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Posts from — May 2010

Beyond NIMBY: A Grassroots Strategy to Defeat Windpower

[Editor note: Tom Stacy of Save Western Ohio is a critic of the industrial wind lobby "using incomplete and misleading claims of energy, economic and environmental benefit ... to attract public funding far beyond the free market value of their product." This is his first post at MasterResource.]

It takes more than anger to fight against the political “green tide” of windpower. It requires courage backed by effective argumentation.

Many people throughout history have taken an unpopular stand. Most have been censored, or worse, but some have been responsible for breakthroughs in our grasp of natural science and other realms of human understanding.  Galileo, Columbus, Paine, Lincoln, Edison, Wright, and Deming come to mind.

One historical figure named Reagan even went so far as to tear the solar panels off of the White House roof when he learned how much they cost and how little they produced. That same week he terminated the Federal Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit. And the walls came tumbling down.  But we have no such constitutional leader today who, from the top down, would put a stake through the heart of the marauding beast we know as industrial wind—while simultaneously promoting sound policies that promote a genuinely competitive marketplace where contributors thrive and laggards languish.

Wind is a clever parasite, leeching our rural persona, making country people believe that it is one with their way of life, just another wind mill on a wind farm along a wind park—all beloved by peace-loving neighbors. BUT WE KNOW BETTER! We know it’s a sprawling industrial stampede using PR parlor tricks and old-fashioned political bribes to make people think black is white and pigs can fly. We know it’s a greedy tax avoidance scheme for large corporations to increase their bottom lines at our expense.

We know it’s engaged in “imagineering,” pretending to be an effective energy solution when it’s not.  The truth is, it makes our energy situation worse, and our pocket books much lighter. Had our elected representatives remained neutral toward the limited liability wind companies forcing them to offer sound, scientific proof for their many claims, the wind projects would have never been born.

Ohio Senator Bill Seitz wrote the following to one of our ranks opposing the Buckeye wind farm: “I think you all need to continue to be zealous advocates and to realize that your advocacy has been effective and that your community’s prosecutor and his staff are doing a thorough and commendable job.” While I cannot disagree with his kudos, I think our zeal must be exercised more carefully. [Read more →]

May 29, 2010   14 Comments

Energy Regulation in the States: A Wake-Up Call

“Local environmental regulators say they will press ahead in their battle against global warming whether or not Congress strips U.S. EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gasses. State and local officials from New York and New Jersey also predicted that new greenhouse gas-curbing rules regulating industries would continue even if Congress approves federal climate legislation.”

- Nathanial Gronewold, “States Refuse to Back Down on Climate Policy,” E&E News, May 24, 2010 (reprinted below).

Affordable energy is under assault at all levels of government. But while much attention has focused on federal efforts that are certain to increase the cost of energy (e.g. Waxman-Markey, Kerry-Graham-Lieberman) far less scrutiny been paid to the concerted efforts at the state level to achieve similar goals. The Institute for Energy Research’s report Energy Regulations in the States: A Wake-up Call fills the void and highlights the programs anti-energy activists are promoting in the states.

The report is available here and an interactive map showing electricity prices and other select economic and energy data is here.

The report includes:

  • A detailed look at greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations in the states. There have been total of 249 bills passed (see below) that regulate GHGs nationwide, leading to higher energy prices in states.

