A Free-Market Energy Blog

Enough! Martis Responds to Sinclair re Industrial Wind (face-to-face debate urged)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- March 5, 2018

“Kevon Martis is a ‘senior fellow’ of a Washington-based think tank, E&E Legal, which has a well-known history of support for tobacco, oil, gas, and coal interests. He can hardly be considered an unbiased presenter on energy topics…. Hopefully, in coming months as this discussion evolves, a more balanced picture of the issue can come to light.”

– Peter Sinclair, Yale Climate Connections. “Wind Turbines Could Provide Many Local Advantages.” Midland Daily News, December 17, 2017.

“My recent wind energy zoning presentation at the Bullock Creek High School on the behalf of the Ingersoll Township Concerned Citizens spawned an ill-informed Op-Ed by Peter Sinclair in which he accuses me of misleading and distorted statements and further questions my objectivity and financial motivations…. While Sinclair wishes to paint the Ingersoll meeting as a deck stacked sharply against wind energy development, the truth is that wind interests routinely refuse to share the platform with me anywhere.”

– Kevon Martis, response to Sinclair, L’Anse Sentinel.

This post critically reviews a diatribe against wind-power opponent Kevon Martis by wind-power proponent Peter Sinclair. Most obviously, going forward, Peter should show up and politely debate Kevon in Michigan venues and let the best facts, arguments, and ideas win.

First, I reproduce (in bold) Sinclair’s “Wind Turbines Could Provide Many Local Advantages” (Midland Daily News, December 17, 2017), with my comments indented in italics . I then reproduce Kevon Martis’s rebuttal to Sinclair published in a regional newspaper.

—————-

Our form of self government relies on a well-informed citizenry, and it would seem, the organizers of the recent meeting on wind energy at Bullock Creek High School let their neighbors down, by inviting a presenter with an implicit agenda, and no one to counter his misleading statements and distortions.

Martis does have an agenda: to stop government-enabled industrial wind turbines that damage the environment for the sake of bad energy. Sinclair has an agenda: using the perceived threat of anthropogenic climate change to check voluntary consumer energy choices and control, in a new way, modern industrialization. Which “agenda” is better and “right”? Let the debate proceed face-to-face.

Kevon Martis is a “senior fellow” of a Washington-based think tank, E&E Legal, which has a well-known history of support for tobacco, oil, gas, and coal interests. He can hardly be considered an unbiased presenter on energy topics.

Ad hominem squared…. Sinclair is affiliated with an Ivy League school (Yale University) and should not gutter the debate with personal attacks. And what does tobacco have to do with E&E Legal other than E&E Legal making an analogy between the current climate shakedown against corporations versus what the trial lawyers did against the tobacco companies?

A few key points:

• The latest cost data on energy costs in the United States shows that wind energy is more than cost competitive.

Lazard, one of the world’s largest, and oldest financial management firms, shows that wind energy ranges from $30/MWhr to $60/MWhr, compared to $42 to $78 for the nearest competitor, natural gas. Here in Michigan, wind purchase agreements have been trending downward in price, with some of the more recent ones in the $45 MW/hr range — highly price competitive, if not cheaper, than gas turbines.

The Lazard survey shows that coal and nuclear have effectively priced themselves out of the running in the United States.

This argument sounds great until it is realized that wind power is wholly government dependent and not competitive with consumer-chosen energies in a regulatory- and tax-neutral regime. Studies are studies–and should be heavily discounted when describing or justifying competitive outcomes that are outside of the market. Market outcomes determine winners and losers, just as the  outcomes of sporting events do.

• Dow Chemical is one of the largest industrial purchasers of wind power, having contracted wind electricity to entirely power its Freeport, Texas, facility, which is Dow’s largest plant, and the largest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.

A big reason Dow chose wind energy in gas-rich Texas, is that wind power has a completely predictable fuel cost (zero), which budget planners like. They don’t have to guess what their costs will be a decade in advance — creating what the company calls a “long-term competitive advantage.”

