Newspaper column: Being ‘green’ is easy, ignore facts

If you thought the “green movement” was more about self-righteous politics than clear-headed science, here are two tales that prove the point.

In Arizona a petition is being circulated in an effort to get on the ballot an initiative called the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona Amendment. This would require 50 percent of the electricity generated in the state to come from renewable sources by 2030.

The petition states: “The Amendment defines renewable energy sources to include solar, wind, small-scale hydropower, and other sources that are replaced rapidly by a natural, ongoing process (excluding nuclear or fossil fuel). Distributed renewable energy sources, like rooftop solar, must comprise at least 10% of utilities’ annual retail sales of electricity by 2030.”

To get on the November ballot petitioners must gather nearly 226,000 signatures by July 5.

If the measure passes it would necessitate the closure of the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station west of Phoenix, which currently provides about 35 percent of the state’s electricity, even though it produces no carbon emissions.

If the state were to achieve the goal of 50 percent of its power coming from mostly solar and wind, both of which are intermittent, there would be no room on the grid for Palo Verde’s power, because reactors can’t be quickly turned off and on — it takes weeks of preparation.

“We would have to shut Palo Verde down during the day every day,” one plant official was quoted as saying by Cronkite News. “But that’s not how nuclear plants really work. Nuclear plants can’t just be shut down and then started up again.”

The most likely source of rapid start-up generation would be natural gas, which produces carbon emissions, especially when frequently idling.

Adding wind and solar to the power grid could increase the carbon dioxide output.

Retired electrical engineer Kent Hawkins wrote in February 2010 that “the introduction of wind power into an electricity system increases the fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions beyond levels that would have occurred using efficient gas plants alone as the providers of electricity equivalent” to the wind generated power.

This is because every kilowatt-hour of intermittent electricity introduced into the grid must be backed up by a reliable fossil-fuel generator. When the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, the demand for electricity remains.

Starting and stopping natural gas-fired generators is inefficient, comparable to operating a car in stop and go traffic instead of steady and efficient on the open highway. Just like the car, the fuel consumption can double, along with the carbon emissions, negating any presumed carbon savings by using solar or wind.

Opponents of the measure say it will drive up power bills in the state. Proponents argue long-term benefits of solar power and reducing nuclear waste offset any immediate cost spike.

Meanwhile, in New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced plans to build $6 billion worth of offshore wind turbines while shutting down the nuclear-powered, emission-free Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, N.Y.

Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, explained in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal that the wind turbines will produce only 60 percent as much power as the nuclear plant being closed.

How will this gap be covered? You guessed it, natural gas.

“The irony here is colossal. Mr. Cuomo, who banned hydraulic fracturing despite the economic boon it has created in neighboring Pennsylvania, and who has repeatedly blocked construction of pipelines, is making New York even more dependent on natural gas, which will increase its carbon emissions,” Bryce writes. “At the same time, he has mandated offshore wind projects that will force New Yorkers to pay more for their electricity, even though the state already has some of the nation’s highest electricity prices.”

This past week NV Energy announced plans to contract to build six new solar power projects at a cost of $2 billion and double the state’s renewable energy capacity, but only if voters reject the Energy Choice Initiative on the November ballot that would end the company’s monopoly in most of the state and allow competition. No mention was made of how this might impact power bills.

In all three states emissions would likely increase, as well as power bills.

Being green is a state of mind. Just never let the facts get in the way.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Palo Vere nuclear plant

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Sprechen sie Deutsch? — It translates as a ‘green’ energy boondoggle

When the Nevada Legislature passed Senate Bill 123, everyone was so thrilled about shutting down all that dirty coal-fired power plants and building millions of dollars worth of bright new clean energy solar and wind farms.

Perhaps, they should’ve asked the German electricity customers how saving the planet is working out for them.

According to Der Spiegel, Germans this year will be forced to pay $26 billion for electricity from solar, wind and biogas plants — electricity with a market price of just more than $4 billion. 

And about that saving the planet, the magazine notes:

“On the other hand, when the wind suddenly stops blowing, and in particular during the cold season, supply becomes scarce. That’s when heavy oil and coal power plants have to be fired up to close the gap, which is why Germany’s energy producers in 2012 actually released more climate-damaging carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than in 2011.”

Soon the average three-person household in Germany will be paying about $120 a month for electricity, twice the price in 2000 and with two-thirds of the increase due to new government fees, surcharges and taxes. “But despite those price hikes, government pensions and social welfare payments have not been adjusted,” Der Spiegel says. “As a result, every new fee becomes a threat to low-income consumers.”

And if the solar and wind policy continues in place, the story says, electricity in 2020 will cost more than 50 cents per kilowatt-hour, up 40 percent from today’s price. Nevada residential customers currently pay less than 12 cents per kWh, but with SB123 in place don’t expect that to last long.

