Environment


Here is an e-mail that I received from my local utility urging me to switch to wind power. 

As a current WGES residential customer, you are already receiving 5% of your electricity from regional wind farms, a standard feature of your residential electricity supply contract. By stepping up to a higher percentage of wind, you can do even more to reduce regional air pollution and your carbon footprint.

When the typical household switches to 100% wind power, it’s the environmental equivalent of burning 700 fewer gallons of gasoline per year!

You Can Choose from Two Levels of Support.*

Choose Typical Annual Usage Step-up Amount Additional Price/kWh Additional Monthly Cost
50% WGES CleanStepsSM WindPower 10,000 kWh 45% 2.5¢ $9.37
100% WGES CleanStepsSM WindPower 10,000 kWh 95% 2.5¢ $19.79

*Based on typical annual household usage of 10,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh). Your additional monthly cost will depend on your actual electricity use.

Actually I  received three e-mails about this wonderful opportunity to spend an extra $100-250 per year to help save the environment.

I’m confused.  I thought that switching to alternative energy not only saved energy but saved money.  So why am I being asked to spend more money?  Because the fact of the matter is that wind and solar energy doesn’t save as much money as the public was led to believe and would be financially unviable without government (read taxpayer) subsidies.

Not only am I being asked to cough up more dough t go with wind energy but I am still paying for the subsidies through my taxes to keep the industry viable. 

I think I’m going to just blow this offer off.

 

The green energy push by Massachusetts goverenor Deval Patrick took several steps backwards when Evergreen Solar announced it would be shutting its nearly new plant in March.

Evergreen Solar which employed 800 people at a former military base in Devens attributed the closing to weak demand and cheaper suppliers in China who are heavily subsidixed by the government.

For Patrick the closing is a big black eye on a project he trumpeted despite opposition from the legislature for giving Evergreen $58 million in incentivesto build the plant in Massachusetts during a recession.

Now the state is faced with having  to figure out  if they can recover any of the money spent from Evergreen and how to make use of the space they will be vacating.  Instead of generating tax revenues the impending layoff of 800 employees will probably increase the state’s welfare burdens going forward and add to its 8.2 % unemployment rate.

Patrick who is a friend of president Obama has also taken on his green jobs mantra and spent heavily in this case for something that has blown up spectacularly in his face.

Liberals like Obama and Patrick have become big believers tha green jobs would be the saving grace for the sputtering American job market only to find out that demand for green energy is weak to non-existent and that companies in China can easily undercut U.S. companies.

Evergreen thinks it may have to repay the state $3 to $4 million as aresult of clawback provisions in their aid agreement but considering that the state gave them 14-19 time that much  money Massachusetts  taxpayers are the real losers here.

Being green may be the politically correct thing to do but for residents in Great Britain it comes ata realtively steep price.

According to the British price comparison website uSwitch households will pay an additional  £500 ($780) per year to help fund the investments untilities will need to make to comply with the government’s plan to develop low carbon power plants like wind farms and nuclear plants.

One possibility the government is considering is to levy a tax on coal and gas to make them more expensive than low carbon sources which will push up costs to the end user.

The real impetus behind the effort is largely due to European Union targets that mandate that Britain increase its share of energy from renewable sources from 3 to 15 percent without regard to cost.

To encourage the greening of the energy grid the government is planning to offer a guaranteed price for electricty which may result in more wind farms but as we have seen in the U.S. doesn’t mean it will be cheaper than energy  generated by coal or gas after the costs of construction are factored in.

Even though energy secretary Chris Huhne  dismisses the claims of higher costs  the Department of Energy and Climate Change admitted t that electricity prices would rise, but that it was still best for consumers.

So I guess it depends on who you trust more the government or the energy industry.

With winter having already arrived in Britain energy costs are already on the rise and with the global recession still lingering the last thing households need is a politically manipulated energy policy that will cost them more while delivering few net benefits.

Two years ago presidential candidate Barack Obama promised that he would create 5 million green jobs and was elected president  less tha a month later based on the country’s dissatisfaction with George Bush and the hope that he wasn’t just spinning another empty campaign promise.

Thanks partly to an overeager candidate and a brutal recession Obama has struggled to keep that promise and nowhere is that more eveident than in Ocala, Florida where workers that were retrained for green jobs with stimulus money are still waiting for them to materialize.

From the Washington Post

After losing his way in the old economy, Laurance Anton tried to assure his place in the new one by signing up for green jobs training earlier this year at his local community college.

