Sunday, August 26, 2007

Wind energy would not reduce coal emissions

Dan Boone, a naturalist in Maryland, explains in a letter to the Harrisburg, Pa., Patriot-News published Aug. 24 that air pollution would not be affected by adding wind turbines to the grid.

This is because air pollution is regulated under a "cap and trade" system that has very effectively reduced nitrous oxides (NOx) which create ozone and sulfur dioxide (SO2) which causes acid rain emitted by electricity plants. It has even reduced carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas contributing to global warming: by 19% from 1995 to 2003 in Pennsylvania, according the the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

If thousands of giant turbines were erected in different regions so that between them there would be some predictably steady electricity generation, wouldn't that reduce coal emissions even more?

No, because even if that happened, the cap and trade system relies on an already established total cap on emissions. The incentive for a plant to reduce its emissions below its assigned cap is that it can then sell that extra to another plant to allow it to pollute more. Thus the total pollution remains the same.

And the cap is unlikely to be lowered because of wind energy. The potential contribution of wind is very small (the Dept. of Energy projects will will generate 0.89% of the total electricity in the U.S. by 2030) and the effect on fuel burning even smaller (because of ramping inefficiencies).

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism