Money = Wind, Bush and Fox News?
By: Divorced one like Bush
Yes, you read that correctly. The right is reporting there is money to be found in wind. Sacrilege in their church of oil. In an article, May 17, 2008 we learn about a Bush administration report on wind.
A little back ground first:
With major government investments in wind in the 1970s, the U.S. was poised to be a dominant player in what was clearly going to be one of the biggest job-creating industries of the next 100 years. As late as the mid 1980s, we had over 85 percent of the world’s global installed capacity, and U.S. companies possessed the most critical knowledge about how to develop wind farms cost-effectively.
President Reagan cut the renewable energy budget more than 80 percent after he took office, and eliminated the wind investment tax credit in 1986.
Since the turn of this century, wind has been growing explosively. From 2000 to 2007, the industry increased fivefold in size. Last year, $36 billion in wind investments were made around the world, with $9 billion invested in U.S.-based projects. In 10 years, it is expected to nearly quadruple in size.
In fact, because the new wind turbines are tall, and don’t interfere significantly with grazing or farming, they have become popular in the central U.S., where the wind resource is best in the country. Some ranchers make half a million dollars a year by leasing only a fraction of their land for turbines.
From 2004 to 2007, the company’s wind turbine production has grown 500 percent, and the division brought GE revenues exceeding $4 billion in 2007.
While the multi-decade drop in wind prices has stalled temporarily, prices for the competition have gone up the smokestack. New nuclear plants, for instance, have tripled in price. Analysis for the California Public Utility Commission puts the cost of power from new nuclear plants at 15 cents per kWh. It also puts the cost of coal (without carbon capture and storage) at more than 10 cents/kWh. That’s a major reason why, since 2000, Europe has added 47 GW of new wind energy, but only 9.6 GW of coal and a mere 1.2 GW of nuclear.
…the recent Department of Energy report, called “20% Wind Energy by 2030.” With improved efficiency and a decrease in capital cost, the report found that wind power should cost 6 to 8.5 cents/kWh, unsubsidized, even including the cost of transmission to access existing power lines. And the cost of integrating the power into the U.S. grid would be under 0.5 cents per kWh. This effort would only add about 50 cents per month per household, or under 2 cents a day.
The study notes that “few realize that electricity generation accounts for nearly half of all water withdrawals in the nation.” By 2030, wind would be cutting water consumption by 450 billion gallons a year, of which 150 billion gallons a year would be saved in the arid Western states, where water is relatively scarce — and poised to get even scarcer thanks to climate change. And on top of that, we get half a million jobs, of which nearly a third are high-wage workers directly employed in the industry.
So, this is what could be. Being that we are a “global economy”, our companies need to be able to compete, correct? Here is the competition environment:
By 2020, many European wind farms will be generating electricity at 2¢ per kilowatt-hour, making it cheaper than all other sources of electricity.
Wind-generating capacity worldwide is growing at over 30% per year and has jumped from less than 5,000 megawatts in 1995 to 39,000 megawatts in 2003—an increase of nearly eight-fold. The fossil fuel with the highest growth rate—natural gas—grew at just over 2% annually during the same period. Oil grew at less than 2% annually, and coal at less than 1%. Nuclear generating capacity expanded by 2% annually.
One would think that an industry growing at 30% would be far more inviting to the “free market” entrepreneur than one growing at 2%. But, that is not where we are seeing money flow. No, we felt it was wiser to spend it creating a democracy in an oil rich country. Then again, in 8 years of neocon election policy and 50 plus 1 strategy, we have not seen any major news organization go after the 49% not being ideologically serviced. Think that might have something to do with the policies we vote for?
But, back to the environment to be competing in:
With wind-generated electricity, the principal production cost is the capital outlay for initial construction. Since wind is a free fuel, the only ongoing cost is for maintenance.
Many countries in Europe are pushing hard to bring in more wind power. Here are a few examples.
The United Kingdom is requiring an investment of over $12 billion in off-shore wind farms that should satisfy the residential electricity needs of 10 million of the country’s 60 million people.
Tiny Denmark, which led Europe into the wind era with the development of its own wind resources, now gets an impressive 20 percent of its electricity from wind.
Germany overtook the United States in terms of wind-based generating capacity in 1997. Now Spain is close to overtaking the United States as well.
As to investments being made, it is just as we are seeing in beer:
Regulatory issues do not appear to have deterred energy companies from making US acquisitions. Energias de Portugal paid nearly $3 billion to acquire Horizon Wind Energy from the Goldman Sachs Group. The purchase doubled the amount of wind power operations in the Portuguese company’s portfolio. German utility E.On has agreed to acquire the North American assets of Irish wind power company Airtricity Inc. for $1.4 billion. Acciona Energia has acquired the wind farm development rights of EcoEnergy, a company based in Illinois. Spanish energy giant Iberdrola has acquired Oregon wind development company PPM Energy, as well as Community Energy of Pennsylvania, and more recently US wind farm companies Greenlight Energy and Orion Energy.
But get this, Fox News titles their article: Denmark Points Way in Alternative Energy Sources
Fancy that. Fox News says we can learn from the foreigners.
…most of the Western world was subjected to an Arab-led oil embargo. The crisis forced Denmark, which was 99-percent dependent on foreign oil at the time, to develop an alternative-energy policy.
In the 30 years since, Denmark has worked tirelessly to develop new technology and new policies.
Twenty percent of Denmark’s energy needs are now met by electricity generated by wind turbines, and the proportion is steadily increasing. Thanks to advances in technology and turbine design, the cost ofwind power has been reduced by 75 percent since 1970, when the programs began.
The Danish attitude toward energy conservation means “people don’t have as many appliances, or gizmos,” said Griswold, a frequent visitor to Denmark. “Also, there are stringent requirements for insulation when building new homes. Every individual mandate like that means the nation uses less energy.”
A major part of that success is the Danish commitment to and attitude toward its energy policies, Griswold said.
“After the [1973-74 oil] embargo, Denmark had the attitude that they were going to become less dependent on the outside world and more self-sufficient,” he said. “And upon making this commitment, they’ve gained benefits, including lower national debt, cleaner air and less dependency on other countries.”
Let me repeat the important part of that last sentence: “And upon making this commitment, they’ve gained benefits, including lower national debt, cleaner air and less dependency on other countries.”
One final point Fox News wants us to learn: “Danes would say, ‘Thank goodness we have a government that plans so well that we are only minimally impacted.'” he said. “The average Dane isn’t terribly conscious of being in an energy-saving environment because it’s so natural to [him or her].”
Now there is a message I would have never expected Fox News to promote.