Anton has been out of work since 2008, when his job as a surveyor vanished with Florida’s once-sizzling housing market. After a futile search, at age 56 he reluctantly returned to school to learn the kind of job skills the Obama administration is wagering will soon fuel an employment boom: solar installation, sustainable landscape design, recycling and green demolition.

Anton said the classes, funded with a $2.9 million federal grant to Ocala’s workforce development organization, have taught him a lot. He’s learned how to apply Ohm’s law, how to solder tiny components on circuit boards and how to disassemble rather than demolish a building.

The only problem is that his new skills have not resulted in a single job offer. Officials who run Ocala’s green jobs training program say the same is true for three-quarters of their first 100 graduates.

“I think I have put in 200 applications,” said Anton, who exhausted his unemployment benefits months ago and now relies on food stamps and his dwindling savings to survive. “I’m long past the point where I need some regular income.”

With nearly 15 million Americans out of work and the unemployment rate hovering above 9 percent for 18 consecutive months, policymakers desperate to stoke job creation have bet heavily on green energy. The Obama administration channeled more than $90 billion from the $814 billion economic stimulus bill into clean energy technology, confident that the investment would grow into the economy’s next big thing.

The infusion of money is going to projects such as weatherizing public buildings and constructing advanced battery plants in the industrial Midwest, financing solar electric plants in the Mojave desert and training green energy workers.

But the huge federal investment has run headlong into the stubborn reality that the market for renewable energy products – and workers – remains in its infancy. The administration says that its stimulus investment has saved or created 225,000 jobs in the green energy industry, a pittance in an economy that has shed 7.5 million jobs since the recession took hold in December 2007.

The industry’s growth has been undercut by the simple economic fact that fossil fuels remain cheaper than renewables. Both Obama administration officials and green energy executives say that the business needs not just government incentives, but also rules and regulations that force people and business to turn to renewable energy.

Without government mandates dictating how much renewable energy utilities must use to generate electricity, or placing a price on the polluting carbon emitted by fossil fuels, they say, green energy cannot begin to reach its job creation potential.

“Green energy investment has been a central talking point of the Obama administration’s job growth strategy,” said Samuel Sherraden, a policy analyst at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan research organization. “It was a little bit too ambitious given the size and depth of the recession and the small size of the renewable energy industry.”

Sherraden said it was unwise for the administration to invest so heavily in green energy, at least if short-term job creation was the goal. He said green energy comes with “political and market uncertainty” that has overwhelmed its job creation potential.

Despite that, Obama has described the surge of clean energy spending as crucial both to the nation’s economic and environmental future.

“Our future as a nation depends on making sure that the jobs and industries of the 21st century take root here in America,” Obama said in October. “And there is perhaps no industry with more potential to create jobs now – and growth in the coming years – than clean energy.”

But other administration officials acknowledge that it is likely to be years before the spending on green energy produces large numbers of jobs. And they add that only part of the money earmarked for green energy has been spent. They also agree that the government will have to help create demand to support green energy.

Still, they are optimistic for the long term, even if the spending will not significantly ease the nation’s unemployment crisis in the short run.

Anton isn’t the only one wating for a job.

Carols Arandia, 59, has earned seven green jobs certificates since beginning classes this year, while renting a room from a friend to weather the hard times.

Often studying well into the night, Arandia is familiar with hard work. He ran a small manufacturing business in his native Venezuela before arriving in the United States in 1996. For years, he lugged around a dictionary and a notebook in which he religiously wrote down words and phrases until his English became passable. He worked seven years at Boston Chicken. Later, he sold cars.

But now, after nearly two years of being out of work and a series of classes that have not led to a job, his optimism is dimming.

“What is the point of giving somebody the tools to do something but to have nowhere to use them?” he asked. “I think it’s a great program, but I don’t see the connection with all the training and jobs. And I need a job.”

Christine Bageant, 45, also jumped at the opportunity to train in green jobs, after losing her position at the county library. She viewed the new classes as an opportunity to “get in on the ground floor of something big.”

Since then she has earned similar training certificates as Arandia. A few months ago she started looking for work as a painter. She thought her newly acquired expertise in abating lead paint would make her a hot commodity.

But many of the painting contractors she has interviewed with are tiny companies, with no more than two or three employees. They are struggling to survive, and Bageant’s expertise in lead abatement has left them unimpressed.

