Last Week, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar made a bold proclamation about wind energy.
"The idea that wind energy has the potential to replace most of our coal-burning power today is a very real possibility...It is not technology that is pie-in-the sky; it is here and now."
Wow, that is good to hear. But if you read Vincent Carroll of the Denver Post, you'd think Ken Salazar is just some country bumpkin whose ideas on wind energy are a prescription for the middle ages. Really? Hmmm ... It seems he gets his conclusion by 1) attacking Al Gore and 2) by cherry picking his information from Energy officials, and citing no renewable energy experts. Way to do your work Mr. Carroll. Shill work.
What bothers me about this article is the lack of research Mr. Carroll did for this piece. No wait, what bothers me more, is that it looks like he got a call from a CEO of Coal company which went like this.
"hello - this is Vincent Carroll"
"Vinnie, my boy, Smogs McCoalty here. Listen Vinnie, that Salazar guy is making all kinds of trouble for us here. He is letting the cat out of the bag about coal. So Ya gotta put the clamps on 'em, see?
Write up one of your pieces, and we will get our other boys to do the same at other papers. Compensation will be like the usual."
"got it boss!"
Let's look at the first attack by Mr. Carroll.
Why does Salazar persist in stoking the fantasies of increasingly militant activists that fossil fuels could be dispensed with in short order if only we'd commit ourselves to the task?
This fantasy reaches its surreal height in Al Gore's campaign, launched last year, to get the U.S. to "commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years."
Nine years to go, Al. How are we doing?
Mr. Carroll, you fail to realize that the fossil fuel industry has lobbied our government for decades to continue to get their tax subsidies and prevent the same tax breaks for renewable energy. Attacking Al Gore for setting a clean energy goal is like attacking JFK for having a goal for going to the moon.
But, for the sake of argument, let's see what might be hindering goals like the one set by Al Gore.
Let's hear from Ron Lehr of the American Wind Energy Association
People think "well, why doesn't the market just take care of this?"We don't have a free market in the energy sector. There is no aspect in energy that is near a free market.
We subsidize the oil, coil and gas industry through our tax dollars. The nuclear industry is subsidized by the
Price-Anderson Act (which subsidizes all clean up costs over $900 million dollars) without which the Nuclear industry could not insure itself and therefore, could not exist, so that is clearly a tax subsidy.
(the only challenge to the Price Anderson Act was in my home state of NC, which went before the Supreme court and lost in the Duke Power vs. Environmental Study Group decision.)
In 1992, (for the first time ever) the Congress approved a subsidy for wind and other renewable energy, the Production Tax Credit, which equalizes the tax incentives that other energy industries get. Since then, the Production Tax Credit has gone out of existence 3 times. All of the other subsidies for the fossil industries are fixed in the tax code, they are all permanent. They must think we are stupid in Washington. We've got permanent subsidies for the things we don't want, and inconsistent subsidies for the things we do want.
They need to hear from people about this. One way is to go to AWEA.org, and get on the action alert to fix this Production Tax Credit situation.
Let's look at Mr. Carroll's second argument - attacking wind and solar by cherry picking information from energy officials.
To get his 'source' information on Solar and Wind power, he quotes Xcel officials, not renewable energy experts.
Although wind energy accounts for 10 percent of Xcel's annual production, its vice president of commercial operations, Thomas Imbler, told the state's Public Utilities Commission last year that during calm weather, "this percentage can drop all the way to zero. Coupled with the fact that wind production is . . . difficult to forecast, we have found integrating high levels of wind capability to be challenging."
First, let's look at the "10 percent" factor of wind energy at Xcel.
In 2006 the voters of Colorado heard about Amendment 37 which would require that 10% of the energy produced in the state had to be from renewable sources.
The fossil fuel lobby fought that amendment tooth and nail and had plenty of 'experts' testifying about the 'impossibility' of such a plan.
Not only did it pass, but Xcel was able to reach the 10% goal faster than predicted. I seem to also recall that during the 2008 DNC convention, that Xcel was running ads about being the energy company that produced the most percentage of their energy from renewable sources. Now their renewable energy is a selling point - an actual advantage in the market.
Now let's look at the other problem.
during calm weather, "this percentage (of wind energy) can drop all the way to zero.
Mr. Carroll is carefully picking the information here. He bases his argument on a fallacy. He wants you to think that that Mr. Imbler is telling us that relying on Wind energy would lead to rolling blackouts. Mr. Carroll, have you been outside? When it is calm in Colorado, and there is no wind, 99% of the time, it is very, very sunny. Many times it is sunny AND windy at the same time in Colorado.
With wind and solar, there is an offset, so that when one is not producing energy, the other is. Combine those two with Geo-thermal energy and you get an energy source that easily replaces coal and other fossil fuel energy.
But let's not stop there.
Let's ask the EXPERTS about the amount of Solar and Wind Energy there is just in Colorado.
Leslie Glustrom from Clean Energy:
Colorado has a 12 Gigawatt grid for energy. Colorado has 96 gigawatts of wind energy. In terms of Solar energy, Colorado has 200 gigawatts of energy.
So we have 296 Gigawatts of energy in Solar and Wind, yet we only need 12 gigawatts. That's 40 times the energy we need for this state. And the concentrated solar power plants produce the equivalent energy of a coal plant, with the only by product being steam.
(warning - this video includes information from a Professor - yikes!)
Question - Tell us, Professor McKinnon, what is the Clean Energy Progress Fund?
A - The Clean Energy Progress Fund is a way to support Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency and promote carbon sequestration in agricultural soils and forests. It is a triple win, it will help us with our economy, with our energy security, and will strengthen our environment.
We really need to have a more secure energy source and the Clean Energy Progress Fund will promote solar power, especially Concentrating Solar Power, which focuses the sun through mirrors on a trough, like the one in Las Vegas, which generates 64 megawatts.
Through Concentrating Solar Power, we could easily generate all the electricity for Colorado, just in the San Luis Valley, and at a cost that is competitive with a coal powered plant.
Many of the things we are proposing,the only way for them to happen is for the government to get involved.
We have given plenty of subsidies to build coal plants, oil pipelines and transmission lines. If we just give an equal amount of subsidy to these other energy sources, we could completely shift our energy away from these harmful fossil fuels.
The fact is the only thing that is standing in the way of progress are people who are fighting to stop progress.
And what is the cost of stopping progress?
Nancy LaPlaca from Energy Justice:
Coal has the same CO2 emission rate as the entire transportation sector. Coal emits 40% of all CO2, 2/3rds of all sulfur dioxide, 1/3rd of all mercury.
These fossil fuels have hidden costs in terms of CO2. Now fossil fuels like oil and natural gas are escalating at a rate of 15% a year. The exciting thing about renewable energy like wind and solar is that when we look at their costs in 2020, we don't have to think about what they will cost.
We can no longer ignore that this subsidized fossil energy does have a hidden cost
The problem we have had in this country is that there has been a monopoly on who reports to us our news and information. Newspapers have long been a main gatekeeper of public information.
But with these dandy internets, we don't have to rely only on newspapers for our information, despite what some people think.
As for Mr. Carroll, I hope the your coal lobby paycheck helps you sleep at night, knowing what shoddy work you do as writer.
links (cause that's how real reporters do their work)
American Wind Energy Association - awea.org
Clean Energy Action
For students and their teachers who want to get involved in renewable energy: