Wind Power Coal and the Politics

Not Everbody is for Wind Power

EPA says nuts to coal, while McDonnell embraces the wind

By Norman Leahy | Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 | Economics Policy Virginia

Two very different, but equally troubling, developments on the energy front today…
One is that the Environmental Protection Agency has decided to go ahead with new regulations that “…analysts said would effectively ban new coal-fired stations unless they use carbon-capture technology, which hasn’t yet been proven cost-effective.
So for all those folks living and working in Virginia’s coal country: nuts to you. And to the consumers of electricity generated by coal plants? It’s time to rediscover the joys of candle light.
Another comes from the McDonnell administration, which in a press release touts the “…proposed construction of a 479-foot-tall, five-megawatt wind turbine generator prototype in the lower Chesapeake Bay, three miles off the Eastern Shore town of Cape Charles.”
In the release Gov. McDonnell is quoted as saying:

“This step forward holds tremendous potential for jobs and for economic development here in the future. Virginia’s unique and efficient permitting process adopted for small energy projects like this one was a critical factor in Gamesa’s choice of Virginia as the location for this U.S. wind energy operation, and today we see the fruit of these proactive policies.”

Gamesa, for those wondering, is a Spanish company that has hit a bad patch recently as European governments, owing to their debt problems, have had to stop writing checks to wind energy firms. Then again, our own government seems quite willing for the moment, to keep writing those checks. Or at least big wind is keen on having it do so.
But let’s dig a bit into the Governor’s contention about the “tremendous potential for jobs and economic development.” According to Glenn Schleede, that’s simply not true

“Wind farms” have very high capital costs and relatively low operating costs compared to generating units using traditional energy sources. They also create far fewer jobs, particularly long-term jobs, and far fewer local economic benefits. “Wind farms” are simply a poor choice if the goals are to create jobs, add local economic benefits, or hold down electric bills.

Poor choices seem to be in high favor these days.
But part of this stems from the muddled thinking that goes along with the embrace of an “all of the above” approach to energy. The Obama administration says it’s for “all of the above,” except when it includes coal, nuclear and oil.
Republicans tend to like the concept because it gives them a green energy patina. Nevermind the details, or the costs, we’re for it.
Unless “it” is uranium, in which case Virginia pols of both parties tend to run for cover.
As I noted over a year ago, “all of the above” is little more than rent seeking from the right. It’s a sad bit of sloganeering that includes everything — from oil to algae — for its own sake, regardless of how much the energy costs, how difficult it is to obtain, or whether a market exists for it.


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