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A Conservative, Biblical Case for Windpower? (a red-state, Tea Party strategy at work)

“Jeff Clark and the Austin-based Wind Coalition are working the red states hard to convince citizens, voters, and legislators that Big Wind is not only green but also red, white, and blue.

Republicans, conservatives, libertarians, fiscally concerned Democrats beware! Wind power is a solution looking for a problem and has nothing to do with the free market and limited, constitutional government.”

At a panel discussion of the future of windpower in Texas last week, hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Jeff Clark of the Wind Coalition made a “conservative” case for continuing government mandates and tax preferences for his industry.

The sold-out event was mostly attended by those favoring smaller government—and ready for a comeuppance for government-dependent windpower. The event was held in Austin, the home of TPPF and the Wind Coalition, an advocacy group focused on the south-central United States.

I was part of the panel. I rebutted a number of Mr. Clark’s arguments on the spot, but there was something larger going on: a disarming conservative, Republican,  I-am-you-and you-too-you-can-like-wind pitch from Mr. Clark that deserves special attention and refutation.

Old, Fallacious Arguments

Basic economic fallacies typically ‘justify’ any good or service that requires government intervention to compete in a marketplace of willing buyers and sellers. Wind power is no exception. And so Mr. Clark focused on the seen rather than the unseen—also known as the broken window fallacy—to argue that wind promoted economic activity and thus was beneficial.

Clark also fallaciously argued that since all energy forms have received or do receive government subsidies, wind should too. But this begs the question of how much, and whether subsidies for one energy source are gravy and for another are meat-and-potatoes.

But Clark, like all wind advocates, runs into trouble where their case becomes too good. For if windpower is cheap and reliable, why does it need, indeed require, state renewable mandates and disproportionate federal grants and tax subsidies?

“Conservative” Arguments for Wind

But what was different was the tack that Mr. Clark took—what can be called a red state, Tea Party strategy.

Clark described himself as a true-blue conservative from youth, having grown up a Republican and worked previously as a lobbyist for traditional business organizations (see Appendix).

He went on to make a “Texas” case for windpower, providing all the statistics of how his industry had rescued poor rural areas in the state by providing income to struggling farmers and enlarging the tax base.

Then Clark argued that Texas’s “home-grown” wind was superior to Texas money buying lignite in Wyoming for power plants in the Lone Star State. So for the first time in many years, I heard a case for state versus national protectionism. What is next: city-to-city, country-to-county, street to street, person-to-person xenophobia?

Then came something peculiar in his closing plea. Clark invoked “biblical doctrines” to imply that God is on the side of windpower. The Bible tells us to wisely use our resources and to conserve, Clark intoned. Use my limitless wind, not my finite fossil fuels, the heavens were presumed to say.

One can retort that an all-knowing God would not be captured by the broken-window fallacy and other myths promoting uneconomic earthly activity. God is fuel-neutral and put mineral resources on earth to be used economically, a Biblical free marketeer can argue.

What was also very interesting is that Clark never once mentioned global warming as a rational for generating electricity from wind. In review, what was argued in his Red State Case was:

  • Helping poor Texans where the wind farms are (yes, U.S. taxpayers and state ratepayers are subsidizing the state’s rural areas via wind subsidies)
  • Using Texas resources instead of sending ‘our’ dollars to other states (micro-protectionism); and
  • God’s instruction to conserve our resources by using his inexhaustible wind (the ‘sin of presumption’).

Another View

Mr. Clark is extremely likeable—and the opposite of a flame-throwing anti-fossil-fuel alarmist. Jeff Clark and the Wind Coalition are working the red states hard to convince citizens, voters, and legislators, that Big Wind is not only green but also red, white, and blue.

Republicans, conservatives, libertarians, fiscally concerned Democrats: Beware! Wind power is a solution looking for a problem and has nothing to do with the free market and limited, constitutional government.

With this in mind, here are some questions for Mr. Clark to answer for us.

