Congrats to Kenneth P. Green of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) on a dubious achievement–stuffing the most disinformation on wind into a brief blog post that I’ve seen lately.
In a post entitled “Voting Against the Wind?”, Mr. Green crows about the fact that AWEA found it necessary to respond to lies about wind energy contained in recent political campaign ads, and basically expresses the hope that the recent election spells an end to this promising new mainstream clean energy technology.
Here’s a quick rundown of Mr. Green’s misstatements, with links to our responses, some of which have been publicly available to anyone with a computer and search engine for months:
The first cheap shot: Wind shouldn’t receive tax incentives because it’s “been around for 2,000 years.” It’s quite true that humans have been using wind that long (hey, perhaps longer—shouldn’t we count blowing on hot coals to make fire?), but today’s utility-scale wind turbines are technologically as far beyond centuries-old, primitive wooden mechanical wind pumpers as a 747 is beyond an ox cart. (Take a look here for a photo that gives a feel for the scale of today’s wind machines.) Modern large wind turbines date back only to the early 1980s, and new, larger and more technologically advanced models are continually being introduced to the market.
Why the cheap shot? Most likely it’s an attempt to obscure three facts:
1) U.S. fossil fuel industries have been receiving government tax breaks, some of which date back to the early 1900s, that are permanently written into law (the wind incentive expires at the end of this year), even though those industries are fully mature and should have long since been able to stand on their own.
3) Fossil fuels carry large “hidden costs,” which amount to indirect subsidies. The National Academy of Sciences, for example, found coal’s hidden subsidy to amount to a cool $60 billion each year—without taking impacts from climate change into account.
Mr. Green cites wind’s high cost. But see my recent entry on cost figures revealed by an actual utility in the field, which show wind’s costs to be in a competitive range. (The source Mr. Green references also claims that nuclear power costs less than wind, an assertion that is questionable at best.)
Regarding wind’s impact on wildlife, as always, the question is: compared to what? The environmental impacts of fossil fuels are far reaching and well known. Says the World Wildlife Fund, “WWF believes that the benefits of wind energy far outweigh the damage caused by the use of more conventional energy sources.”
Mr. Green claims (oh, that’s right, he doesn’t “claim” it, he just says “there is evidence”) that wind energy increases emissions, an assertion that is basically just as specious as it seems at first glance. And he claims (this time for real) that wind will endanger the reliability of the utility system—once again a charge that is without merit.
Quite an achievement for a five-paragraph blog post.
Let me not close, however, without saying a word about the irony of this relatively fact-free piece of writing appearing on the Web site of a group that calls itself the American Enterprise Institute (emphasis added). What could less exemplify the can-do spirit of American enterprise than turning our backs on a new, clean energy technology that has expanded dramatically around the world over the past decade—just as other countries like China, South Korea, India, Spain, Brazil and many more are doubling down? America still has a great work force, world-class wind resources both on land and offshore, and an abundance of engineering know-how, and wind energy is a proven manufacturing job producer. Let’s not let the dead hand of the past blight our hopes for the future. The true spirit of enterprise calls on us to seize the immense opportunity of clean energy and use it to help fuel our economy, revitalize our rural communities and farms, create thousands of new, well-paying jobs, and restore America’s manufacturing sector to global prominence.