A Free-Market Energy Blog

Perversities of Whackman-Malarkey

By Kenneth P. Green -- June 26, 2009

The closer that the Waxman-Markey energy planning bill gets to the floor of the House of Representatives, the more convoluted and intellectually absurd it becomes. The cap-and-trade provision is getting the most attention, but there is so much more that deserves criticism. Jerry Taylor, for example, has exposed the “Clean Energy Bank” provision (buried in Subtitle J) as an open-ended piggybank for uneconomic, politically correct energies.

As I blogged at the Enterprise Blog yesterday, a provision of HR 2454 would forbid EPA to proceed with a ruling about how foreign land-clearing would be taken into account when calculating ethanol’s carbon footprint. Instead, EPA is forced into a 5-year moratorium to “study” the issue. Amazing, EPA does an endangerment finding in a few months but has to “study” this single, relatively well-understood issue for 5 years. Now that is science suppression!

There are other perversities of Waxman-Markey. Analysts at the Breakthrough Institute continue to dig into the ramifications of the bill, and keep finding nuggets of madness. As I blogged earlier at MasterResource, they’ve already found that Waxman-Markey isn’t actually a cap as in a maximum from which absolute reductions follow. Emissions are actually allowed to rise through 2030.

More recently though, they’ve found an EPA report showing that Waxman-Markey is likely to result in less renewable energy production rather than more. As Breakthrough explained:

The Waxman-Markey climate bill (AKA the American Clean Energy and Security Act) would reduce the amount of renewable energy deployed in the United States relative to business-as-usual, increase the amount of coal-fired electricity generation relative to 2005 levels, and provide no incentive for a move to cleaner cars, according to a new analysis by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

They observe:

EPA’s modeling finds that under its business as usual scenario, electricity-generating capacity from renewable energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal would grow from 36 GW in 2005 to 40 GW in 2020 and to 43 GW in 2025. But under Waxman Markey legislation, renewable generating capacity would grow to 39 GW in 2020 and 41 GW in 2025.

EPA blames this downturn on the relatively low carbon price that Waxman-Markey is expected to levy, as well as to reduced energy demand due to the Waxman-Markey energy efficiency provisions.

So, what’s the score on Waxman-Markey? No environmental benefits; continued growth of GHG emissions; higher energy prices; greater governmental controls over the entire energy sector; a blizzard of new standards that will affect consumer choice in housing, consumer products, transportation, lighting, heating, cooling, and refrigerating; reduced economic growth; and attendant job losses, all in the teeth of one of the worst recessions in American history.

What a great prequel to the healthcare debate!


  1. mary hutzler  

    I believe the EPA report was misquoted regarding the renewable capacity under their various scenarios. Because the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is included in EPA’s reference scenario, their cumulative capacity additions for non-hydroelectric renewables increase by 36 gigawatts by 2015, 40 gigawatts by 2020, and 43 gigawatts by 2025. They model 2 scenarios for near-term electric generation under H.R. 2454. One that includes the Renewable Electricity Credit (RES) and one that does not. Without the RES, H.R. 2454 produces slightly less addtional non-hydroelectric renewable capacity additions than the reference case by 2020 (39 gigawatts) and by 2025 (41 gigawatts). Their scenario that includes the RES, adds 46 additional gigawatts of non-hydroelectric renewable capacity by 2020, and 48 additional gigawatts by 2025, slightly more than what was attained in their reference case. EPA represents the 25% allowed efficiency component of the RES.


  2. Andrew  

    Jeez! And they are moving to pass this dead fish? Unbelievable…


  3. Craig Goodrich  

    Let’s do some back-of-the-envelope arithmetic. Using Mary’s numbers, we need to add 36 GW of “renewable” energy by 2015 (six years from now). Nearly all of that will have to be wind; solar is ten times as expensive and hydro is saturated in the US.

    OK. The latest GE wind turbines generate 3 MW at capacity and their fans sweep about an acre. So they require at least 16 acres each, allowing clearance to swing plus a minimum distance to avoid interference from the turbine next door.

    36 GW = 36,000 MW = 12,000 turbines * 16 acres = 250 square miles of wind turbines, an area about half the size of the Las Vegas valley. But, unfortunately, wind turbines only produce, on the average, about 30% of their rated capacity at best, due to wind variation, so we really need more like 800 square miles and 36,000 turbines total if the turbines are to replace baseload. BUT if the wind isn’t blowing, more turbines won’t help. So back to 250 sq. miles.

    To be economical, these areas need to be within reasonable transmission distance of the consumers; so let’s say 25 square miles near each of our 10 largest cities. An area five miles square generating 3.6 GW 30% of the time, an incredible eyesore, producing so much noise that people won’t live within two miles of it. (Neither will animals; wind farms in West Virginia report deer and squirrel populations drop to zero within two miles of mountaintop turbines. Raccoons are different; they’ll live wherever they can ransack your garbage and hot-wire your truck for a joyride. They’d live in New York City but they’re afraid of getting mugged.)

    So we now have to build a 3.6 GW in the middle of our 5×5 campus to produce power when the wind is calm. We can build a 3-unit nuke, but it’s an incredible hassle to turn it off when the wind blows, so we’ll build a 6-unit natural-gas plant, which we can turn off more or less at will, and could have built on less than 4 square miles (lots less). Our NG plant will provide power 70% of the time while the folks driving by our incredibly huge and expensive wind farm think we’re so wonderful and green. To recover the huge capital costs of a thousand hideously expensive steel-and-concrete towers and even more expensive turbines, not to mention 25 square miles of prime suburban land, the rates we charge our customers will go through the roof, but we’ve got a wonderful corporate image our upper-management can vaunt at wine-and-cheese parties, and the Washington politicians just love us.

    Such a deal! And all of this in six years! No wonder Al Gore and his buddies at Goldman-Sachs are drooling over the carbon voucher market!


  4. Craig Goodrich  

    “12,000 turbines * 16 acres = 250 square miles” — whoops, should be 300. But this is the EPA; we’re close enough for government work…


  5. Henri Suyderhoud  

    HR 2454 is a scam, but it is being bought by politicians who just are too stupid to really understand its implications. It is based on WRONG facts, and it will prove, if adopted, a disater for most part. However, too many of the proponents are nothing less than true BELIEVERS, and history has shown that religion includes bad disasters, just watch it develop. Just may be, some of the renewable technology will ultimately pay off, but that is far from being reality. The coutry is in a sorry state of living in La-La Land.


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