Posts Tagged ‘Energy’

A Tangled Solar Web

So, our government just placed a tariff on low cost Chinese solar panels, making them not so low cost. I thought our energy policy was, in part, to encourage the use of alternative energy sources, particularly wind and solar. Government has certainly spent enough money funding alt.energy projects that experienced technology developers found too impractical. Adding tariffs/taxes to raise the cost of solar, making it less cost effective, seems at odds with our policy goals. Right wing partisans might think that there is some deeper sinister plot at work. Perhaps there is, but our government seems to be so big and complex that the right hand destroys what the left hand creates. Ineptitude and inefficiency may be baked into the cake. Would we be farther down the solar path if government had just done nothing?

English: Solar panel installation at an inform...

English: Solar panel installation at an information center adjacent to Ögii Lake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gouged by the Wind

Fenton Wind Farm near Chandler, Minnesota

Fenton Wind Farm near Chandler, Minnesota (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s not every day that Minnesota makes the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, but today is such a day.

The editorial questions the wisdom of Minnesota’s renewable energy mandate. The author notes (correctly) that the mandate increases the cost of electricity and that the burden of the cost increase falls mainly on the poor and middle class. They also claim that the environmental benefits are almost zero. Whatever the benefits, they certainly have direct costs to households.

The Journal fails to mention the indirect costs. The high cost of electricity in Minnesota makes it less appealing to businesses, especially those that are heavy users of electricity. This used to mean big manufacturing operations or aluminum smelters, but it increasingly includes outfits with big server farms such as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon. Discouraging both traditional and high tech industries from locating here seems like a dubious economic development strategy.

This strikes me as another attempt to make things better that actually make things worse.

You might think it would be a “no brainer” to reverse course, but I doubt it. There is such a thing as institutional inertia and every bad idea has a core of supporters. For some, environmental concerns trump everything else and they won’t retreat from victories, no matter how small the benefit or how great the cost.

Minnesotans will continue to be gouged by the wind.

Taken To The Cleaners

washing machine

Image by w00kie via Flickr

I have no idea what our foreign policy toward Libya should be, nor do I know enough about nuclear power plants to know whether the Japanese or Americans are right about safety precautions. But I do know about laundry, and How Washington Ruined Your Washing Machine resonates with me. Due to bonehead regulation, inexpensive washing machines no longer get clothes clean. This is just another Washington assault on the poor and middle classes, as well as their laundry. A person ought to think twice about advocates for the “common good” – this seems to be the code phrase for taking you to the cleaners. Maybe the Republicans can clean up the mess the Democrats have made, but I doubt it. All I know is this: if you screw up the little things, you’ll probably screw up the big things.

In Nixon’s Footsteps

By promising to double our supply of renewables, Mr. Obama is only trying to keep pace with his predecessor. Yes, that’s right: From 2005 to 2007, the former Texas oil man oversaw a near-doubling of the electrical output from solar and wind power. And between 2007 and 2008, output from those sources grew by another 30%.

Mr. Bush’s record aside, the key problem facing Mr. Obama, and anyone else advocating a rapid transition away from the hydrocarbons that have dominated the world’s energy mix since the dawn of the Industrial Age, is the same issue that dogs every alternative energy idea: scale.

via Robert Bryce Says Renewable Energy Is Insufficient to Replace Hydrocarbons – WSJ.com.

Mr. Bryce explains why even the most ambitious “green energy” effort won’t come close to making us “energy independent”. It’s not complicated – it’s just math. Of course, politicians don’t appear to have much aptitude for math. If they do, they keep it well hidden, at least if there are votes at stake.

Nixon started the push for “energy independence” and it’s had strong bi-partisan support ever since. I’ve always thought that any idea that has bi-partisan support is a real stinker. It’s sad to another administration follow in Nixon’s footsteps.

Energy Policy – Just Ask Paris!

Daniel Henninger makes some very good points about the difference in energy policy as seen by Democrats and Republicans. There is, indeed, a choice to be made. Everyone seems to want to move in the direction of energy alternatives. The difference is speed and risk. The Democratic view is that we should move at great speed and at great risk to the economy (although they never say the last part). The Republican view is that we should move at a slower pace and with very little risk to the economy.

As a practical matter, moving very quickly isn’t an option, no matter how much anyone wants it. Our energy system and economy are too huge. And damaging the economy isn’t likely either – it’s too resilient. At the end of the day, the path suggested by the Republicans (and Paris Hilton!) is the one we’ll follow. If Senator Obama wins, there may be a few false starts, but we’ll end up in a similar place.

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