“Right now they are blowing it off,” she shrugged. “They don’t think it’s important.”

Officials who helped develop the training program nod knowingly when asked about the difficulty graduates are having landing jobs.

“I think this is a great program,” said Peter J. Tesch, president and chief executive of the Ocala/Marion County Economic Development Corp. “Applying it to real life, that is the challenge. In a place like Florida everybody’s talking the talk, but they’re not walking the walk. The market place has not caught up to the technical training and skill sets that have been provided these people.”

That much was obvious at a recent ceremony for 15 graduates of a solar electric training class. The students beamed proudly as family members took pictures and program officials offered words of wisdom.

Then, one-by-one, they walked up front to receive their certificates. But rather than serving as a passport to a job, the certificates were more like IOUs to be redeemed sometime in the distant future.

Ocala’s goal was to create 665 jobs in the renewable energy industry but to date graduates of the program are no better off than they were before despite their training.

“There is significant job creation potential in clean energy. But it is not revealing itself quickly or clearly,” said Jerone Gamble, executive manager of continuing education at the College of Central Florida, and a chief architect of the green jobs training program. “In the time being, we’re really selling hope.”

While it would have been difficult to predict the depth of the recession he should have known that the green jobs depends on a combination of government regulations, a relatively healthy economy and lots of federal subsidies to make solar and wind energy attractive to homeowners and businesses.

And you can’t put a solar panel on a foreclosed home which there is an abundance of in Florida so the very idea that Ocala is still bothering to train people for non-existent jobs shows what a waste of taxpayer money this program has been.

The graduates shouldn’t set their sights too high because as Jerone Gamble said in the article, they are “selling hope” much like Obama did two years ago to the American public.  And we all know how well that turned out.

Forner vice-president and noted environmental activist Al Gore issues a mea culpa of sorts when he admitted that his support fr corn-based  ethanol was a mistake.

From Reuters

Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore said support for corn-based ethanol in the United States was “not a good policy”, weeks before tax credits are up for renewal.

U.S. blending tax breaks for ethanol make it profitable for refiners to use the fuel even when it is more expensive than gasoline. The credits are up for renewal on Dec. 31.

Total U.S. ethanol subsidies reached $7.7 billion last year according to the International Energy Industry, which said biofuels worldwide received more subsidies than any other form of renewable energy.

“It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for (U.S.) first generation ethanol,” said Gore, speaking at a green energy business conference in Athens sponsored by Marfin Popular Bank.

“First generation ethanol I think was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small.

“It’s hard once such a programme is put in place to deal with the lobbies that keep it going.”

He explained his own support for the original programme on his presidential ambitions.

“One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president.”

U.S. ethanol is made by extracting sugar from corn, an energy-intensive process. The U.S. ethanol industry will consume about 41 percent of the U.S. corn crop this year, or 15 percent of the global corn crop, according to Goldman Sachs analysts.

A food-versus-fuel debate erupted in 2008, in the wake of record food prices, where the biofuel industry was criticised for helping stoke food prices.

Gore said a range of factors had contributed to that food price crisis, including drought in Australia, but said there was no doubt biofuels have an effect.

“The size, the percentage of corn particularly, which is now being (used for) first generation ethanol definitely has an impact on food prices.

“The competition with food prices is real.”

Gore supported so-called second generation technologies which do not compete with food, for example cellulosic technologies which use chemicals or enzymes to extract sugar from fibre for example in wood, waste or grass.

“I do think second and third generation that don’t compete with food prices will play an increasing role, certainly with aviation fuels.”

This is a little bit like a “Come to Jesus” moment for Hore as he admitted that not only was he mistaken in supporting corn-based ethanol but he largely did so because he was going to run for president and needed the farm vote.

Conservatives have been saying for years that corn-based ethanol is not cost effective only to be drowned out by environmentalists like Gore and the liberal media who jumped on every green energy scheme that crossed their path regardless of the facts.

Hopefully Gore’s statement will help kill the subsidy which amounted to $3 billion in credits in 2007 and was expected to reach $5 billion this year but the corn lobby will fight hard for the chance to continue feeding at the government trough.

the free market should decide what renewable energy sources succeed and fail but the problem with allowing that to happen is that mot of them would fail without heavy government subsidies which we all pay for so green energy isn’t as cheap as the left would have us believe.

For now I’m sticking to corn on the cob.

