MINOT, N.D. — We all see the hundreds of wind power turbines which dot the beautiful landscape of our region. We're told, by the supporters of these wind farms, that they're a boon to our society. That they're reducing greenhouse gas emissions by providing cheap, reliable energy.
Except, this week I spoke with a man from the University of California, Berkeley who says that's a lot of bunk.
Steven Hayward, a Senior Resident Scholar at Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies, has produced a report for Minnesota's Center of the American Experiment which finds that power sources like wind and solar aren't really accomplishing what their supporters say they are.
This despite what Hayward described on my radio show as "completely perverse" subsidies so massive they sometimes allow renewable energy companies to pay utilities to take their energy and still turn a profit.
Pause for a moment to consider that fact. The taxpayers dole out so much money to the wind power industry, their subsidies are so gigantic, that it's sometimes profitable for them to literally pay utilities to take their product.
Imagine the taxpayers giving Coca-Cola money so they can, in turn, pay restaurants to sell their drinks.
Hayward told me that the wind energy companies get a tax credit in the amount of $2,3 per kilowatt hour of energy they produce. That's roughly double what the average energy customer in our region pays for their power.
That's not just a colossal abuse of taxpayer dollars, but it poses a real threat to the reliability of power grids.
Consider the position baseload power operators like coal and nuclear plants find themselves in. They must compete with massively subsidized renewable energy companies who, again, can sometimes pay utilities to take their power. But because wind and solar power are only intermittent sources of power, the baseload operators must still maintain the capacity to provide all the electricity the grid needs in case the wind isn't blowing or the sun isn't shining.
Anyone else seeing a problem?
The fiscal realities of our energy marketplace, distorted as it is by the aforementioned subsidies, is causing coal and nuclear plants to close down. But that, in turn, is making us more dependent on intermittent wind and solar power which may not always be there when we need it.
Wind, specifically, produces the least energy "in the summer months when energy demand is higher," Hayward told me.
At least renewables are driving down emissions though, right?
Well, not really. Hayward told me that Minnesota, which has had a renewable energy mandate for years, has seen emissions reductions that amount to "half as much as the rest of the nation."
In fact, Hayward says the "largest share [of emissions reductions] has come not from renewable energy but from natural gas."
Ironically, what's unlocked vast new reserves of natural gas is hydraulic fracturing, that bête noire of the increasingly radicalized environmental movement.
Hayward said that if we want to reduce emissions even more we should "deemphasize wind."
Maybe we could start by halting those subsidies.