bills in states

  • An examination of the three regional greenhouse gas initiatives and their effect on state energy policy. A majority of the nation’s states are either members or observers in one or more of these initiatives, and they have varying effects of energy policy.
  • A look at the de facto bans on coal power plants that are popping up in different parts of the nations, and the impact these have on the price of energy and doing business in these states.
  • An analysis of Renewable Portfolio Standards throughout the nation. These mandates require a certain percentages of the state’s overall electricity to come from renewables. States that have binding renewable electricity mandates, have electricity prices that are an average of 40 percent higher than other states.
  • A break down of the electricity generation profile in each state (this map provides an easy-to-use view of this breakdown). The report also explains why promoting nuclear and wind will do nothing to reduce oil imports (petroleum provides only one percent of our electricity generation).
  • An examination of the reasons electricity prices are lower in some states than in others. For example, 13 of the 15 states with the least expensive residential electricity prices produce at least 50 percent of their electricity from either coal or hydroelectric power.
  • A detailed state specific appendix examining the energy sources, prices, and regulation (scroll down here to view the link for each states) These profiles give the varying prices of energy per state, as well delve into the wide spectrum of energy sources utilized by our nation. They describe both the benefits and impediments that different sources face in each state and the programs that make up policy. [Read more →]

May 28, 2010   2 Comments

The BP Spill: Self-Regulation, Public Property, and Political Capitalism

[Editor note: Some important facts are emphasized in this post: the Gulf oil spill occurred on property owned and managed by the federal government, and the operator-at-fault (BP) has been the most politically active in its industry. Sheldon Richman is editor of The Freeman magazine and www.thefreemanonline.org, where this article first appeared.]

With some 7,000 barrels of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico each day from BP’s exploded Deepwater Horizon well, offshore drilling and oil-industry regulation have returned to the front pages.

The familiar old trap is set: Do you want unfettered markets and oil spills or government regulation and safety?  The implied premise is that the oil industry operates in a free market. So, the argument goes, the only alternative is government regulation.

On first glance that story is plausible.

From USA Today:

The company that owns the offshore well spewing crude oil in the Gulf of Mexico and other major oil companies spearheaded a campaign to thwart a government plan to impose tighter regulations aimed at preventing similar disasters, according to government records.

Tighter regulations would have required that drillers perform independent audits and hazard assessments designed to reduce accidents caused by human errors, but the federal Minerals Management Service (MMS) has so far not imposed the rules in the face of near unanimous opposition from oil companies.

Oil executives — including BP, which leased the rig that exploded April 20 — argued that the industry had a solid environmental record and most companies had voluntarily adopted similar safeguards to protect against a major spill. They also said the new rules would have been too costly.

So: the MMS wanted to regulate, but the industry said it could regulate itself at lower cost, insisting it was a good steward of the environment. This is not to say that MMS was right and the companies wrong. For reasons provided below, government regulation is fatally flawed. Further, this is not just a simple matter of regulation. More fundamentally it’s a matter of ownership. The government has proclaimed itself the owner of the offshore positions where oil companies drill. In a free market those positions would be homesteaded and managed privately with full liability. In the absence of a free market and private property, built-in incentives that protect the public are diminished if not eliminated. Bureaucrats and “political capitalists” are not as reliable as companies facing bankruptcy in a fully freed market. [Read more →]

May 27, 2010   5 Comments

Wind Integration Realities: The Bentek Study for Texas (Part IV)

[Editor's note: This is the final post in the series reviewing studies for the Netherlands, Colorado and Texas on (elevated) fossil-fuel emissions associated with firming otherwise intermittent wind power. Part I introduced the issues. Part II showed negated emission savings for the Netherlands at current wind penetration (about 3 percent). Part III extended the Netherland's experience to the higher wind penetration in Colorado (6%) which demonstrates higher emissions. Part IV concludes with the Bentek results for Texas,which confirms those for Colorado.]

There are a number of relevant, notable characteristics of the 2008 Texas electricity production profile, 85% of which is managed by ERCOT:

  • The utility portion of the total electricity production is only about 24% of the total, with independent suppliers providing 57% and CHP installations, 19%. This distribution suggests that ERCOT’s ability to balance wind production is more limited than what might first appear.
  • Wind production is 5% of the total (less CHP), but a very large 17% of the utilities portion.
  • A large proportion of gas production is provided by independent suppliers and CHP, 45% and 39% respectively, again likely limiting ERCOT’s ability to balance wind with gas.
  • The ratio of utility gas to wind production is 192%, which suggests that this is tight if dedicated to wind balancing. This, plus high production from wind at night, explains the high degree of cycling of coal plants required.

