Editor Note: Author John Etherington, formerly a Reader in Ecology at the University of Wales, has extensively researched the implications of intermittently available renewable electricity generation, particularly wind power. He is a Thomas Huxley Medallist at the Royal College of Science and a former co-editor of the International Journal of Ecology.
It may be a bit too late to order copies of the just published 198-page The Wind Farm Scam (Stacy International, 2009) by British ecologist John Etherington as a holiday gift, but it’s well worth getting (and giving) copies of the book as soon as you can secure them.
The book should be required reading for every high school, college, and university student — especially in those institutions offering energy and environmental programs.
Although the book written about the UK experience, most of its facts about “wind farms” are applicable worldwide. It explains wind energy—and its limitations and environmental insults—in easily understood terms It explains why wind will never provide a significant, reliable source of electricity.
As in the US, “wind farms” in the UK are being built primarily because of government fiat and huge government-forced subsidies, not because of their true environmental, economic, or energy benefits. Apparently, the tax breaks and subsidies in the US are even more attractive than those in the UK since two major oil companies, BP and Shell, have pulled out of UK “renewable” energy programs with the intent of focusing their attention (and renewable rent seeking) on the US and Canada.
Personally, I found Dr. Etherington’s well-researched and clear-headed discussion of wind energy a very welcome relief from the wind energy madness now underway in the US.
a. Decisions by the wizards of the US Department of Treasury and Department of Energy to give hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to firms (mostly foreign) for “wind farms,” allegedly to promote job creation and economic activity — even though many of the “wind farms” had already been built!!! (These wizards also continue to ignore the fact that a huge share of “wind farm” capital investment dollars for turbines, towers and blades — flow to other countries.)
b. Continued promotion by the US DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (DOE-EERE) and the National Renewable Energy “Laboratory” (NREL) of a fundamentally flawed economic model that allegedly identifies the Job and Economic Development Impact (JEDI) of “wind farms” — thus misleading local government officials and citizens who are called on to accept the massive, low energy producing, environmentally disruptive facilities.
c. Extraordinary expansion of tax breaks (PTC, ITC, 5-Yr.-200% DB accelerated depreciation, bonus depreciation) and subsidies (direct cash grants in lieu of PTC; more money for DOE-EERE and NREL wind energy “R&D” and propaganda) for “wind farms” as a part of “stimulus” bills enacted during the past year — all at the expense of US taxpayers and our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who will be saddled with the massive, rapidly growing national debt resulting from irresponsible actions by Congress and the last and current Administrations.
d. The DOE sponsored “study” that purports to show that 20% of US electricity requirements could be supplied by wind energy by 2030 — a clear demonstration that most any outrageous, preconceived notion can be “proven” if one makes the “right” assumptions and ignores reality.
e. The recent release of a fundamentally flawed DOE-Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) “study” that defies common sense and real life experience by using large amounts of poorly selected, inapplicable, and inadequate data — hidden behind seemingly sophisticated statistical techniques — in an attempt to support a preposterous claim that “wind farms” do not adversely affect the property values of the people who find themselves living in the shadows of the massive, noisy structures. (The LBNL report has numerous “sound bites” that will undoubtedly be used by aggressive “wind farm” developers to confuse local government officials and ordinary citizens who will never have the time to find their way through the report.)
Be optimistic. Recognizing the developments we have seen during the last few months, we must be at or near the bottom!
Editor’s note: The problems of wind as a primary energy in the UK were recognized by William Stanley Jevons in his 1865 classic, The Coal Question, reviewed at MasterResource.
Appendix: Book Blurb (Stacey International)
The spectre of global warming and the political panic surrounding it has triggered a gold rush for renewable energy sources without an open discussion of the merits and drawbacks of each.
In The Wind Farm Scam Dr Etherington argues that in the case of wind power the latter far outweigh the former. Wind turbines cannot generate enough energy to reduce global CO2 levels to a meaningful degree; what’s more wind power is by nature intermittent and cannot generate a steady output, necessitating back-up coal and gas power plants that significantly negate the saving of greenhouse gas emissions.In addition to the inefficacy of wind power there are ecological drawbacks, including damage to habitats, wildlife and the far-from-insignificant aesthetic drawback of the assault upon natural beauty and the pristine landscape, which wind turbines entail.Dr. Etherington argues that wind power has been, and is being, excessively financed at the cost of consumers who have not been consulted, nor informed that this effective subsidy is being paid from their bills to support an industry that cannot be cost efficient or, ultimately, favour the cause it purports to support.“Quite simply, SUPERB.” Richard Phillips, FRIC (retired)The following national organisations are campaigning against wind farms:COUNTRY GUARDIAN
NAWAG – the National Alliance of Wind Farm Action Groups. E-mail email@example.comSee this link for a Sunday Times feature from Dec 13th 2009, about an attempt to understate the noise nuisance created by wind turbines.
Glenn R. Schleede has authored numerous papers and reports on energy matters. Since 2001, Schleede has focused on wind energy. From 1992 until September 2003, Schleede maintained a consulting practice, Energy Market and Policy Analysis, Inc. (EMPA), providing analysis of energy markets and policies. Prior to forming EMPA, Schleede was Vice President of New England Electric System (NEES), Westborough, MA, and President of its fuels subsidiary, New England Energy Incorporated.
Previously, Schleede was Executive Associate Director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (1981), Senior VP of the National Coal Association in Washington (1977) and Associate Director (Energy and Science) of the White House Domestic Council (1973). He also held career service positions in the U.S. OMB and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.
He holds a BA degree from Gustavus Adolphus College and an MA from the University of Minnesota. He is also a graduate of Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program.