much lower than those older dirty coal plants that would have put out 15 million tons of CO2 for the same power output.

      A perfect fit to Germany’s low-carbon future.

      We usually give the Germans credit for being rational, but this coal plant will emit over one million times more carbon this year than all of their nuclear plants would have over the next 20 years, and cost over twice as much to run as any one of the them. Germany’s present strategy will absolutely not allow them to reduce their carbon emissions anywhere near their goal of 40% by 2020.”

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2012/08/31/germany-insane-or-just-plain-stupid/

      Of course, a worse option is to suffer regular brown outs or worse, a situation when utilities simply stop rebuilding and expanding capacity and the whiole power grid faces imminent collapse. Squeezed by fatal economies created by a confluence of factors, including having to subsidize green boondoggles, many public utilities will simply fail.

      But then again, many greenies would welcome such catastrophies. A lot of people would suffer and die. But what of it? Hard core enviros never fail to preach that (other) humans are the problem. Their elimination, the solution.

      1. taunger

        So Peter, we seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place – on the one hand, conventional fossil fuel power generation creates environmental degradation from soup to nuts, and on the other, “renewable” (scares for you!) generation is inadequate. Add in the global warming (which you haven’t mentioned, perhaps you don’t admit it?), and there is a true squeeze on our capacity for good solutions – pray tell, what do you propose?

        1. peter cini

          Which brings us to nuclear– uranium and/ or thorium … a complete cycle that greatly reduces the waste storage issue… beyond that, breeder reactors and possibly low temperature fusion…

          In any case, we’ll need a major bsae load source… the “real world” choices are fossil fuels — coal,oil and possibly gas or nuclear. Personally, I prefer nuclear for environmental reasons.

          But in any case, wind or solar are out of the question… If you don’t like the choices above, then disconnect from the grid and tell us how it works out. Don’t want to sound too harsh, folks, but that’s the reality.

          1. Nathanael

            Ah, a nuclear nutter.

            Sorry, I know plenty of people with very luxurious off-the-grid lifestyles. Solar is sufficient for all purposes. Yeah, you need quite a lot of solar (so on a national scale, you’d have to use several square miles of desert), and yeah, you need a lot of batteries (which is why only the rich have gone off-the-grid in luxurious style so far).

      2. Nathanael

        Jardinero is simply lying. You can google the amount of space needed for solar panels yourself.

        The reason it’s not been done is that it’s “more expensive” than burning fossil fuels. You know, when the damage caused by fossil fuels is “free”.

  10. Crazy Horse

    As a static analysis your description of the Texas energy system is accurate. Wind is not a base load energy source and Texas is unfit for human habitation in the summer without air conditioning. However a static analysis fails to describe the real world.

    1- Texas is a closed grid system, thus negating the possibility of partial leveling of intermittent energy supply sources through grid interconnects.

    2- The level playing field you demand would be level only for wind while ignoring direct and indirect subsidies that the fossil fuel energy producers receive currently and have amortized into their cost structure over decades.
    3- Indirect costs to climate and health from “traditional power” are ignored as if they didn’t exist.

    4- You assume that “traditional power” will always be there to support business as usual, when in fact it is finite, non-renewable, and thus inherently more and more expensive over time. And don’t repeat the fables about endless supplies of natural gas that are current flowing from the mouths of the propaganda press and the President but don’t withstand simple factual analysis.

    1. Jardinero1

      1. Grid interconnect would only transfer the problem to the neighboring grid. It would not change the fundamental problem of the federal government paying wind operators to produce whether their electricity is wanted or not.
      2. You mix apples and oranges when you compare a direct subsidy to a producer of 2.5 cents a KWH with what are essentially tax breaks. Tax breaks are only realized if you earn a real profit and pay taxes in the first place. No profit, means no taxes, means no tax breaks. Wind producers are paid to feed the grid even when it makes no sense to do so. They get the subsidy up front, as revenue, not on the backend as a reduced payment in taxes.
      3. Wind and solar also have many direct and indirect costs to the environment. They must also be considered in any policy discussion.
      4. As I stated in my first post, their is no “renewable”. I believe the phrase is fallacious and sidetracks the whole debate. There are different methods of power generation that utilize varying combinations of finite resources and finite land. Wind and solar are capital and labor intensive, toxic in their manufacture, utter hogs of finite land and destructive to their local environments. Other renewables like Hydro power are extremely limited in their application and destructive of the physical environment. Hydro power ruins freshwater fisheries and has been catastrophic for marine estuaries by impeding the normal ebb and flow of water.