Because of recycling events, arguably attributable to the presence of wind plants, the results are the same as for PSCO, that is, there is an increase in CO2 emissions with the presence of wind. In ERCOT, the coal plants produced an additional CO2 emissions in 2008 of about 0-566,000 tons over running stably without these events, and in 2009, an additional 772,000-1,102,000 tons. [Read more →]

May 26, 2010   10 Comments

Wind Integration Realities: The Bentek Study for Colorado (Part III)

[Editor's note: This is the third of four posts on (elevated) fossil-fuel emissions associated with firming otherwise intermittent wind power. Part I introduced the issues. Part II showed negated emission savings for the Netherlands at current wind penetration (about 3 percent). Part III (below) and Part IV tommorow examine the higher emissions from wind in Colorado and Texas, respectively, according to a new study by Bentek.]

The Bentek study is a significant contribution to the wind/fossil-fuel emission literature despite some notable limitations. The study analyzes the PSCO system, which dominates Colorado’s needs, and the ERCOT system in Texas, which manages 85% of that state’s electricity.

The analysis includes SO2, NOx and CO2 emissions. Bentek looks at coal cycling events only in both cases, ignoring any gas cycling, while noting PSCO’s acknowledgement that wind impacts gas as well as coal.

There are reasons why coal cycling is focused upon:

  • Although gas turbine plants are better suited for cycling to support wind, for both PSCO and ERCOT gas resources are insufficient to balance all the wind energy produced.
  • There is a small amount of pumped storage available to PSCO, which can run for only four consecutive hours.
  • Wind is strongest at night when base load coal plants predominate, and there is reduced gas generation, which may not be sufficient to safely cycle gas plants.
  • As a result, reported gas cycling events at PSCO are less frequent than that for coal.

Both analyses utilize published production information. As PSCO does not reveal hourly wind production, for emissions analysis purposes, Bentek has to rely on a few coal cycling events in relation to detailed wind production provided in PSCO training manuals. This limitation is offset by the information available on a notable increase in coal cycling, which has occurred during the period of wind introduction, and which is arguably attributable to wind. As ERCOT does release wind production at 15 minute intervals, the same analysis approach is used in the Texas system to validate the Colorado results, which it does.

Criticisms that the PSCO analysis is based on two days experience only, are well answered in the Bentek report. The reality is that PSCO does not make the necessary information available, and Bentek has done well with what they had to work with. Also, the validation of results based on the ERCOT experience is important. Finally, Bentek appropriately acknowledges limitations by calling for more comprehensive studies based on detailed information.

Having established that RPS appear to add to the emissions problem, Bentek concludes that, given RPS, it will be necessary to incorporate adequate flexible fuel capacity facilities (gas plants) to ensure reduction in emissions, which is true enough. What is missed in this logic is that incorporating such new facilities without RPS will achieve even lower emissions. More on this is provided below. There are not only more emissions with RPS than without them, but also there is duplicate capacity installed (wind) at significantly higher costs, which adds notably to the costs of electricity. [Read more →]

May 25, 2010   5 Comments

Wind Integration Realities: The Netherlands Study (Part II)

[Editor's note: This is the second part in a four-part series on two new studies examining the negation of windpower emissions savings from fossil-fuel firming. The Netherlands study below, which is found to be consistent to Mr. Hawkins's calculator approach, indicates a total negation of emissions savings from fossil-fuel fill-in.]

Windpower has traditionally been considered a substitute for carbon-based energy and thus a strategy for reducing related emissions, including that of carbon dioxide (CO2). However, reality is more complicated. Either natural gas-fired or coal-fired power must rescue wind from its intermittency problem, a role that creates incremental fuel usage and emissions compared to a situation where the conventional capacity could operate on a steadier basis.