  1. Why should energy policy be based on government intervention instead of voluntary transactions between buyer and seller?
  2. Can an intellectual case be made for windpower without climate alarmism given the demotion of depletion and pollution ills in the state and nation?
  3. The Earth abounds with concentrated, dense energy, not only dilute flows of energy. Why should a divine being—a central planner in the sky—want us to use less-economic rather than more-economic energy?
  4. Why should limited-government proponents support a polluted tax code and government mandates favoring one resource alternative over another?
  5. Why should limited-government types support socialized resource costs (such as Texas’s notorious $7 billion CREZ line, almost completed?
  6. Why should limited-government types support U.S. taxpayers subsidizing certain Texans?
  7. Why should limited-government types support rampant cronyism?
  8. Why should limited-government types support the supply-side strategy of climate alarmists, from Al Gore to Barack Obama?

Conclusion

The case for windpower has always been thin. It has become thinner as real-world experience at home and particularly in Europe reveals this energy source to be costly, unreliable, and taxpayer abusive.

The “conservative,” Red State case for windpower is a weak play off of weak arguments. It should be exposed and rejected.

But then, sadly, it was none other than George W. Bush and Rick Perry who presided over the state’s windpower boom (also see here), making Texas the leading wind state in the country on the backs of ratepayers and taxpayers—and superior rival fuels.

Appendix: Jeff Clark (Wind Coalition) Biography

As stated at the Wind Coalition’s Website:

Jeff brings nearly two decades of political experience to his work at The Wind Coalition.  Prior to assuming leadership of the coalition in July of 2012, he was Vice President of Governmental Affairs at The Technology Association of America where he crafted, and led legislative efforts to enact, the organization’s pro-technology “innovation agenda” in the fifty states.  He also directed the organization’s grid modernization and alternative energy efforts, including its successful efforts to promote the deployment of smart meters throughout the nation.

Earlier in his career, he led the Texas office of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) as Executive Director. There, he was an advocate for their 34,000 Texas small business members representing them before lawmakers in Texas and in Washington, DC. Recognized for his work on behalf of free enterprise, he was appointed by the George W. Bush administration to serve on the US Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council, which he co-chaired.

Prior to NFIB, he was a Principal at Public Strategies, Inc. (PSI) where he managed policy initiatives, communications campaigns, and crisis response for the firm’s clients including Fortune 100 companies, trade associations, and candidates.

He is a veteran of many political campaigns at the local, state, and federal level including the campaigns of President George W. Bush on which he served as a member of the Advance Staff, traveling with the President throughout the United States and internationally. He is a graduate of Abilene Christian University and studied business at Saint Edwards University.

10 comments

1 Wayne Lusvardi { 10.21.13 at 1:27 am }

Here is what Jesus reportedly said about those hucksters who propound solutions to “climate change” as found in the Christian Gospel of Mattew, Chapter 16:

“The Demand for a Sign
1 The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.
2 He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’
3 and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.
4 A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.”

In other words, for centuries there have been those who have been prophesying and predicting catastrophic weather for self gain. It is written that Jesus rebuked them as false prophets and turned away from them.

it is recorded that Jesus rebuked money changers in the Jewish temple who tried to sell doves that could fly in the wind.

“Be innocent as a dove and wise as a serpent” reportedly said Jesus. We should likewise be wise about those wanting to sell the public on cheap wind power that doesn’t disclose full system costs (generation, new dedicated transmission line, re-balancing systems, and expensive storage) and that kill doves in their windmill blades.

2 Michael Spencley { 10.21.13 at 7:34 am }

1 cup Protectionism, 1 cup religion, 10 cups subsidies, and a pinch of cronyism. Jeff Clark’s recipe for financial disaster.

3 rbradley { 10.21.13 at 9:25 am }

Clark made another fallacious argument: wind does not need storage because it has gas- and coal-fired power to fill in behind it, turning intermittent into firm.

Well, that has a cost, thank you. AND fossil fuels have their own built-in storage since oil, gas, and coal are such dense, available-on-demand energy sources.