Remove all the government subsidies, and watch what Dow Chemical will do with wind power. Such “greenwashing” simply re-colors electrons as “wind”–the actual electricity used by Dow Chemical reflects the market share of Gulf Coast electricity, which is almost entirely generated from natural gas, coal, and nuclear.

• Leading companies like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Yahoo, and others are buying wind and solar energy, as a way to hedge against future cost increases, and decrease pollution.

Many of these companies will not even consider a location unless there they have access to 100 percent renewable, non-carbon energy.

Ditto to the above point. Government subsidies and “greenwashing” at work.

One state that has benefitted greatly from this has been Iowa, which is now the state with the greatest penetration of wind generated electricity, a very reliable 36 percent.

Ditto, and what is the load factor of Iowa wind power during the summer peak? What does wind’s “very reliable” market share of 36 percent look like in the hot months? 

The Des Moines Register recently reported that Iowans currently pay about 5 percent less in 2015, adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1998, when wind energy got its start in the state (an average of 8.35 cents per kilowatt hour).

Is it “Ivy League” to throw out aggregate statistics without carefully identifying and qualifying causality? “Low” wind-power prices result from the federal Production Tax Credit, whereby taxpayers are paying what ratepayers do not. So add some or all of the 2.4 cents per kilowatt hour back in for a truer answer.

As a whole, U.S. consumers paid an average of 10.33 cents per kilowatt hour in 2015, 5.4 percent more than 1998.

Ditto. With the natural gas boom lowering rates for gas-fired generation, what would electricity rates be in the absence of all wind investment? Why haven’t power rates fallen rather than increased?

In addition, Iowa has benefitted from attracting the world’s most prominent high tech companies to the state, as Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook have all recently announced data centers for Iowa, based largely on the availability of 100 percent renewable energy.

Ditto for government subsidies and “greenwashing”…. And if these companies are really practicing philanthropy by subsidizing uneconomic energy, what is the “opportunity cost” in terms of philanthropy elsewhere?

Martis, according to the article, says he has “seen” property value impacts from wind development. Professionals know, however, that anecdotes don’t count. Budgeters and planners needs data.

The best resource on property values comes from Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in California, which studied 50,000 home sales among 27 counties in nine states. These homes were all within 10 miles of 67 different wind facilities, and 1,198 sales were within one mile of a turbine.

Their finding: “No statistical evidence that home values near turbines were affected in the post-construction or post-announcement/pre-construction periods.”

It is counter-intuitive that home values would not suffer with new industrial wind turbines. Martis directly takes on this argument with his own studies in his response below.

Counties in Michigan with wind development have also found welcome increases in their tax base — in Huron County, a 34 percent increase since 2011. Tuscola County saw a 26 percent increase, and nearby Gratiot County a whopping 38 percent.

This is increased money for schools, libraries, law enforcement, trash collection, roads, county pensions, and a myriad of other quality-of-life enhancing activities.

Yes, and what are taxpayers and ratepayers–the forgotten men and women–paying (involuntarily) to help Michigan areas populated by wind turbines? What would the tax effect be if other generation was built instead such as gas-fired plants?

This is only a very small part of a huge, and overwhelmingly positive picture. It’s unfortunate that citizens of Ingersoll Township were not presented with this information.

Hopefully, in coming months as this discussion evolves, a more balanced picture of the issue can come to light.

Kevon Martis calls Sinclair’s bluff in his response below.

Martis Response (emphasis added)

My recent wind energy zoning presentation at the Bullock Creek High School on the behalf of the  Ingersoll Township Concerned Citizens spawned an ill-informed Op-Ed by Peter Sinclair in which he accuses me of misleading and distorted statements and further questions my objectivity and financial motivations.

Thankfully there is a complete video record of the event so Midland County residents can do their own analysis:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rer-jCB4VX8

While the video presentation speaks for itself, Mr. Sinclair’s  naked attempt to discredit me by attempting to tie me to Big Oil, Big Coal or now, apparently, even Big Tobacco (!) are not really worthy of response. Nonetheless, I will  simply repeat what I have told Peter several times publicly: I receive no funding from any industry sources and my position as director of the non-profit Interstate Informed Citizen’s Coalition and my fellowship with E&E Legal are unpaid.

