To the Editor,
I recently read that Tammy Reiss of Unadilla took a biking trip through wind country in Lewis County, NY. She talked to friendly, well paid employees of the Iberidola wind farm complex and observed tidy farmsteads existing in harmony with a local energy source. She contrasted that with fossil fuelsí destruction of the planet and implied renewables are the key to the future.
Ms. Reiss sent us a picture postcard. Hereís Realville. We live in a carbon-based society because carbon-based fossil fuels provide a cheap, abundant, efficient energy and heating source and supplies the chemical feedstock for millions of items that are the fabric of modern life.
Regarding energy, renewables canít compete in cost unless mandated by government and propped up with massive subsidies and tax breaks. Wind and solar are several decades away from the technology and systemic solutions in storage and transmission that give them a significant market share in energy. Finally, the world canít wait. We need a bridge fuel. And that fuel is shale gas.
As for subsidies, all energy producers are at the public trough. However, they are not treated equally. The Institute for Energy Research used Department of Energy data to determine the subsidy paid per megawatt of electricity. Oil, gas, and coal clocked in at 64 cents per megawatt; hydropower at 84 cents; nuclear at $3.14. Wind blew in at $56.29 per megawatt and solar topped off at a sky high $775.64. For every tax dollar spent supporting an oil, gas, or coal company, a wind company got $88 and solar (remember Solyndra?) got $1,212 for the same output. The problem here is that the money isnít going for the R&D necessary to made renewables competitive but rather into the pockets of crony capitalists with inside connections.
Thatís our tax money. While many feel it is a dollar well spent, others donít. NYS is a high tax state. Taxes and the high cost of energy are key reasons for business leaving New York. When they leave, fewer businesses and lower employment mean higher taxes for those who remain. Higher taxes mean more migration Ö and the beat goes on. New York is not yet in the Detroit Death Spiral but weíre on the trajectory.
New York is not alone. Spain, the home country of Iberidola, the owner of the wind farm visited by Ms. Reiss, is cutting subsidies for renewables. It canít afford them. Likewise Germany. Spiraling costs to the ratepayers for maintaining renewable wind and back-up coal (two systems at once) has made Germany realize sustainable wind is unsustainable economically. Back in the States, 28 states are considering cutting back on subsidies for the same reasons.
Commendably, Ms. Reiss wants to save the planet through renewables. However, in addition to expense and technical problems, add scale. In 2011 the IPCC surveyed the world energy output. Renewables (solar, hydro, wind, tidal, wave, geothermal, and biomass) accounted for 13.8 percent that the world used for transport, heat and electrical power. However, the bulk of renewables came from biomass (10.8 percent) mostly wood and dung used for cooking. If you exclude hydro (2.6 percent), the remaining renewables favored by ďgreenĒ advocates contribute less than half of 1 percent of the worldís total energy output. There is no way these types of renewables, at current prices for current output, will be able to meet the worldís energy needs.
Those needs are massive. It is estimated that India and China will transition 600 million people from current abject poverty to the middle class in the coming decades. Thatís twice the population of the United States. Those people will want the same things that Ms. Reiss wants -- a car, a vacation, a comfortable place to come home to with electricity powering computers, a refrigerator, indoor plumbing, the whole works.
How do we accommodate these aspirations with the renewables that we canít afford now and at the same time lower CO2 emissions with cleaner energy? It canít be done Ö without gas.
Cheap, abundant, domestic, versatile natural gas has 50 percent less CO2 millions than coal and 30 percent less than oil. According to the US Energy Information Agency report last year, CO2 emissions in the US are down to a 20 year low due to the switch by our power plants from coal to gas. This year the IPCC confirmed that finding. China has about twice the shale reserves ot the United States. Imagine the good to the planet when China starts tapping that resource. Imagine the benefit to its people.
I suggest Ms. Reiss take another trip, this time heading south to Susquehanna and Bradford County in Pennsylvania. Sheíll find the same neat farmsteads she found up north, plus the bustle of activity that comes with sustainable economic growth. That growth (gas reserves) is predicted to be there for over 50 years. By that time the renewables may be on line and in scale to make a significant impact on our energy needs without raiding the Treasury. Thatís a goal everyone can get behind.