Tuesday, August 09, 2005

"Wind is on its way [out] as a powerful resource"

Green Bay (Wisc.) Press-Gazette, August 7, 2005

Paired with an opposition piece by Lynn Korinek of Wisconsin Independent Citizens Opposed to Windturbine Sites, Michael Vickerman writes in his support piece (Green Bay (Wisc.) Press-Gazette, August 7, 2005),
"wind power, with current federal tax credits, is now less expensive than natural gas-fired generating units. It makes no economic sense for utilities to burn natural gas at any time when wind power is available.wind power, with current federal tax credits, is now less expensive than natural gas-fired generating units. It makes no economic sense for utilities to burn natural gas at any time when wind power is available."
According to Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group ("The Environmental Case for Wind Power in Wisconsin," July 2005), only 2.9% of the state's electricity comes from oil and natural gas. 72.3% comes from coal, and 21.7% from nuclear. Nationally, about 15% of our electricity comes from natural gas, 20% from nuclear, and over 50% from coal.

I have seen this argument before, that with subsidies wind power is now economically competitive with natural gas. Natural gas is then lumped in with coal and oil (the latter is an insignificant source of electricity which would be unaffected by wind power) for the claim that wind power will clean up the air. But natural gas is relatively clean; coal, especially the bituminous ("brown") coal commonly burned in the midwest, is the main source of polluting emissions from electricity generation.

So wind power is now being touted for displacing the one source that was actually making inroads against coal.

And because people want to believe that ever-larger wind turbine technology will actually do what the salesmen claim, coal continues to burn as much as before -- but now without any effort to make it cleaner. In fact, wind power advocates have mocked the talk of "clean coal" even as smokestack scrubbers in existing plants and new coal gasification plants, or simply switching from bituminous coal to anthracite, have actually made the air cleaner -- to a degree that all the giant turbines dreamed of by the industry would never be able to achieve.

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