Previous studies have highlighted this unsettling tradeoff for proponents of windpower. And a new study by C. le Pair and K. de Groot based on actual experience in the Netherlands finds:

The use of wind energy for electricity generation in combination with the requirement for fossil fuel powered stations to compensate for wind fluctuations can easily lead to loss of the expected saving in fuel use and CO2 emission. In addition, the conventional stations will be subject to accelerated wear and tear.

It is recommended to get an accurate and quantitative insight into these extra effects before society sets out to apply wind energy on a large scale. All producers must be required to publish data on the efficiency effects and fuel use when wind energy is added on.

This post reviews their study and compares its results with that produced by my fossil fuel and CO2 emissionscalculator, both of which show how quickly any claimed saving from wind can become negative given the reality of fossil-fuel backup to firm-up intermittent power. [Read more →]

May 24, 2010   3 Comments

Wind Integration Realities: Case Studies of the Netherlands and of Colorado, Texas (Part I: Introduction)

There is no convincing proof that utility-scale wind plants reduce fossil fuel consumption or CO2 emissions. Although there are are a number of reports claiming gains can be made that will combat climate change, free us from fossil fuel “addiction,” provide energy independence and needed 21st century industrial development, such reports are not substantiated by definitive and comprehensive analyses.

To determine the actual effects will require long-term time series, at intervals significantly less than one hour, of wind production and fuel consumption due to fast ramping of fossil fuel plants to compensate for wind’s volatility in an electricity system where wind represents approximately at least 1-2% of production.

As opposed to wind proponents’ claims, studies based on actual experience with wind integration are emerging  that demonstrate the fossil fuel and CO2 emissions gains are not valid. The two reviewed here are examples but are limited by the lack of availability of complete information on operational performance, especially of wind plants. Fortunately, enough information can be gleaned that provides a strong indication of what those who have studied this objectively have long suspected.

Why is more complete information about wind performance and integration not available? Is it because wind proponents, including some policy makers and wind industries, do not want the realities disclosed, or, in the case of many environmentalist organizations, because they would interrupt established agendas? Or is it that these groups believe it unnecessary because they do not understand the realities of utility-scale wind power? [Read more →]

May 22, 2010   14 Comments

‘Cap-and-Divide: More Civil War on the Left’ (Classic MasterResource re-post)

[Editor note: This post from economist Robert Murphy originally appeared on 2-10-10. It is reprinted given the growing opposition to pricing carbon within the Democratic Party.]

George Carlin once asked, “Is it really possible to have a civil war?” Readers of Joe Romm’s pronouncements on greenhouse gas legislation would answer in the negative. Romm has always been a caustic critic of the “anti-science disinformers” who do not toe the line on the alleged scientific consensus, but lately he has turned his fire on former allies who dare to question the legislative developments in Washington.

An illustration of this internal squabbling is Romm’s recent post on the “cap and dividend” proposal put forth by Senators Cantwell and Collins. Here’s Romm’s take (emphasis added):

Climate politics can be very strange indeed. Because cap-and-trade bills like Waxman-Markey are seen as having no chance of passing the Senate, some enviros appear to be shifting their support to bills that are politically even less attractive and environmentally even less adequate.

The latest misguided missile is the Carbon Limits and Energy for America’s Renewal (CLEAR) Act put forward by Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) — full text and info here. Supporters call it “Cap-and-Dividend,” but right now I think the best term for it is, “Cap-and-Divide,” since it has no chance whatsoever of becoming law but is serving to undercut the tripartisan effort by Graham, Kerry, and Lieberman to develop a bill that might get 60 votes…. [Read more →]

May 21, 2010   No Comments

Demand-Side Management: Government Planning, Not Market Conservation (Testimony of Dan Simmons Before the Georgia Public Service Commission)

Editor Note: Demand-Side Management (DSM) is an electric-utility program where all ratepayers subsidize the energy conservation investments of those ratepayers who participate in the program. Dan Simmons, director of state affairs for the American Energy Alliance and for the Institute for Energy Research in Washington, D.C., submitted the following testimony in opposition to Georgia Power Company’s request to implement a DSM program.

