Steven F. Hayward: Renewable stupidity needs no mandate

Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) are all the rage in pro-green energy circles these days; they’ve become the chief fallback position since the collapse of cap and trade—a back door way to regulate carbon. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia (and Puerto Rico!) have adopted mandates calling for a certain portion of electricity to come from renewable sources (chiefly wind, solar, and biomass; some RPS standards do not count hydro power, since dams are environmentally incorrect).

California has the most ambitious target, with a new law calling for 33 percent of its electricity to come from renewable sources by the year 2020. Most state RPS goals are around 20 percent. And proposals for a national RPS are a hardy perennial; New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman is out right now with another national RPS proposal (though he calls it a “Clean Energy Standard,” or CES). Senator Bingaman claims that “a properly designed CES would have almost zero impact on GDP growth, and little to no impact on national electricity rates for the first decade of the program.” Well maybe, but what about the second decade?

Naturally, RPS boosters all claim, and can point to forecasts, that RPS standards won’t significantly increase electricity prices to consumers, even though every study shows renewable electricity sources are significantly more expensivethan conventional fossil fuel sources. But never let the belief in the possibility of free lunches get in the way of reality: think of it as renewable stupidity, which really is abundant and cheap.

The Manhattan Institute’s Robert Bryce is out with a new report, “The High Cost of Renewable Energy Mandates,” that sheds considerable light on the subject. The whole thing is worth reading, but I’m particularly struck by his Table 1, which shows that of the ten states with the cheapest electricity rates, only two (Oregon and Washington) have RPSs, while of the ten most expensive states, eight have RPSs. And Oregon and Washington deserve asterisks to go with their RPS asterisks: both of those northwestern states enjoy a high amount of cheap hydro power, built by the federal government about 80 years ago. Washington state also gets a lot of its power from cheap nuclear power, heavily subsidized by the federal government 50 years ago. In both cases, the capital cost of their current electricity infrastructure is pretty cheap.

These old, non-carbon sources of energy enable Oregon and Washington more easily to absorb RPS sources like wind power, though, as Forbes magazine explained a few months ago, when the dams have too much water to manage through the dams, they shut off wind power, which is rather telling about the limitations of renewable sources.

Source: Energy Information Administration.

The American

4 responses to “Steven F. Hayward: Renewable stupidity needs no mandate

  1. RECS need to be higher and electricity more expensive. How else are those of us in the renewable energy business going to get richer? BTW, This low natural gas price from fracking is killing us.

  2. Unfortunately, Bob, the earthquakes caused by fracking may kill us all. Before Pennsylvania started fracking, my home was in an earthquake-free zone. Now it’s in an earthquake-FREQUENT zone. The true cost of anything produced by fracking is out of anybody’s reach.

    Anyway, thanks, Editor, for the chart. Longer comment at my blog.

    • Earthquakes caused by fracking?
      In California we would sleep through anything less than a II on the Mercalli scale, which includes *all* the micro-quakes associated with shallow fracking zones. None of the micro-quakes allegedly induced by fracking rise to the level of a ‘damaging’ quake – level V on the Mercalli scale.
      For reference, standing 100 feet from a passing high-speed freight train is like a level IV Mercalli earthquake. I lived in a house that close to the main Southern Pacific tracks between LA and San Francisco for 7 years, experiencing passing freight trains several times each day.
      I would rather have a hundred level IV quakes than a single level V. The quakes that you fret so much about are no big deal.

  3. Priscilla seems to be one of those who relishes in spreading misinformation and nonsense. To date there are no peer reviewed studies that support the ridiculous notion that Fracking causes anything except an abundant, inexpensive supply of natural gas to become available. This of course is anathema to the zero growth fanatics that make up the renewable energy lobby along with those unable to operate a business at profit without subsidies from unwitting taxpayers. If we were suddenly able to convert static electricity into kinetic energy, the likes of Priscilla would complain that the atmosphere were being altered or some other claim as silly as the claims being made (unsubstantiated or supported) about Fracking. The debate would be a lot more honest is these eco-nazis and anti-human folks would just be a bit more up front about their agenda to devolve human existence to about the same level of sophistication as perhaps 10,000 years ago. They also oppose plastics, vaccines, fertilizer, private transportation, etc. They have arrogantly appointed themselves as stewards of the planet despite the fact that their support among the general population is less than that of the flat earth folks and were it not for the leftist media they would have about the same level of influence.

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