Wind turbines off the North Sea island of Borkum are currently rotating without being connected to the grid. The connection cable will probably not be finished until next year. In the meantime, the turbines are being run with diesel fuel to prevent them from rusting. (DPA photo)

Movie questions why we should destroy the desert to save the planet

Movie flier.

Movie flier.

At one point in the film an exasperated woman explains, “Ruining things to go ‘green’ is an oxymoron.”

That is pretty much the theme of Robert Lundahl’s film “Who Are My People,” which will have its Nevada premiere Tuesday, the evening after Harry Reid puts on his perennial traveling planet salvation show, otherwise called the National Clean Energy Summit 6.0, which advocates building industrial-scale wind and solar projects on public land throughout the West.

Unlike Reid, Lundahl, who grew up in the desert Southwest, sees something wrong with literally paving over hundreds of thousands of acres of pristine desert, which has been home to Native Americans and a wide variety of wildlife for thousands of years, with solar panels, solar mirrors and windmills, which in 25 years or so will be so much hazardous waste to be abandoned or hauled off, further scarring the landscape.

The hour-long film is a pastiche of desert scenes and running commentary from archeologists and scientists to tribal leaders, who point to various sacred sites that could be destroyed by the industrial-scale “green energy” projects.

Intaglios near Blythe, Calif.

Some of the more striking footage in the film is aerial footage of the Intaglios in the desert near Blythe, Calif. The largest of these prehistoric figures, or geoglyphs, measures 171 feet from head to toe. Archaeologists have no way of determining their age. According to the Mohave and Quechan tribes, the human figures represent Mastamho, the Creator of Earth and all life. The animal figures represent
Hatakulya, one of two mountain lions/persons who helped in the Creation. Sacred ceremonial dances were held in the area to honor the Creator of life.

Only a month ago, BrightSource Energy killed its Rio Mesa project near Blythe after 740 fossils were found on the site. The project would have been similar to the company’s Ivanpah project, using mirrors to heat water in 750-foot-tall towers.

“Ultimately it’s simple,” says Lundahl, who describes himself as an environmentalist and is an advocate of roof-top distributive solar panels, “you can’t destroy things to ‘go green,” and that includes the traditional practices and life-ways of Native American communities who were here long before the United States was even an idea, and the environment and traditional, indigenous landscapes which support those communities. You can’t have ‘green’ without social justice.”

But the Interior Department has already set aside 285,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land in six states — including 60,395 acres in Nevada — where permitting for utility-scale solar projects will be streamlined. Perhaps railroaded is a better term.

The Nevada land alone has the potential to generate 6,700 megawatts of power, in 2012 NV Energy’s peak generating capacity was only 6,000 megawatts.

Frame from movie.

Lundahl has invited Harry Reid and a number of the attendees at his “green” confab to attend the screening. I doubt any of them would be willing to hear an alternative point of view.

Lundahl invited Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, who is scheduled to be at Reid’s summit.

“I want her to come, and hear first hand what the impacts of BLM policies are on the ground,” he said. “It’s not just a story about Indians, but it is a story about all of us. When did the public interest become corporate interest? When did public lands become set aside for profit making enterprises by multinational corporations with high placed ties to government officials? I did request interviews from the BLM but they declined all interview requests multiple times.”

Lundahl also points out in the film that huge amounts of taxpayer money is propping up these “green” projects in the form of grants and tax credits.

And much of that money is going to cronies of Obama and Reid. According to the Energy Department’s own figures, by the end of 2011 $16
billion of $20 billion given out in one loan guarantee program alone went to Obama backers. Energy’s inspector general, Gregory Friedman, testified that contracts were steered to “friends and family.”

The showing of “Who Are My People” is Aug. 13, 7 p.m., at the Flamingo Library Main Auditorium at 1401 E. Flamingo Road. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets at the door are $7.50 but can be purchased online.

At last year’s “green” summit, Reid bragged that solar panels on Nellis Air Force Base save the Air Force $1 million per year. He neglected to say the panels cost $100 million and will last no more than 30 years.

Nevada lawmakers twiddle their thumbs, while in other states renewable power portfolio standards are being challenged

Nevada is one of 29 states with electricity market central planning from the Legislature that demands a certain percentage of all electricity consumed in the state come from so-called “green” sources such as solar, wind, biomaas and geothermal. This is called a renewable portfolio standard.

Lawmakers in 22 states of those states are fighting to reduce or repeal their RPS because it increases power bills, while in Nevada not a single legislator has had the temerity to even suggest such a thing for the sake of ratepayers. Nay, our Legislature is considering a law to increase the RPS from 25 percent by 2025 to 35 percent — the highest in the continental U.S. I’ve asked my state senator and assemblyman, and they have demurred.