Wind power long hailed as a cheap and clean source of energy has been hit hard by the realization that being cheap is not the same as being the cheapest energy source during a recession.

Take Invenergy a company that builds wind farms.  Just two years ago the company has banks that were willing to lend it millions of dollars to provide a green breeze of juice across the country.  They even had a deal to sell energy to a utility in Virginia.  But then came the recession along with a surplus of natural gas that has turned the economic numbers against wind power.

In Virginia state regulators rejected the deal citing lower costs from fossil fuels and natural gas.  They calculated that wind energy would increase rates by 0.2 percent and that any increase couldn’t be justified no matter how small in the midst of a recession.

And so it has gone in other states like Florida,Idaho and Kentucky where deals have either been scuttled or slowed down pushing the adoption of wind energy several years down the line.

While state regulators have tried to be more fiscally responsible wind energy advocates have been arguing that the failure to add clean energy to the power mix is shortsighted and harmful to the environment.

But this is a typical liberal argument that it doesn’t matter what it costs if it’s good for the environment.  Yet in the case of many wind energy projects that is debatable.

Take Rhode Island for instance where regulators earlier this year rejected an offshore wind energy deal that would have cost 24.4 cents per kilowatt hour versus the 9.5 cents per kilowatt hour cost using electricity and fossil fuels.  That’s more than double the cost to be clean and green.  Maybe the Al Gore’s and Kennedy’s of the world can afford to pay a premium for being green but most Americans can’t and won’t especially with a sour economy.

It’s a little like going organic.  Americans flocked to stores like Whole Foods when times were good and didn’t care about overpaying for food if it was organic.  But as soon as the recession hit Whole Foods went into a tailspin that they are now only recovering from.  The same goes for many green advocates who ignored the true cost of renewable energy during the boom years but now balk at the cost of doing so leading to a slowdown in the movement.

The Rich Get Richer

Remember the Pickens Plan?  Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens extolled the virtues of wind energy several years ago as oil topped $140 a barrel and spent millions on television ads extolling his vision.

The only problem was that he was going to erect a massive number of wind turbines even in areas that had little wind which would have been heavily subsidized by the government without a clear plan as to how he was going to transmit the energy generated from such far flung locations.

If his plan had gone forward the taxpayers would have been footing the bill for a very long time in exchange for a limited amount of energy.

Pickens had a plan alright.  It was how to make his next billion on the backs of the taxpayers.

I think it is inevitable that we will move to more types of renewable energy as time goes on thanks largely to taxpayer subsidies for solar panels and wind turbines.  But with this move comes increased costs which may appear small to some but multiplied over the ratepayer base will add up to millions of dollars in unneeded expense in the name of saving the environment.

Frankly I just want cheap clean energy.  Give me nuclear.

 

 

The green energy movement which preaches that they want to save the planet by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and thus our carbon footprint has hit a wall recently as more and more people realize that their is a very real cost to being green.

Case in point is my local utility Washington Gas.  They sent a letter to their customers promoting their Clean Steps Wind Power solution. 

According to the letter customers are currently receiving 5% of their electricity from wind power but now have a chance to increase that to 100%. 

By switching to wind power every customer will be using the equivalent of 700 fewer gallons of gasoline  per year.

I have to admit that sounds pretty good.  Who wouldn’t want to save gasoline and multiplied the utility’s customer base that could be a very significant number.  To date the company has convinced over 10,000 customers to make the switch.

Now there is just one tiny catch to this do good policy.  To switch you have to agree to pay for the privilege.

If you want 50% wind energy then it will cost an extra $10 per month, at 100% an extra $20 per month.

That’s just what I want to do in the midst of a recession is to increase my energy costs.  Thanks but no thanks.

Yes the green energy movement wants us to “save the planet” by opening up our wallets to pay for the privilege.  Just look at solar energy.  It would be totally dead in the water if it wasn’t for government subsidies.  And remember T. Boone Pickens’ wind scheme of just a couple of years ago?  He wanted to build a massive wind farm in the midwest but it collapsed as oil prices fell and the inability to get the government to agree to subsidize the building of transmission lines.  Even a billionaire like Pickens was lining up at the government trough.

By the way if they really wanted to give me clean energy offer me nuclear power which is cheap and effcicient. Then we can talk.

I will do something for the environment though as a result of this mailing.  The letter and envelope it came in will be deposited in my paper recycling bin so it can be reborn in yet another letter pushing another green scheme in the future.

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