      1. Code Name D

        > As I stated in my first post, their is no “renewable”. I believe the phrase is fallacious and sidetracks the whole debate. There are different methods of power generation that utilize varying combinations of finite resources and finite land. Wind and solar are capital and labor intensive, toxic in their manufacture, utter hogs of finite land and destructive to their local environments. Other renewables like Hydro power are extremely limited in their application and destructive of the physical environment.

        Trying to redefine “renewable”, aren’t you simply trying to argue semantics here? I suspect you are trying to eliminate the advantage from a positive word phrasing.

        > Capital intensive

        Any start up operations is capital intensive. Are you trying to say that a wind & solar farm is more capital intensive than fossil fuel systems? If so, where is your data?

        > Labor intensive

        That means job creation. And it has been shown that renewable systems will create more jobs than coal systems. You keep saying this as if it’s a bad thing.

        > Toxic in their manufacture

        Any more toxic than fossil fuel systems? Where is your data?

        > & utter hogs of finite land and destructive to their local environments.

        Now this is utter rubbish. I have seen large wind farms here in Kansas. The lands they are produced on continue to produce crops and grazing land for cattle. Have you seen the foot print for a coal plant? How about how toxic that fly ash is.

        1. Carla

          No one has even mentioned strip mining of coal or hydrofracking of oil and natural gas…Guess you need to hear from us here in Ohio, and our close neighbors in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

      2. American Slave

        “Hydro power ruins freshwater fisheries and has been catastrophic for marine estuaries by impeding the normal ebb and flow of water.”

        As far as the flow of water in Egypt when they got rid of a damn instead of a constant year round flow of water they would have a huge flow of water during the rain season which would wash nutrients into the ocean causing high algae growth but that during the dry season almost no water would flow in causing a huge die-off of the algae which would kill the fish which didn’t do much good.

      3. Crazy Horse

        Jardinero1.
        1- Grid interconnect using efficient HVDC transmission lines enables solar and wind resources in different wind and sun zones to complement each other. When the wind isn’t blowing in Texas it likely is blowing in Wyoming. Interconnection is not the zero sum game you represent it to be. Nor is it a magic way to turn intermittent energy into full base load energy.

        2- You would have us to believe that a mature industry that has enjoyed many decades of subsidies in the form of tax write-offs as well as never having paid for the cost of its environmental and health impacts has no subsidized advantage over a start-up competitor? To say nothing of the accumulated political power it has bought through its decades of subsidy? Give me a break!

        3- Agreed: Hidden costs and life cycle analysis should be used to evaluate any energy choice.

        4- You seem to be arguing that because a resource is not infinite or has attendant costs it shouldn’t be called renewable.

        I agree that the sun will eventually burn out and collapse into a black hole. Meanwhile I consider the energy from the sun to be infinitely renewable. Since wind is ultimately driven by solar heating it too is a renewable energy source. Drill a well two miles below the earth’s surface and you will encounter a source of energy driven by the nuclear reactions of at the earth’s core that is inexhaustible–let’s call it renewable– until the planet dies.

        Next in line come non-renewable energy resources like thorium that are so abundant that they can supply present energy needs for thousands or tens of thousands of years.

        And finally underneath places like Texas there are the liquid remnants of dead plants that we have already sucked more than half of the energy out of. Hydrocarbon production in your state peaked in the 1970′s and no amount of fracking can bring it back. Of that which remains, much will never be extracted because the cost of extraction exceeds the energy value that can be obtained. That is why oil and gas are called non-renewable resources; they are finite and will not be around to power industrial civilization in the future.

      4. peter cini

        Correct on all counts Jardinero.

        You illustrate the core folly in “green renewables” quite aptly.

