Green magic energy?

Keith Lockitch:

Will a green energy industry be an engine of economic growth? Many want us to think so, including our new president. Apparently a booming green economy with millions of new jobs is just around the corner. All we need is the right mix of government “incentives.”

These include a huge (de facto) tax on carbon emissions imposed through a cap-and-trade regulatory scheme, as well as huge government subsidies for “renewable,” carbon-free sources. The hope is that these government sticks and carrots will turn today’s pitiful “green energy” industry, which produces an insignificant fraction of American energy, into a source of abundant, affordable energy that can replace today’s fossil-fuel-dominated industry.

This view is a fantasy -- one that could devastate America’s economy. The reality is that “green energy” is at best a sophisticated make-work program.

There is a reason why less than two percent of the world’s energy currently comes from “renewable” sources such as wind and solar--the very sources that are supposedly going to power the new green economy: despite billions of dollars in government subsidies, funding decades of research, they have not proven themselves to be practical sources of energy. Indeed, without government mandates forcing their adoption in most Western countries, their high cost would make them even less prevalent.

Consider that it takes about 1,000 wind turbines, occupying tens of thousands of acres, to produce as much electricity as just one medium-sized, coal-fired power plant. And that’s if the wind is blowing: the intermittency of wind wreaks havoc on electricity grids, which need a stable flow of power, thus requiring expensive, redundant backup capacity or an unbuilt, unproven “smart grid.”

Or consider the “promise” of solar. Two projects in development will cover 12.5 square miles of central California with solar cells in the hope of generating about 800 megawatts of power (as much as one large coal-fired plant). But that power output will only be achieved when the sun is shining brightly -- around noon on sunny days; the actual output will be less than a third that amount. And the electricity will cost more than market price, even with the life-support of federal subsidies that keeps the solar industry going. The major factor driving the project is not the promise of abundant power but California’s state quota requiring 20 percent “renewable” electricity by 2010.

More than 81 percent of world energy comes from fossil fuels, and half of America’s electricity is generated by burning coal. Carbon sources are literally keeping us alive. There is no evidence that they have -- or will soon have -- a viable replacement in transportation fuel, and there is only one in electricity generation, nuclear, which “green energy” advocates also oppose.

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Democrats are determined to make an investment in magic. Solar energy will probably never produce energy at a cost competitive with carbon based energy even with the carbon tax the Democrats are going to impose on our economy in the middle of a recession. Wind can provide supplemental energy, but it is energy that can't be stored for later use and it is not always available. What is clear is that the Democrats have a vision that is not based on reality when it comes to energy. They can no longer claim to be the reality based community.

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