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'Renewables' are pie in the sky

Too often the energy companies have allowed claims about renewable energy to go unchallenged. Experience shows that once the public learns about the effects, those expectations fall back to Earth. Just look at wind power in North Carolina, if you can. Wind farms haven't gotten off the ground here because, thus far, North Carolinians have objected to looking at a wind turbine larger than a hamster wheel. On Monday, Carteret County decreed a nine-month moratorium on wind turbines, after residents complained about potential noise, vibration, harm to wildlife, visual blight and a host of other concerns. Who knew wind turbines were as dangerous as a Navy outlying landing field?

Environmentalists are winning the debate over North Carolina's energy future, but not because the facts come down on their side. Hardly. They're winning because they're virtually unopposed. The reluctance of the state's two largest energy producers -- Progress Energy and Duke Energy -- to actively engage in the debate borders on irresponsibility.

The latest example of this information outage came when Progress Energy discovered, through polling, that its customers think the development of renewable energy sources is twice as important as reliability. (see: http://www.windaction.org/news/14436)

"The public has unrealistic expectations about renewables," a Progress Energy executive told Wall Street analysts, as reported in The N&O. Memo to Progress and Duke: The public has unrealistic expectations because about the only information it's getting comes from environmentalists.

While the utilities have been courting Wall Street, environmentalists have had Main Street to themselves. The resurgent argument over Duke's permit to build a coal unit at its Cliffside plant is typical of how one-sided the energy debate has become.

The cleaner technology and efficiencies of the new plant will allow... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Environmentalists are winning the debate over North Carolina's energy future, but not because the facts come down on their side. Hardly. They're winning because they're virtually unopposed. The reluctance of the state's two largest energy producers -- Progress Energy and Duke Energy -- to actively engage in the debate borders on irresponsibility.

The latest example of this information outage came when Progress Energy discovered, through polling, that its customers think the development of renewable energy sources is twice as important as reliability. (see: http://www.windaction.org/news/14436 )

"The public has unrealistic expectations about renewables," a Progress Energy executive told Wall Street analysts, as reported in The N&O. Memo to Progress and Duke: The public has unrealistic expectations because about the only information it's getting comes from environmentalists.

While the utilities have been courting Wall Street, environmentalists have had Main Street to themselves. The resurgent argument over Duke's permit to build a coal unit at its Cliffside plant is typical of how one-sided the energy debate has become.

The cleaner technology and efficiencies of the new plant will allow Duke Energy to retire the four existing units at Cliffside and three others in the system. That's not a big deal, argues former Duke University dean William Schlesinger, noting that the carbon footprint of the new Cliffside unit and the seven old ones are roughly equal. Yet the new unit would capture about 90 percent of its mercury emissions.

Too often the energy companies have allowed claims about renewable energy to go unchallenged. Experience shows that once the public learns about the effects, those expectations fall back to Earth. Just look at wind power in North Carolina, if you can. Wind farms haven't gotten off the ground here because, thus far, North Carolinians have objected to looking at a wind turbine larger than a hamster wheel. On Monday, Carteret County decreed a nine-month moratorium on wind turbines, after residents complained about potential noise, vibration, harm to wildlife, visual blight and a host of other concerns. Who knew wind turbines were as dangerous as a Navy outlying landing field?

The renewable energy obsession is based largely on the belief that man's carbon output must be reduced to ward off the horrors of global warming. I don't deny the Earth is warming. I do dispute that it's one of the world's most pressing problems. Poverty, starvation and disease rank much higher in my book. And now it appears that the rush for renewable energy could be making these problems worse.

The diversion of food grains to biofuel production is a primary reason cited in a Washington Post story for skyrocketing global food prices. USAID officials told the newspaper that prices for corn, rice and other cereals have surged 41 percent in the past six months, an increase that mirrors a U.N. food price index. The jump has been so stark that organizations have been forced to reduce emergency food aid drastically. A jump in food prices because of biofuels has long been predicted. That it would happen so quickly has been startling.

It would be poetic justice if the money needed to shore up emergency food aid is diverted from the hefty subsidies taxpayers are forced to pay for biofuels. The International Institute for Sustainable Development estimates that U.S. biofuels subsidies will total $93 billion from 2006 through 2012. If that isn't bad enough, Uncle Sam levies a 54-cent per gallon tax on imported ethanol.

Unfortunately, the political fixation with biofuels is unabated. The energy bill President Bush signed into law in December mandates a doubling of corn-based ethanol use to 9 billion gallons this year. The ethanol mandate increases to 36 billion gallons annually by 2022. Every one of those gallons will be subsidized with money that would be better spent eradicating hunger, disease and poverty.

I doubt the people who answered Progress Energy's survey knew about these and other costs of renewable energy. And they won't know until the energy companies enter the debate and quit leaving their customers and citizens in the dark.


Contributing columnist Rick Martinez (rickjmartinez2@verizon.net) is director of news and programming at WPTF-AM. Several years ago he worked at the association


Source: http://www.newsobserver.com...

MAR 5 2008
http://www.windaction.org/posts/13681-renewables-are-pie-in-the-sky
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