        May I simply note that:

        1- Interconnectedness also implies building vast overcapacity into each local system… not only to cover times when the wind is calm and the sun doesn’t shine (in the latter case this may be measured in as many as four or five days) … but then also enough excess capacity to supply other regions many hundreds, even a thousand miles away. But of course no such mass storage systems are econimically feasible. Interconnectedness also implies huge transmission losses and immediate reconstruction of the whole transmission system itself.

        In any case, intercomnnected systems imply that a utility build and maintain the equivalent of many generating systems beyond local or nearby regional needs. How many? Six, eight, ten… such nonsense is causing the whole system to break down in Germany leading to heavy reliance on coal.

        2- As for subsidies… some in the fossil fuel industry may be legitimate, but abuses abound… everyone knows that. It’s been discussed for decades. Pperhaps in the current fiscal climate some of these abusive shelters can be cut

        But more to the point, for the obvious logistical reasons cited above, no matter what operating subsidies are given to “green renewables” it’s all wasted money ’cause we cannot control when the sun shines or lengthen the day or control when the wind blows.

        3- To reiterate the point, as stated, there is no practical large scale storage system in place now or remotely on the horizon … loopy suggestions that every utility build a montain and create a minihydro system can be dismissed out of hand.

        4- And one more thing, solar panels are subject to fast degradation of materials. I noticed this is mentioned in some of the more honest sales literature… The rate is high… maybe 10% every year. Maintenance for large systems is daunting as well… snow and ice removal, dust and particulates also greatly erode efficiency.

        1. Crazy Horse

          Peter,
          If you are going to participate in a discussion I suggest you read the comments you are responding to first.

          And then at least make an attempt to be logically consistent.

  11. Justicia

    Thanks for posting this, Yves.

    I wonder how STAMPworld treats electricity rate increases to cover construction cost over-runs for coal and nuclear power plants, like Duke Energy’s AG Edwards “clean coal” plant:

    “… STAMP assumes that an increase in electricity rates is paid by businesses everywhere and passed on to customers in higher prices. So higher electricity rates function as a sales tax, with all the job-destroying effects STAMP always sees in taxes. (If all you have is a hammer…)…”

    Washington Post
    http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-02-13/business/37069314_1_north-carolina-regulators-duke-ceo-jim-rogers-duke-shares

    By Associated Press,February 13, 2013
    NEW YORK — Duke Energy Corp.’s fourth-quarter earnings topped Wall Street expectations as electric rates rose and more extreme weather increased demand for power. But results were reduced by merger costs and cost overruns at an Indiana power plant.

    Evansville Courier & Press
    Dec 28, 2012

    INDIANAPOLIS — State regulators Thursday approved a deal that caps the amount of construction costs Duke Energy Corp. can pass along to consumers for its troubled coal-gasification plant in Southwestern Indiana.

    The deal approved by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission caps the amount at $2.6 billion, requiring the utility to absorb nearly $900 million in cost overruns.

    The increase, which will be imposed in steps, is expected to raise ratepayers’ bills a total of 14 to 16 percent by early 2014, Duke spokeswoman Angeline Protogere said. About 5 percent of that increase has already reached customers’ bills, she said.

    http://www.courierpress.com/news/2012/dec/28/dukes-edwardsport-plant-deal-okd/

    Looks like Duke Energy’s coal plant has destroyed a lot of jobs — say what STAMP?

  12. rob

    Good post!This community of intrest that has funded all this junk science and false policy initiative research,must be dismantled.Piece by piece.The whole of the media landscape uses this stuff. And people who have not the inclination to think otherwise, assume it is real,and not the manufactured garbage that it is.It takes time and effort to create formulaic algorithms that skew the numbers.It might not be difficult, as it would be to devise formulaic algorithms that actually have to be right…but it does take a certain amount of effort.

  13. Wayne Harris

    The real source of the right wing’s animus for wind is fear of its price-competitiveness with fossil fuels. According to the the EIA, the levelized cost of generating a megawatt hour of wind is 97 – already competitive with conventional coal (94.8), vastly cheaper than advanced coal (109.4) and laughably cheaper than coal with carbon sequestration (136.22). Wind is also cheaper than advanced nuclear (113.9), conventional natural gas turbine combustion (124.5), advanced turbine combustion (103.5) and in the ballpark with the most cutting-edge combined cycle NG with carbon sequestration (89.3). (See all the EIA levelized cost data here: http://www.eia.gov/oiaf/aeo/electricity_generation.html.)

