‘Free Market’ Republicans: We Must Pass Laws To Stop Wind Energy Industry

It may have taken a while to boom, but the wind energy industry is soaring (pun very much intended.) Wind jobs are on the rise, the strength of the power has increased and the cost to harness the power now comes in less expensive than coal and is fast approaching fossil fuels.

So why are certain Republican-controlled states taking steps to stifle this progress? Lawmakers are needlessly passing laws in order to make wind power less competitive, in apparent service of their friends and donors in the fossil fuel industry. Let’s look at what’s happening in two states:

 

NORTH CAROLINA

The state of North Carolina is currently weighing multiple bills that would undercut the growing wind industry, according to ThinkProgress.

One such bill, the “Military Base Protection Act,” sounds really important, but is really designed to ban wind farms within 100 miles of the coast in the name of “national security.” The thing is, though, the Department of Defense already has the power to stop the construction of such farms in the event that it feels as though it does pose a security risk, and it has not intervened.

Let’s not forget that the DoD has put out reports fretting that climate change will pose huge national security problems over time, so wind farms are a good way to prevent future problems.

 

TEXAS

No other state generates more electricity via wind than Texas, and it’s been championed as a victory by helping to lower both pollution levels and the cost of electricity. Alas, KUT acknowledges, attacks on multiple fronts are happening in the state legislature to try to squash this success.

Jeffrey Clark, head of the Advanced Power Alliance, says it’s all part of a “very organized, very well-funded effort to slander renewable energy in Texas” thanks to the deep pockets of the fossil fuel industry.

Major pushback has come from communities that don’t want wind farms – not for any substantial reason other than that they don’t want power plants of any kind in their area to obstruct their views. It’s a very NIMBY mentality, but interest groups are helping to fund it in order to prevent new sites that would compete with existing power sources.

The other underhanded attempts are to yank the very subsidies that keep wind energy thriving. That sounds like a “free market” argument, but it’s the opposite considering that fossil fuels are also the beneficiaries of these government kickbacks. Fossil fuels rose to prominence with a lot of help from government money, so it’s not “unfair” to give renewable energies similar assistance in the starting phases.

What’s unfair is fossil fuels using the wealth they’ve amassed from those earlier subsidies to lobby and crush the competition with legislation. There’s nothing “free market” about that.

With our environmental crisis, the market demands cleaner energy. “Just because a new technology is pushing an old technology out [doesn’t mean it’s a market failure – it’s just the market working,” said Joshua Rhodes of the Energy Institute at UT Austin.

 

Unfortunately, these two states are not unique. This sort of sabotage is happening in many states, all in an effort to prolong outdated energy sources. We can’t let this legislation pass, however, because the longer renewable energy is held down, the worst the condition of our planet will be.

 

99 comments

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Chad Anderson
Chad A15 days ago

Thank you.

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JinnySITEISSUES L
JinnySITEISSUES Labout a month ago

It doesn't take rocket science to figure out that the Trump administration is controlled by "big oil." But, unfortunately, the Trump administration welcomes it....profits for me....profits for big oil. My question is: why do we allow this unethical, self-serving decision-making by the Trump administration to continue? Trump is Trump and he will not change. But for the sake of the country you can. Thanks for posting.

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Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeldabout a month ago

Susanne R.,
Yes, the same one to which you linked earlier. Look under Key Findings.

In FY 2016, nearly half (45%) of federal energy subsidies were associated with renewable energy, and 42% were associated with energy end uses.

These values are shown in Table 3., along with the subsidies for fossil fuels. Coal received 8%, while natural gas and petroleum liquids -5% (I do not know how they calculated a negative value) for a combined total of 3%.

The first thing that I noticed in the VOX article was that they counted the $14.5 billion (out of a total of $14.7 billion) in aid to help low income families as an oil and gas subsidy, whereas the EAI report included it in their energy end use. The latter seems more appropriate, because the aid would be unlikely to go away, if the energy source changed. I wonder if VOX would then count in as a renewable energy subsidy. Also note that the 7-1 margin was for PERMANENT tax breaks only.
Most of the renewable tax breaks are not permanent, as stated in the article. Most of this looks like accounting tricks, such that anyone can make any claim they want, with the appropriate designation.