While I encourage everyone to simply watch the entire presentation and judge for themselves whether Sinclair’s analysis is reasonable, several points must be responded to in print.

Sinclair chastises the Ingersoll Township Concerned Citizens for not bringing anyone to counter my presentation in the interest of “balance”. While his condescending tone is lamentable, the truth is that I welcome debate on any facet of wind energy development, from land use to economics to environmental impacts and have done so in several venues. But the wind industry is no longer willing to be part of such forums.

Sinclair knows this is true. He was present recently in Greenwood Township in St. Clair County where 5 Lakes Energy had committed to bringing 45 minutes in response to my 45 minute presentation but then failed to appear. This theme was repeated in Beaver Township in Bay County where DTE Energy had committed to 20 minutes of equal time with me but then abruptly canceled. DTE even told Beaver Township that the format of 20 minutes for each side was somehow “unbalanced”.

So while Sinclair wishes to paint the Ingersoll meeting as a deck stacked sharply against wind energy development, the truth is that wind interests routinely refuse to share the platform with me anywhere. If the case for wind is as strong as Sinclair claims, one must wonder why DTE and 5 Lakes with their large staffs and ample resources do not relish every possible chance to publicly refute my claims instead of backing out at the last minute.

Further, Sinclair’s op-ed chose to ignore several critical point made in my presentation and they are worth repeating:

  • DTE Energy is demanding that the Ingersoll Township board create wind regulations that measure turbine noise and safety setbacks that are measured from neighboring homes rather than property lines. This in effect would grant an uncompensated nuisance and safety easement to DTE across unleased private property. This is fundamentally unjust and flies in the face of sound zoning principles.
  • The setback distances demanded by DTE are significantly shorter than evacuation distances published in turbine manufacture’s own safety literature for employees.
  • The noise limits proposed by DTE are above noise limits that are known to cause human health issues as shown by the World Health Organization
  • Michigan’s wind resource is so anemic, DTE’s latest Pine River wind project in Gratiot County will produce 2016’s most expensive wind energy anywhere in the US as indicated by DOE wind contract data. The wind in Ingersoll is arguably worse.
  • Regarding climate change, wind energy reduces CO2 emissions at a cost of $237/ton despite the Obama administration showing that the economic harm from CO2 emissions is only ~$40/ton.
  • Finally, regarding wind turbine impacts upon property values, far from making a simple “anecdotal” statement, I showed 11 independent reports indicating substantial property value impacts and referenced this study by the not-exactly-Big-Fossil-funded London School of Economics.

Again: I encourage people to simply watch the video and then re-read Mr. Sinclair’s letter. My points are valid and are able to withstand any honest scrutiny, let alone Mr. Sinclair’s cynical revisionist history.

– Kevon Martis, Volunteer Director, Interstate Informed Citizen’s Coalition, Blissfield, MI; Senior Policy Fellow, E&E Legal, Washington DC.

4 Comments


  1. John Garrett  

    My general experience is that the Yale folk are irrational idealogues who are not deserving of the time and effort of polite response.

    Reply

  2. Tom Stacy: A top anti-wind activist got paid by a fossil fuel funded group  

    […] which the group has also used to publicize the work of other top anti-winders like Martis of the IICC, and the New Hampshire-based Lisa […]

    Reply

  3. Attack on Tom Stacy: "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished" (anti-wind effort smeared by crony environmentalist) - Master Resource  

    […] which the group has also used to publicize the work of other top anti-winders like Martis of the IICC, and the New Hampshire-based Lisa […]

    Reply

  4. Citizen Martis Draws Ire from Big Green (countering wind power shoestring by shoestring) - Master Resource  

    […] Enough! Martis Responds to Sinclair re Industrial Wind (March 5, 2018) […]

    Reply

Leave a Reply