    When you factor in that wind is the only competitively priced power-generation source that does not consume vast amounts of a precious and dwindling resource – water – you can see what a threat wind plays to the Koch brothers’ long-term income stream.

    1. Nathanael

      There are parts of the country (like Hawaii) where solar is already cheaper than building a *new* coal plant. Actually, in Hawaii, solar is by far the cheapest source of energy.

      And solar is getting *cheaper*. And batteries are getting *better*.

  14. JGordon

    There’s an easy solution to all this crap: buy your own solar panels/wind turbine and get off grid power.

    When you see what your renewable energy costs in reality you’ll have a lot of motivation to conserve more and lower your standard of living. Which everyone ought to be doing anyway since the “standard” standard of living in America is unsustainable and thus won’t be sustained for long regardless of whether you put solar panels on your roof or not. But if you have the panels at least you’ll have light at night as opposed to your unprepared neighbors will be shivering in the dark in dirty clothes when America’s access to imports finally does collapses–which every day of fiscal derangement and QE dollar debasement brings us closer to.

    1. Andrew not the Saint

      Best comment on this thread so far. The discussion of renewables vs. non-renewables is meaningless without planning on reducing the total energy used, as well as on benefits of decentralized vs. centralized generation.

      1. JGordon

        I am glad someone here appreciates my efforts at enlightening people about the benefits of decentralization and living a simpler life style.

        Sometimes I get so sick of the delusional hopium addicts who want to imagine that the only thing wrong with the system is a bit of corrupt and a little unfairness–when in fact the whole thing is a god-awful pyramid scheme of world-wide neoliberal plunder that could, and should, collapse at any moment. The way we are living today is sick and disgraceful; and when this thing finally does end, the people who are left will be very surprised to see the quality of their life improving by a mile.

        1. Nathanael

          Read _The Gods Themselves_, please.

          Nobody is going to “live a simpler lifestyle” in large numbers.

          Luckily, we don’t NEED to. There’s enough solar energy available to support the current lifestyle of everyone, easily!

          It just requires that we spend a bunch of money hiring people to build and install the solar panels, batteries, etc.

          (Might as well print the money to do so; we have enough unemployed people around.)

      2. BobS

        Yes to J and Andrew. It’s fucking crazy to be debating large scale wind and solar power generation projects that will have us continue paying corporations for an energy source that shines on or blows by every roof or backyard and that will still be subject to the breakdowns we’ve seen recently with the storms in the eastern US. In a sane world government R&D dollars would be directed at eliminating power grids altogether.

        1. peter cini

          May I simply point out to the austerity freaks that 46 million Americans live on foodstamps. 22% of the workforce is unemployed or underemployed. All these citizens live on the very edge of starvation. Usually it’s bankers and Tea Party stooges who demand intense cutbacks in living standards… when they do it, we call it mass murder.

          But many greenies wind up in the same space too…

  15. Joe

    This is why I’m an anarchist. In a free world, you would not have to convince the public which kind of electricity is best to have. In a free world, the market would determine this. If renewables were really cheaper, they would take over generation from fossil fuels. On the other hand if fossil fuels were cheaper, they would maintain their dominance. There would be no need for debate on these issues. As government grows and grows and grows to take over more and more of the economy, it becomes more and more necessary to sway public opinion in order to get anything done. The government should just exit the energy sector and see what happens.

    1. Nathanael

      The problem is that, without government, the “cheapest” solutions would be:
      (1) pollute a hell of a lot
      (2) use your guns to threaten, steal from, and enslave your neighbors

      See the problem?

  16. MRW

    ALEC wants to speed up the permitting process for mines, oil and gas wells, and power plants

    What about seeing the plans for cleaning up the mess first, detailed plans, and getting that permitted before they touch a speck of dirt first? Where are the land reclamation laws? Where are the environmentalists on this? And once everyone’s happy, will everyone in the state share in a common royalty to help pay for schools and health care?

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