October 1, 2012

NIMBY: Correction

In this month's Windtech International column by Tiff Thompson, important information was inadvertently deleted and due to an editing error, Thompson's column was printed in a way that made it appear illogical in some places. We apologize for these errors, and provide corrections below.

A sentence acknowledging that fossil fuel subsidies include heating, transportation, and "clean" coal research as well as traditional electricity, and that renewables subsidies have included ethanol research and production, was also mistakenly deleted, as was another acknowledging that the figures for the renewables industry do not include the cost of the double-declining accelerated depreciation that is made available to it.

Thompson should also have noted that many states further subsidize the renewables industry by requiring utilities to buy a certain percentage of their energy from it. Furthermore, as this journal is particularly concerned with the wind industry, the particular costs to taxpayers of wind, not of all renewables together, should have been more carefully indicated.

Thompson should also have emphasized that subsidies should be viewed in terms of not just gross numbers, but the recipients' actual contributions to the country's energy mix.

Finally, Thompson's article cited federal subsidy figures for the years 2002-2007 of $13.8 billion for fossil fuels and $2.7 billion for the renewable energy industry, but the figures for more recent years were accidentally deleted.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy's Information Administration, for electricity in 2007, traditional coal received $854 million, "clean" coal received $2,156 million, and natural gas and petroleum received $227 million. Renewables received $1,008 million, with wind receiving $724 million of that. For every megawatt-hour of electricity generated, coal received $0.44, "clean" coal $29.81, natural gas and petroleum $0.25, all renewables $2.80, and wind $23.37.

In 2010, the direct subsidies for wind had increased to $4,986 million, a 10.5-fold (inflation-adjusted) increase from 3 years before. Subsidies for electricity from traditional coal rose slightly to $1,189 million and natural gas and petroleum to $654 million, while the subsidies for "clean" coal were cut to 0.

Per megawatt-hour of electricity generated in 2010, coal received $0.64, natural gas and petroleum $0.63, and wind $52.48.

The editors also regret any implication that the U.S. government's own spending on renewable energy (eg, for army bases) and opening 16 million acres of public land to renewable energy developers is an argument in support of more spending on renewables or indeed of any development of open and wild spaces. One need only look at the military budget to see that expanded activity and spending do not equal wisdom.

ADDENDUM:  Several readers have asked us about Ms Thompson's comparison of Obama and Romney concerning renewable energy. Again, it appears that some sentences were deleted from the printed column showing that, except for Obama's stated support of and Romney's stated opposition to renewing the Production Tax Credit (which reduces a developer's taxes for 10 years by $22 per megawatt-hour of electricity generated and is scheduled to expire at the end of this year), there is in fact no substantial difference in energy policies between the two.

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