Of Windmill Pushers and Pinwheel Hats: Wind Lobby Blows Hard to Keep its Welfare Intact

As a repository of reader insight adding context to or exposing flaw or omissions of a paper’s news and editorial pages, the letters section of the Wall Street Journal is typically unmatched among other outlets.

I have spent some time on the phone and in correspondence with the Letters editor to conclude he is thoughtful and on the ball, though exceptions to the page’s excellence occur. While we do not expect perfection here on earth, sometimes these exceptions are so ridiculous as to demand ridicule. Saturday’s Letters page is a case in point.

Wind’s taxpayer lifeline is expiring, and you can feel it in the air. Responding to a piece touting shale gas, a windmill enthusiast wrote to defend the honor of his beloved pinwheels against gas, a proxy for abundant, reliable (they always work, so you can actually run an economy on them…wind, well, not so much) fossil fuels:

The energy to service a wind farm is free. For gas generation you need water, steel, energy, labor, chemicals and food stocks…

If there is a point here it must be to imply that wind energy is cheaper. It is a twist on the old line spouted by “renewables” pushers, “the wind and the sun are free!”, ignoring that wind and solar power are bloody expensive.

The wind and sun passing by one’s plot is free just as is the gas, oil or coal under it. But just three of these five fuels may be cost-effectively converted into electricity. Meaning that talking point is, like so many of the greens’ utterances, not just meaningless but useless.

Now by pure luck an always-informative gentleman named Willis Eschenbach had just posted, at the invaluable “climate” site Watts Up With That?, an item detailing the “levelized costs” of various energy sources. Levelized costs represent capital costs plus fuel, operations and maintenance. That is, the term circumvents silly talking points like the above.

Eschenbach, citing the US Energy Information Administration, lays the case out in fine graphic form for any WSJ reader, or letters editor, who cares to check: the three cheapest sources for new plants are gas, followed by dams and coal (despite the thirty-year war on it, escalated by an aggressive blitz of late, Old King Coal is still hanging in there). All are reliable.

Then comes land-borne wind, which is intermittent, but almost precisely tied with coal, despite all of the fawning, enviro statute-waving, fast-tracking and other gimmes afforded this failed contemporary of coal-fired electricity.

Our correspondent continued:

…, then build a pipeline to your power plant.

Sir, as an avowed fan of the gadgets, are you not aware that windmills require special, extremely expensive transmission lines because of their rather variable output? And lots and lots of them, given the suitable locations for wind farms are generally far away from where the (occasional) electricity is used, making that expense really add up?

Oh, yes, that reminds me of the efforts by greens to block said transmission lines (and of course the bird-killing turbines) because, well, given their location, they scare all sorts of critters such that they’ve been stymied in California, Oregon and Wyoming as I recall of the top of my head. Expensive, expensive.

He struggled on, heroically:

Maybe wind is just so productive that many jobs aren’t created, nor little in the way of multipliers.

Wha? But, wind isn’t productive. After decades of throwing billions at it on a serial lie, the intellectual insult of which is compounded with each iteration of “isn’t it time we began investing in…” what is risibly called a “new technology”, wind provides a little over 2% of our electricity. Despite the War on Coal, and with an enormous portion of wind’s share brand new (and all of it extremely costly), after a Bush administration-pushed surge and the huge spike from a $90 billion “stimulus” debacle.

Finally, he closes with:

A wind farmer knows the cost to produce power for 20 years. What other power generation source can claim that?

Answer: your partner in welfare, solar. What I believe he alludes to here is that they both exist in any material way only where state laws make utilities carry, and therefore consumers pay for, their stuff, locked at today’s high rates in by 20-25 year contracts.

So our doughty wind warrior proves a little too much here, reminding us that if spectacular advances in efficiency really were around the corner, the schemes propping them up would be ever more reckless and absurd.

When the good news is the selling point is untrue, you know you’re dealing with something you ought just abandon.

If wind and solar had a valid argument we would have heard it by now. They’ve both had more than a century of competing with coal-fired electricity, and a long time to try and edge out gas, yet remain mired in facially absurd incantations like that run by the WSJ Letters page on Saturday.

They still call themselves “new technologies”, they absurdly demand merely “a chance to compete”, and then admit they are still where they started with the line “isn’t it time we began investing in…” After billions squandered over decades protecting these losers from actual competition they admit they’ve made immaterial progress. Next!

Meanwhile, as we sit here today your elected policymakers are being lobbied to extend the windmill welfare queens’ lifeline for another four years — to get them yet another four years, until the next four years, as wind (and solar) is and will always remain just a few decades away from cost-competitiveness.

Each time around industry press releases admit it all: if this subsidy goes away the industry disappears, because it is not economic. That’s your money, and your economy being dragged down by the higher energy costs.

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