4 Wayne Lusvardi { 10.21.13 at 9:39 am }

Wind and solar don’t make sense except possibly to compete for peak time power demands when prices are extraordinarily high. In California the new peak time is not in summer or during a cold snap but in the Spring and Fall from 3 pm to 6:30 pm when solar power ramps down and wind power hasn’t picked up enough to meet demands. In that short 3-1/2 hour period the ramp up for conventional gas fired power is enormous. This is already causing system instability. The only way to fix this is for California to build expensive and massive storage along transmission corridors close to customers. California has no idea how much the total system costs are going to be for its transition to 51% green power. California’s energy system is being planned ad hoc by politicians to give the Democratic Party a voting base in the energy industry. California’s unstated energy policy is clean, green power AT ANY COST. And what is going to happen when 51% of California’s power is subsidized and the other 49% has to pick up the tab for that? As pointed out in an article on this website, wind power is just shifting subsidies from other customers to taxpayers (privatizing gain and socializing subsidies).

5 Andrew { 10.21.13 at 2:17 pm }

“since all energy forms have received or do receive government subsidies, wind should too”

In my conservative up bringing, a pretty important aphorism was that two wrongs don’t make a right. One should never justify an action that compounds evil or foolishness with more of the same. It baffles me that anyone who calls himself “conservative” would think that way.

6 Kevon Martis { 10.23.13 at 7:45 am }

I debated Rob Sisson of ConservAmerica last fall during Michigan’s Proposal 3 battle. He and his partner Saul Anuzis worked the same side of the street as this fellow above. Anuzis went so far as to use von Hayek to justify wind mandates and subsidies. A Hillsdale College grad and Gary Wolfram disciple should have known better.

At the debate, Sisson went first. As he went up to speak he leaned over to me and said “And then you are going to blow everything I say out of the water!” Was glad to oblige. :)

7 Dr. James H. Rust { 10.24.13 at 8:27 pm }

Remember the wind doesn’t blow when you need it. Texas had a disaster in February 2011 when in a cold wave, natural gas was directed to home heating and the wind stopped blowing during very cold weather. This led to a cut off of natural gas sent to New Mexico and rolling brown-outs in Western Texas.

A lot of energy is expended building a wind turbine. It takes about 6 years for turbines to have a net outflow of energy. There is a lot of data wind turbines may only last 15 years or so. Let us wait to get reliability data for these systems before investing in an energy source of short life. Coal plants, and also natural gas, and nuclear plants have lifetimes of 50 years. One reason for long life is they are not subject to violent ups and downs in power output.

James H. Rust, Professor of nuclear engineering.

8 Kathy Hamilton { 11.01.13 at 1:10 pm }

This somewhat reminds me of “Buy Locally Owned” campaigns that are subsidized in the name of “Local Economic Development”, promoted and funded by CINO’s north of the 49th.

9 Wayne Lusvardi { 11.01.13 at 2:54 pm }

Well, Kathy, this certainly expands the operation of the Prosperity Gospel out of the confines of religious sanctuaries and rented meeting halls and into public policy issues debated at public forums and public hearings. It seems so shamelessly and transparently a use of religion for self-served interests that it is humorous to say the least. What it really signals is that wind power has a public legitimacy crisis especially since most environmentalism is not environmental but aesthetic and visual. The new giant wind machines are a visual blight on the natural landscape, its humming and whirring is an audial nuisance, and killing bald eagles is not the image that the wind industry desires.

All energy comes from the sun in one form or another. Wind depends on heat differentials in the air. Problem is with wind and solar energy is that it is very slow in generating but massive amounts of power are needed immediately which only coal, oil and natural gas can provide.

10 Right Wing Group Mobilizes to Stop Solar Energy | Climate Denial Crock of the Week { 12.04.13 at 11:12 pm }

[...] Republican bona fides, as he argued that wind energy promoted economic activity. According to a report from my friend and mentor Robert Bradley, who was also a panelist, Clark made a case for wind [...]

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