Also, when comparing margins, remember that in the U.S., 78% of energy comes from fossil fuels, 10% from nuclear, 6% from biomass (mostly ethanol), 3% from hydroelectric, and about 3% from wind and solar combined. If fossil fuels and wind and solar were subsidized equally (percentage-wise)%

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Susanne R
Susanne Rabout a month ago

Thanks, Dan. Pinpointing the exact amount spent on subsidies to the fossil fuel industry can be very complicated because the industry is so old and because so many of the subsidies are hidden. Was the EAI report you referenced titled "Direct Federal Financial Interventions and Subsidies in Energy in Fiscal Year 2016"? If it was, I couldn't find the percentages you referenced, but I might have been looking in the wrong document or wasn't able to pinpoint the statistics due to my lack of knowledge on the subject. I have to rely on research --not personal experience or formal education specific to the topic.

In the course of my research, I found an interesting perspective in "VOX" in an article titled: "Friendly policies keep US oil and coal afloat far more than we thought: Most energy subsidies go not to renewables but to producing more of the dirty stuff."

Here's an excerpt: "As subsidies age, they start to look less like subsidies. They start looking like fixed features of the landscape, like mountains or rivers, rather than choices we are making. They just look like the status quo.

How does this compare to renewable energy subsidies? In terms of permanent tax expenditures, fossil fuels beat renewables by a 7-1 margin."

https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/10/6/16428458/us-energy-coal-oil-subsidies

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Dan B
Dan Blossfeldabout a month ago

Susanne R.,
According to the EAI report, the current subsidy is 3%, which I would call small - especially compared to the 45% for renewables. A century ago, the federal government encourage oil companies to explore for new reserves, and enacted special tax breaks. One was the depletion allowance, which treated oil reserves as a capital item, and in 1926 was used to deduct up to 27.5% of income. This was eliminated for large, integrated oil companies in 1975.

When arguing about which is the better investment, the lens through which one looks becomes vital. Philosophically, one looks at what is best for mankind, as a whole. This would include health risks, pollution, and long-term stability. From a financial standpoint, there are basically two; short-term and long-term profits. From a financial standpoint, green sources do not make sense. Therefore, in order to encourage investment in these resources, governments have given incentives to help them compete economically. There is no arguing that conversion to a 100% renewable energy system will require massive funding. The question is from where will these funds come.

The definition of both clean and renewable can be contentious. For example, natural gas burns cleanly and is generated naturally. On he flip side, how clean is nuclear energy or hydroelectric power?

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Shirley S
Shirley Sabout a month ago

Renewable energy may help save our planet.

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Susanne R
Susanne Rabout a month ago

Rhoberta E. - Yes, I'm on the hit list. Rather than let myself get annoyed, I think I just won't read anything he throws in my direction. What's the point. I've read it all before anyway.

My green stars are also showing up as from "past members." Right before that happened, I received more than two full pages of stars from one member --which the system doesn't allow-- so it had to be some sort of glitch. One of my comments was removed today, so I assumed that I had committed some sort of cyber sin and that it had something to do with that. It's very frustrating.

It was colder here today than it was yesterday, but it's apparent that spring has arrived. It's nice to hear that you're a bird lover, too! I love chickadees! My husband just made two more bird feeders, and a section of our yard is starting to look like a bird housing community.

Have a great Thursday! Looking forward to reading your comments!

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Brian F
Brian Fabout a month ago

SR Go away and some mental help.

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Rhoberta E
Rhoberta Eabout a month ago

@ Susanne R.
I see you're on the cut and paste nonsensical hit list too. !!
I honestly can't believe that a "mature" person could / would post some of the things we see.
I hope you had a good Wednesday !! Sunny here today and I have a new family of chickadees in my bird house. So wonderful to watch !!
Are your green stars all showing "past member" too ?

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