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A Republican Enigma on Renewables (Sen. LeMieux, please check your premises)

In line with conservative values, and with the passion of a local Tea Party leader, U.S. Senator LeMieux (R–FL) is behind his state’s lawsuit against the federal government’s healthcare reform law.  He also has a national debt clock on his WEB SITE, and his headline platforms include reducing government waste and improving transparency and accountability from soup to nuts.

So can we feel assured this senator upholds these values across the board?

No, unfortunately, when it comes to the failed government experiment with politically correct renewable energy.

Senator LeMieux has co-sponsored a bill–along with 25 of his closest friends across the aisle–to extend the ARRA 1603 tax credits, doling out 30% of project costs up front to so-called “renewables.”

So what goes? Florida is not a big renewables state. Florida voters are rebelling against Big Government, as recently shown at the polls. Florida is also a marginal solar state and has dismal wind resources.

So what is behind Sen. LeMieux’s deviation? Enter Florida Power & Light Company, and specifically its government-dependent, now-running-scared subsidiary, NextEra Energy.

Floridians should be furious.

Move Over Enron …

NextEra is the nation’s leading U.S.-based wind developer, with FPL owning wind energy projects from Texas to Oregon and Minnesota to West Virginia – over 70 wind projects running projects in all. More than a dozen new projects are in various stages of development. The production tax credit is hardly permanent, and the economics of wind goes south fast without it.

Next Era boasts three wind projects for each generation plant they own of all other types combined. These wind assets are estimated to have had an initial price tag of over $15 billion dollars – and counting. Well more than they could ever return in the free market.

The question is, how does Senator LeMieux’s support for an extension of Section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA)–on which five and a half billion dollars have already been spent– lower our national debt, mesh with the values he fights for in the health care arena, or do anything to help his Florida constituents in particular?

Political Capitalism at Work

What is clear is that Senator LeMieux has friends in high places – places where already successful energy interests squeeze taxpayers first, and ratepayers later, through renewable energy projects.

Also clear and indisputable is that without support from Congresspersons with uneducated views of energy -  the U.S. wind industry simply would never have been born. A true marketplace simply demands a higher quality product at a lower price and with more certain delivery terms.  Perhaps it is finally time to cut instead of stretching – the wind industry’s umbilical cord.

And again, Floridians should wise up to one of their corporations and one of their U.S. Senators. Only public outcry can counter the unholy intersection between Big Business and Big Government.

5 comments

1 Jon Boone { 12.07.10 at 8:50 am }

According to the Palm Beach Post in 2007, Florida Power & Light Energy, a subsidiary of Florida Power & Light Co, with the nation’s largest stock of wind facilities, claimed its quarterly earnings would surpass its parent company by 2012. I quote from that article: “FPL Energy boasted a 2006 profit of $610 million, triple its earnings in 2005. That followed an earnings increase of 200 percent between 1998 and 2002, then significant profit growth each year thereafter, mostly fueled by wind power projects.” According to Citizens for Tax Justice, FPL paid no federal income tax in 2002-2003, despite having revenues in the billions. It is likely that FPL, like GE, paid no federal income tax last year as well.

2 rbradley { 12.07.10 at 1:35 pm }

NextEra has some bird issues:

“After pressure from environmental groups, the country’s oldest wind farm will stop using or replace about half of its 5,000 wind towers to save birds being killed by the towers’ blades.

NextEra Energy Resources LLC, which operates the wind farm in the Altamont Pass in Northern California, will stop using older turbines by 2015 or will put in more modern towers away from places where eagles, kestrels, falcons and owls frequent, California Attorney General Jerry Brown (D) announced yesterday. The deal is part of a settlement between California, NextEra, the Audubon Society and Californians for Renewable Energy.

According to research by California biologist K. Shawn Smallwood, 9,300 birds are killed each year by the turbines.

“This is the first chance across the nation to take what was learned about turbines over the last 30 years and put it into use,” said Mark Welther, executive director of the Golden Gate Audubon Society. “We support wind energy, but we need to make sure we don’t sacrifice birds and wildlife to have renewable power.”

The company will also fund $2.5 million in raptor habitat restoration (Kelly Zito, San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 7). — AP”

3 Tom Stacy { 12.07.10 at 5:05 pm }

Thanks, Jon. I wanted to provide a bit of additional background here. In Florida’s midterm elections, conservatives won 19 of 25 house of representatives races, the governor’s race and the Senate seat. Florida ranks TIED FOR LAST IN THE 50 STATES for wind energy potential, and is nearly 500 miles from the nearest on-shore wind resource region rated above average. (central Texas). This is a pretty good barometer that Florida voters believe more strongly in the free market than in our government’s role – or abilities – to foster economic, environmental or technical efficiency using renewables in their state.

While Senator LeMieux’s grant extension might be a good thing for states like Texas, prepared to export renewables, it sets Florida up to be a large net importer of uncompetitive energy, should Senator Brownback’s ill-advised national Renewable Energy Standard come to the floor and pass before year end. Floridians would be stuck paying well above market prices for energy produced and pumped to them from the great plains – and then receive it only when the weather cooperates – almost never at times of day and seasons when peak demand imposes scarcity pricing.

4 Tom Stacy { 12.07.10 at 5:21 pm }

OK. If we are going to swing glancing blows to wind, let’s look at this statement. Golden Gate Audubon Society: “We support wind energy, but we need to make sure we don’t sacrifice birds and wildlife to have renewable power.”

To borrow an argument from AWEA, are you against house cats, too, unless properly sited?

More to the point, this type of rhetoric is designed for one purpose only. It attempts to avoid alienating, rather than educating, the well intentioned but misinformed. There is no valid scientific basis on which to support wind energy or call it renewable. And if it is not supportable, then it should not be built – and would not be – if not for our well intentioned, but misinformed policies.

As is well covered elsewhere on this site, there is no such thing as wind energy replacing fossil fuels in the grand scheme of things. If you disagree, then please offer your reasoning. GGAS – Care to comment?

5 Andrew { 12.08.10 at 1:14 pm }

Count me down as an angry Floridian. This story definitely has me ticked off. The good news is that LeMeiux won’t be in Congress much longer. Recall that he was Crist’s appointee to fill Mel Martinez’s seat, and that seat was none other than the one that Crist unsuccessfully ran for. So he is going to be replaced by Marco Rubio. And I have a feeling he’ll be much more reliable.

The truth is that I’m not actually surprised, knowing Lemieux’s background, that he is not as Conservative as he claims to be. Sure, he isn’t as unprincipled as the man who appointed him, but his appointment was a reward for the fact that he helped Crist get elected Governor. Lemieux is a political insider.

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