The cold weather is creating a number of unintended consequences for new energy designs. First, snow accumulating on LED traffic light bulbs wouldn’t melt because the lights failed to heat up resulting in car accidents, and in some instances, death. In Minnesota, the weather resulted in wind turbines freezing and thus not turning even if it is windy. This local news story has the details:
But that’s not the only problem with wind power. It’s not the economic savior the government thought it would be. The stimulus money is failing to create the clean energy jobs the White House said it would:
America’s wind energy industry enjoyed a banner year in 2009, thanks largely to tax credits and other incentives packed into the $787-billion economic stimulus bill. But even though a record 10,000 megawatts of new generating capacity came on line, few jobs were created overall and wind power manufacturing employment, in particular, fell — a setback for President Obama’s pledge to create millions of green jobs. In the wind industry, the bill saved about 40,000 factory, installation and maintenance jobs, according to the American Wind Energy Assn. The industry had gained as many as 2,000 installation and maintenance jobs in producing the record megawatts of new capacity, but wind power manufacturing lost just as many jobs, the trade group said.
Clean-energy leaders and many outside analysts added that green companies won’t begin hiring in large numbers until the federal government mandates renewable power consumption nationwide and dramatically upgrades the nation’s electric grid.”
The fact that tax credits and handouts in the stimulus, along with other handouts in previous energy bills, still can’t produce a viable wind industry should be a telling sign that it is not economically viable. If a federal mandate that says we have to include renewable energy in our electricity consumption is the only way to trigger companies to build wind power, maybe it’s time to take a second look.
Yet Senior Advisor at the Department of Energy Matt Rogers says, “We are not in the business of picking winners” but instead “creating competition among innovative approaches in the marketplace.” But when certain energy sources enjoy preferential treatment, it comes at the expense of others. By including some energy sources in a renewable electricity mandate but not others is explicitly picking winners and losers. A renewable electricity standard itself picks winners and losers. There’s no other way around it.
And the reason the government has to pick winners is because the losers (coal, natural gas, and nuclear) supply electricity at a much cheaper rate. So not only do Americans have to fund the construction of windmills as taxpayers, they’ll also have to pay as energy consumers for pricier electricity. This is not creating competition; it’s market distortion. Selling it any other way is spinning the story, which is much more spinning than the wind turbines in Minnesota are doing.