Monday, August 18, 2008

Environmentalists & Dems Opposed To Alternative Energy

If you listen to Obama's ad running during the Olympics, the only reason we do not live in alternative energy utopia today is because we have held back building it. Merely elect the One and he will "fast track" alternative energy to solve our needs and create millions of new jobs. It is the modern equivalent of promising to feed the masses with a few fish and loaves.

And the Goracle is pushing the same snake oil in television ads. His latest organization,, is running its an ad pushing for a compete change to a carbon free U.S. in ten years. According to his site, with $4 gas prices, we can not longer afford to wait to get rid of gas and oil.

Alternative energy is far from ready for prime time. None of it is close to being cost effective nor is any of it proven to scale. Wind power and solar power combine to provide less than 1% of our energy today and both suffer significant drawbacks in their current form. That does not mean we do not want to toss a great deal of R&D money at it. But it does mean that anyone today who promises to replace oil, coal and gas with solar, power and bio-fuels is either insane or has an ulterior motive. And don't tell me that subsidizing the alternative energy is the key. That is simply hiding the true cost of energy by paying for the bulk of it through taxes. Further a massive change in infrastructure is going to take years - much of it because of opposition from Democrats and environmentalists.

But in at least one comparison, oil and gas exploitation stand on precisely the same footing as alternative energy. That is that both are exposed to the same insane environmental laws that hand the keys to the court house to every radical environmental group in and out of the U.S. And, as the WSJ points out today, when one goes from the utopian rhetoric to the real world practicalities, Democrats and the environmental lobby are as opposed to exploiting alternatives as they are to exploiting oil and gas:

This from the editors at the WSJ:

In this year's great energy debate, Democrats describe a future when the U.S. finally embraces the anything-but-carbon avant-garde. It turns out, however, that when wind and solar power do start to come on line, they face a familiar obstacle: environmentalists and many Democrats.

To wit, the greens are blocking the very transmission network needed for renewable electricity to move throughout the economy. The best sites for wind and solar energy happen to be in the sticks -- in the desert Southwest where sunlight is most intense for longest, or the plains where the wind blows most often. To exploit this energy, utilities need to build transmission lines to connect their electricity to the places where consumers actually live. In addition to other technical problems, the transmission gap is a big reason wind only provides two-thirds of 1% of electricity generated in the U.S., and solar one-tenth of 1%.

Only last week, Duke Energy and American Electric Power announced a $1 billion joint venture to build a mere 240 miles of transmission line in Indiana necessary to accommodate new wind farms. Yet the utilities don't expect to be able to complete the lines for six long years -- until 2014, at the earliest, because of the time necessary to obtain regulatory approval and rights-of-way, plus the obligatory lawsuits.

In California, hundreds turned out at the end of July to protest a connection between the solar and geothermal fields of the Imperial Valley to Los Angeles and Orange County. The environmental class is likewise lobbying state commissioners to kill a 150-mile link between San Diego and solar panels because it would entail a 20-mile jaunt through Anza-Borrego state park. "It's kind of schizophrenic behavior," Arnold Schwarzenegger said recently. "They say that we want renewable energy, but we don't want you to put it anywhere."

California has a law mandating that utilities generate 20% of their electricity from "clean-tech" by 2010. Some 24 states have adopted a "renewable portfolio standard," while Barack Obama wants to impose a national renewable mandate. But the states, with the exception of Texas, didn't make transmission lines easier to build, though it won't prevent them from penalizing the power companies that fail to meet an impossible goal.

Texas is now the wind capital of America (though wind still generates only 3% of state electricity) because it streamlined the regulatory and legal snarls that block transmission in other states. By contrast, though Pennsylvania's Democratic Governor Ed Rendell adopted wind power as a main political plank, he and Senator Bob Casey are leading a charge to repeal a 2005 law that makes transmission lines slightly easier to build.

Wind power has also become contentious in oh-so-green Oregon, once people realized that transmission lines would cut through forests. Transmissions lines from a wind project on the Nevada-Idaho border are clogged because of possible effects on the greater sage grouse. Similar melodramas are playing out in Arizona, the Dakotas, the Carolinas, Tennessee, West Virginia, northern Maine, upstate New York, and elsewhere.

In other words, the liberal push for alternatives has the look of a huge bait-and-switch. Washington responds to the climate change panic with multibillion-dollar taxpayer subsidies for supposedly clean tech. But then when those incentives start to have an effect in the real world, the same greens who favor the subsidies say build the turbines or towers somewhere else. The only energy sources they seem to like are the ones we don't have.

Read the entire article. If we are going to stand any chance of addressing our energy needs before our economy gets truly hurt over the next one to two decades, the first thing that has to happen is a massive overhaul of the legal and regulatory framework that I blogged about here. The overhaul does not mean that we need to stop common sense protection of the environment, but it does mean that we need to take the ultimate decisions out of the hands of a judiciary and streamline the process for dispute resolution.

Update: EU Referendum notes a similar situation on their side of the pond:

Of course, we are experiencing exactly the same dynamic over here, as the greenies get their knickers in a twist over the conflict between saving the little tweetie birds and indulging in their wet dreams of a carbon-free future.

But then, since the real greenie agenda is to force us back into the Stone Age – as long as we don't light any fires with our flints – this sort of confusion is grist to the mill. There is nothing quite so carbon-free as no power at all – the inevitable consequence of this greenie schizophrenia.

No comments: