Wind and Solar in Fantasy Land

November 2, 2010 at 11:22 am

Economist Ross McKitrick delivered a presentation over the weekend titled The case against the case against conventional energy. The entire visual/written portion of the presentation is available online (29-page PDF).

McKitrick makes mincemeat of the idea that air pollution here in Ontario, Canada is worse than it used to be and that “green” energy solutions should be pursued for this reason. Moreover, he says attempts to link air pollution to adverse health effects require close examination since there is plenty of conflicting data.

The following points, from McKitrick’s presentation, are especially important:

  • “The only people who want to push wind energy for its own sake are those who expect to profit from it.”
  • “Windmills don’t run on wind, they run on [government] subsidies.”
  • “Solar panels are not powered by sunlight, they are powered by taxpayers.”

If we’re interested in job creation and in a healthy economy, McKitrick says policies mandating that a certain percentage of a jurisdiction’s power must come from green energy is the “last thing” we should be doing. Yet everyone – from US senators to the Russian government – seems intent on pursuing these sorts of policies.

In this news story from a few months back, we learn that Ontario has signed 20-year contracts guaranteeing that solar power suppliers will be paid “80.2¢ per kilowatt hour.” Reality check: hydro is currently sold to consumers for between 5.1 and 9.9 cents per kilowatt hour.

One doesn’t need a degree in mathematics to figure out that this is unsustainable. If the government is committed to paying eight times more for power, what do we think is going to happen to our hydro bills when it re-sells this power to us? (Similar silliness is underway in Spain and elsewhere.)

My personal view is that signing 20-year contracts is a special kind of insanity. We live in an era of fast-paced technological change. Fifteen years ago Google didn’t exist. Ten years ago no one had ever heard of an iPod – never mind an iPhone, an iTouch, or an iPad.

From an innovation perspective, 20 years is an awfully long time. There’s a good chance much of today’s energy technology will be obsolete in a decade – never mind two.

Meanwhile, over in Germany, the head of that country’s energy agency is warning that solar generated power may soon trigger blackouts because the aged energy grid can’t handle the irregularly-timed surges associated with solar energy production.

Welcome to fantasy land. This is where a select group of people produce wind and solar power that the rest of us then pay a bomb for. And it’s all because politicians want to be able to claim that they’re green.

.

h/t to Bishop Hill for the heads up regarding McKitrick’s presentation

see also Anthony Watt’s observations on regarding California’s Proposition 23, which is being voted on in today’s US election. A law aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions is being misrepresented by its supporters as an anti-pollution measure. In the real world, it’s killing jobs and causing businesses to flee the state. (Clarification: Prop 23 would suspend the law until the state’s unemployment rate improves.)

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Wind Power’s Double Standard Still Clueless in Australia


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