Spring Valley Wind project near Ely. (Photo via R-J courtesy of Pattern Energy)

According to Herman Trabish, reporting at GreentechMedia, an obviously pro renewable website, ”

At least twenty-two of the 29 state renewables standards have been attacked by legislators or regulators in the last year or are now under attack.”

He goes on to low-ball the impact on consumers of this market manipulation, claiming, “

Research shows they add less than 5 percent, on average, to the cost of electricity bills and are an effective driver of renewables growth.”

Not only are lawmakers growing spines and challenging the “green” lobbyists, Trabish reports, in Colorado a 2011 federal lawsuit challenges renewable standards everywhere on the grounds they violate the Commerce Clause “

and should be voided because it discriminates against out-of-state coal-fired electricity.”

“The renewable energy standard creates a barrier to interstate commerce that’s impermissible under the Constitution — only Congress can regulate interstate commerce,” the Denver Business Journal quotes Kent Holsinger, the Denver attorney on the lawsuit, as saying. “Colorado said 30 percent of electricity that’s used in Colorado must be from these so-called renewable sources. That discriminates against other sources of electricity in and outside the state. The standard also creates a preference for renewable sources inside the state. We believe that’s a facial violation of the clause.”

Meanwhile, Nevada’s largest newspaper is reporting that Nevada’s first utility-scale wind farm could face up to a $200,000 fine because it does not have a federal “take” permit that would allow its turbines to kill golden or bald eagles up to a certain number. A dead golden eagle was found at the wind farm this past month.

The R-J story makes no mention of the fact that dead eagles at wind farms result in lengthy investigations, while dead migratory birds of any feather found at oil and mining sites can result in a quick indictment.

The ruse of ‘green’ energy is unveiled

A story in Friday’s Las Vegas Sun — naively and unintentionally — rips the veil off the underlying ulterior motives of those who are pushing the development of “green” energy.

There never was any intention to save the planet from warming due to greenhouse gases. It was always about lining the pockets of their campaign contributors who build expensive wind, solar and geothermal plants with taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies and then rake in exorbitant rates for decades to come (see examples here).

Obama at solar panels near Boulder City. (White House photo)

The lede of the Sun account informs: “When the Legislature required the state’s power company to produce a certain percent of its electricity from renewable energy, a primary goal was to spur the ‘green energy’ industry inside Nevada.” And you thought it was to save the planet. The story tells us both Republicans and Democrats agree this was the case. (Perhaps not all.)

But, according to the Sun tale, those cheapskates at NV Energy are buying cheaper wind power from Wyoming, geothermal from Utah and hydropower from Idaho dams in order to comply with the state law requiring that by 2025 that 25 percent of the state’s power come from renewable energy sources and still keep the power rates as low as possible. How dare they? The Sun estimated NV Energy met a third of its “green” energy requirement in Southern Nevada one year with contracts with out-of-state suppliers.

Though the Sun story makes no mention of price, John G. Edwards, a former Review-Journal reporter, in a utility industry newsletter points out that Nevadans for Clean Affordable Reliable Energy (NCARE) was objecting to NV Energy’s southern division purchasing portfolio energy credits (PECs) from PacifiCorp.

Edwards quoted testimony from NCARE witness James Philip Williamson as testifying that the power company purchased 916 million PECs in 2011 from PacifiCorp for about 6 cents a kilowatt-hour, which is less than half the 13.5 cents per Kwh for the most expensive in-state solar power plant but still twice the cost of power generated by natural gas or coal.

It is not until the waning paragraphs of the report that Sun readers are informed that what the power company is doing is keeping power bills down. That is so trivial.

“This stuff is more costly than traditional energy,” Dan Jacobsen, a manager with the Bureau of Consumer Protection, was quoted as saying. “Particularly with the price of natural gas at record lows, traditional fossil fuel burning power plants are cheapest.

“People need to understand that any effort to expand renewables will create upward pressure on pricing, because renewables cost more.”

For just the latest example of why certain politicians want to build more “green” energy projects, read about Harry Reid’s Chinese pals and their contributions to his and other campaigns. Here is another example. And this too. And still another.

One “green” hugger suggested in the Sun story that his ilk will push during the 2013 Legislature to require that “green” energy must be produced within the state to satisfy the renewable portfolio standard (RPS). That sounds like a worthy debate for the ratepayers of Nevada to hear. How much will Nevadans have to pay in power bills to save the planet all by ourselves. I never knew carbon dioxide stopped at the state line.

Perhaps, someone with a lick of common sense will move to repeal the RPS entirely, since it is obviously just a ruse to redistribute our money to Democratic cronies and not to save the planet at all.