by Robert Maynard
I guess that it should come as no surprise when the founder of a renewable energy company expresses disapproval of S.30, the Senate Bill proposing a “three-year moratorium on wind electric generation plants in order to allow for a planning and 10 assessment process for the siting of these plants and the evaluation of whether in-state development of these plants is the most appropriate and cost-effective means to reduce Vermont’s emissions of greenhouse gases.” Jeff Wolfe is the co-founder and chairman of groSolar, which is a renewable-energy company. In a column published by the Valley News, he characterized S.30 as “an anti-wind, anti-solar and, frankly, anti-Vermont jobs and anti-environment bill.”
First of all, the bill certainly could not be construed as supporting wind and solar interests. I guess this must come as a surprise to a backer of what John McClaughry once described as”The Renewable Industiral Complex.” As McClaughry points out, this is a privileged class used to special treatment in Vermont:
Shumlin, Blittersdorf, VPIRG and their allies have promoted a remarkable combination of junk science, polar bear hysteria, nuclear phobia, business mandates, hidden taxes, price fixing, corporate welfare, government debt, and subsidy handouts to benefit – well, mainly themselves.
If you wonder why Vermont is so often viewed as a state afflicted with all sorts of government interventions to promote politically correct liberal enthusiasms, and thus unfriendly to the workings of a normal market economy – look no further.
Indeed, Wolfe points to such mandates favoring the RIC and expresses indignation that some Vermont politicians may be having second thoughts over whether this is really the way to go: “Vermont needs more wind and solar energy. Currently, less than 25 percent of the state’s total energy is renewable. The state has adopted a goal of increasing renewable energy (all energy, not just electricity) to 90 percent renewable by 2050, and the Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan indicates many megawatts of wind power will be needed to achieve that.”
The justification for his rage over reconsidering the path of lining the pockets of the RIC is based on the assumption that opposing the push for more wind and solar power is anti-environment and anti-Vermont jobs. Neither assertion stands up to close scrutiny.
In a February 15 2011, American Enterprise Institute Policy Study entitled “The Myth of Green Energy Jobs: The European Experience,” the job creating value of so-called “green energy” is held up to a comparison with the European experience and found not to have worked out that way over there. That is important, as Europe is a model cited by many on the left as the paradigm of green energy job growth.
One clear example is the experience of Spain:
But the story of Spain’s green-job leadership took a series of hits shortly after the president’s speech. In March 2009, researchers Gabriel Calzada Alvarez and colleagues at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos released a study examining the economic and employment effects of Spain’s aggressive push into renewables. What they found confounds the usual green-job rhetoric:
- Since 2000, Spain spent 571,138 euros on each green job, including subsidies of more than 1 million euros per job in the wind industry.
- The programs creating those jobs destroyed nearly 110,500 jobs elsewhere in the economy (2.2 jobs destroyed for every green job created).
- The high cost of electricity mainly affects production costs and levels of employment in metallurgy, nonmetallic mining and food processing, and beverage and tobacco industries.
- Each “green” megawatt installed destroys 5.28 jobs elsewhere in the economy on average.
- These costs do not reflect Spain’s particular approach but rather the nature of schemes to promote renewable energy sources.
Spain has found its foray into renewable energy to be unsustainable. Bloomberg reports that Spain slashed subsidies for new solar power plants.
Other European countries have also found the lure of job creating green energy to be a false hope. Read the entire article linked to above to get the full picture. Given this dubious track record, is it unreasonable that some of Vermont’s politicians may want to reconsider going that route?
In addition to the questionable notion that “green energy” is a job creator, the notion that such energy sources are really “green” is not a given either. On the surface they appear to be so because the sources of energy are themselves non-poluting. Indeed, they would be “green” if usable power could be directly generated from the source being used. The problem is that the potential energy stored in the source must be converted into usable power. Here is where things get a little tricky. Most renewable energy sources have a very low energy density. The result is that they require an elaborate energy conversion process to produce a reasonable amount of usable power. When you factor in the energy conversion process and not just the source itself, renewables can be just as environmentally intrusive as fossil fuel sources, if not more so.