Summary from Testimony: Market vs. Non-Market Conservation

Advocates of demand side management frequently overlook the human dimension. People make conservation decisions every day. Families are constantly striving to maximize the benefits they receive from using energy with the cost of using that energy.

Some economic analyses try to argue that ratepayers systematically misestimate the proper discount rate and therefore DSM is required to fix this error. But those analyses fall victim to assuming they know what’s best for ratepayers. The people who know best are ratepayers themselves. Only the individual ratepayer can decide how he or she best allocates their scare resources.

DSM leads to inefficient outcomes. It increases rates for all ratepayers, but only benefits a few of the ratepayers. Because history shows that DSM programs do not typically lead to the demand reductions claimed, they do not lead to lower electricity rates overall.

DSM is not new. It has been tried and studied for years. DSM is subject to the well known problems of the rebound effect, free riders, moral hazard, to name a few. Georgia Power’s 2010 Integrated Resource Plan and Application for Certification of Demand Side Management Programs analysis does not explain how this program will overcome these well-known economic problems nore does it explain how it will overcome the problems with Georgia Power’s DSM program from the 1990s. Without an analysis, it is difficult to believe Georgia Power’s DSM programs will achieve the benefits Georgia Power projects.

TESTIMONY

Q. PLEASE STATE YOUR NAME, TITLE AND BUSINESS ADDRESS.

A. My name is Daniel R. Simmons. I am the Director of State Affairs for the American Energy Alliance and the Institute for Energy Research, non-profit organizations that educate the public on energy policy. Our offices are located at 1100 H Street, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20005.

Q. PLEASE SUMMARIZE YOUR EDUCATION AND PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE.

A. I received a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Utah State University in 1998 and a Juris Doctorate from George Mason University School of Law in 2003. In 1998, I moved to Washington, D.C. and worked for the Competitive Enterprise Institute as an environmental policy analyst. In 2000, I went to work for the Committee on Resources of the United States House of Representative as a professional staff member. From 2002 to 2005, I was the Emmett McCoy Research Fellow at the Mercatus Center and from 2005 to 2008, I was the Director of the Natural Resources Task Director at the American Legislative Exchange Council. From 2008 and presently, I am the Director of State Affairs at the American Energy Alliance and the Institute for Energy Research. [Read more →]

May 20, 2010   3 Comments

Kerry–Lieberman: A “Simple” 987-page Bill? (Enron postmodernism in a Senator’s voice)

“We’re trying to minimize the package,” [Sen. John] Kerry said yesterday of the 987-page bill. “We’re trying to keep it simple. We’re trying to keep it transparent and open and understandable for why something took place.”

- Darren Samuelsohn, “Kerry-Lieberman Bill Uses ‘Fewer Buckets’ in Giving Out Highly Prized Allowances,” E&E News, May 14, 2010.

“One often speaks without seeing, without knowing, without meaning what one says.”

- Jacques Derrida, quoted in Mitchell Stephens, “Deconstructing Jacques Derrida; The Most Reviled Professor in the World Defends His Diabolically Difficult Theory,” Los Angeles Times Magazine, July 21, 1991.

The late postmodern philosopher,  Jacques Derrida (1930–2004) would find intellectual kinship in the political debates about climate and energy coming from the party in power. If alive today, Derrida would nod approvingly at Senator John Kerry’s above I-say-it, it-is-true inversion of reality. It ranks right up there with Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling telling the world after the Enron collapse that Enron was a great company.

Donway Unmasks Enron’s Inner Philosophy

Roger Donway was the first person to identify Enron as a postmodern company. In “The Collapse of a Postmodern Corporation,” he wrote:

But if Enron’s executives were neither incompetent nor crooked, what brought Enron down? I believe it was a culture of corporate values rooted in postmodernism. These were not your grandfather’s businessmen.

He explained: [Read more →]

May 19, 2010   6 Comments