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’).
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.
- Why should energy policy be based on government intervention instead of voluntary transactions between buyer and seller?
- Can an intellectual case be made for windpower without climate alarmism given the demotion of depletion and pollution ills in the state and nation?
- 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?
- Why should limited-government proponents support a polluted tax code and government mandates favoring one resource alternative over another?
- Why should limited-government types support socialized resource costs (such as Texas’s notorious $7 billion CREZ line, almost completed?
- Why should limited-government types support U.S. taxpayers subsidizing certain Texans?
- Why should limited-government types support rampant cronyism?
- Why should limited-government types support the supply-side strategy of climate alarmists, from Al Gore to Barack Obama?
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.