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Clean Power fossil fuel subsidies

Published on August 3rd, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan

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Oil & Gas — Over 13 Times More in Historical Subsidies than Clean Energy



 
You know the line — “Renewable energy shouldn’t receive government support. If it can’t stand on its own in the free market, it doesn’t deserve to grow.” The answer — total freakin’ hogwash, horsefeathers, balderdash!

First of all, as you might have gathered from the title, fossil fuel’s historical subsidies are like skyscrapers next to single-family-renewable-energy-subsidy homes. This is, notably, without including the massive indirect subsidies the oil and gas industry receive in unchecked externalities that wreak havoc on our health, our quality of life, and the potential viability of the human species after climate change is done with us.

You can see in this chart below that historical oil and gas subsidies are over 13 times larger than renewable energy (not including biofuels) subsidies:

Over the first 15 years of these energy sources’ subsidies, oil and gas got 5 times what renewables got (in 2010 dollars) and nuclear energy got 10 times as much.

“Nuclear spent an average of about $3.3 billion a year, oil and gas about $1.8 billion, and renewable energy just under half a billion,” DBL Investors Managing Partner Nancy Pfund and Ben Healey recently wrote in “What would Jefferson do?

You can also look at subsidies as a percentage of the federal budget in this chart:

And oil and gas support hasn’t gone away. In fact, in some ways, it still trumps support for renewables. From Greentech Media:

“The oil and gas industries have Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), Pfund said, two low-capital-cost ways of financing infrastructure now rapidly expanding in the financial services world. Neither is available to renewables investors, Pfund said, and both cost less than the tax equity funds derived from solar’s Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and wind’s Production Tax Credit (PTC).”

“The U.S. government has also played a huge role in subsidizing natural gas infrastructure and technology,” Pfund added. “The combustion turbine was developed for aircraft and heavily subsidized. It was later reapplied to the gas sector.”

Now, furthermore, there are several reasons renewable energy should be subsidized today. Here are 3 big ones:

  1. Clean energy subsidies actually benefit the economy! “A new study,” Pfund noted, “shows the ITC, when you look at it over the life of the credit, by creating these solar leases, provides a 10-percent return to the federal government. They are actually making money through this incentive through the revenues from all the companies in the solar supply chain.” Cutting the wind energy PTC means cutting 37,000 jobs out of the US economy, jobs that create good tax revenue.
  2. We need clean energy subsidies (stronger than the ones we have today) or an adequate price on pollution to address the fact that pollution from fossil fuels is killing us.
  3. Historical subsidies for fossil fuels, as noted above, dwarf historical subsidies for clean energy. It’s only fair that clean energy get to play on a level playing field, with the same level of support that fossil fuels and nuclear have gotten.

It’s pretty simple, actually. Once you look at the facts.

 

So, next time someone comes to you saying that renewable energy subsidies need to be cut off, please refer them here!

 


 

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he's the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • anon

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/kensilverstein/2013/02/20/despite-difficulties-nuclear-energy-will-regain-strength/

    Those nuclear “subsidies” are cleanup loans paid back by the utility. Not to mention that nuclear is four times more expensive than it has to be due to 70s regulations which add nothing to safety.

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  • http://profiles.google.com/nrghound Walter Rose

    Federal policy, born out of the post-oil-embargo Nixon administration, which is still with us today, is to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Both oil subsidies and alternative energy subsidies work toward this end.  They are not mutually exclusive. 

    Climate change, the result of emitting Co2 faster than our planet can suck it up, is will continue to gain  momentum in policy arena as things begin to get worse. For now, however, it’s reducing dependence on foreign oil deserves most of our attention; and both of these subsidies serve to do this. 

    I am not comfortable with the feeling that a worldwide supply-side shock could be lurking just around the corner. The threat has been abundantly clear since the 70s’, and our best efforts to counter that threat to-date have failed. Our nation continues to be vulnerable; our future remains at risk. Perhaps we have some breathing room with climate change. I submit, however, that foreign oil dependence is a much more pressing matter. 

    Yes, subsidize domestic fossil fuel production. Yes, subsidize fossil fuel alternatives. Both of these subsidies are consistent with federal policy, they both reduce foreign oil dependence. 

    Perhaps the oil company spin-doctors and the go-green gurus should sit down in the same room  and talk about what they have in common. Bickering accomplishes little, but finding a common purpose moves us forward. Ultimately we are all faced with the same reality. It is to everybody’s advantage that we subsidize fossil fuel and alternative energy; and I applaud the federal government for doing it. I call for more!

  • Cl1ffClav3n

    Anyone can make a chart.  What data did you use for your bar graphs?  They don’t match what the government is reporting to itself.  Here is authoritative data that was requested by Congress and supplied by  the Department of Energy in 2011 ( Direct Federal Financial Interventions and Subsidies in Energy in Fiscal Year 2010. Energy Information Agency, July 2011. http://www.eia.gov/analysis/requests/subsidy/ ). The oil companies got $2.8 billion in total subsidies and tax breaks from all federal government agencies in 2010 against federal corporate income taxes collected form oil companies of $36 billion and gasoline and diesel fuel excise taxes collected by the federal government of $32.7B.  Meanwhile, alternative energy got $14.7 billion in 2010 against zero return on investment for the federal government / taxpayer.   Working out the numbers, oil was subsidized at 27 cents per barrel of energy delivered as fuel to our economy.  Biofuels were subsidized at $10.46 per barrel of oil equivalent energy output.  Wind at $31.33, Solar at $59.60.  That kind of money can enrich quite a few croney capitalist friends can’t it.  It’s not called “green energy” because of its higher net greenhouse gas output or greater environmental damage than fossil fuels.  It must be green for the color of the taxpayer cash being shoveled out to friends at Solyndra and Solazyme and Cello and Range Fuels and Abound Solar and Beacon Power and Bright Source and Eco1 and Ecotality and ECD and Evergreen and LSP and First Solar and Sun Power and Solar Trust and Unisolar, etc.  Only one on this list of Obama administration-backed start-ups is not bankrupt, and that is because they are being sustained with Navy fuel contracts. 
    BTW, you should send people with questions to credible reports and studies, not blogs with advocacy agendas.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Use the links to answer your question Clf.

      Your stuff is getting stale.  Why don’t you go outside and shout at the clouds?

  • http://ronaldbrak.blogspot.com.au/ Ronald Brak

    It would be more economically efficient to properly price externalities than to provide subsidies.  This would mean a carbon price equal to the cost of removing CO2 emitted by burning fossil fuels from the atmosphere.  As I am an optimist I think a carbon price of $50 per tonne of CO2 or possibly less might be sufficient.  Of course coal has a lot more externalities than just CO2 emissions so it will be priced out of the energy market, although existing coal plants could be used as peak or load following plants for some time. 

    • Bob_Wallace

      I suspect you’re correct, but we don’t (yet) have the political will to price carbon and other externalities.  

      The idea of putting a price on CO2 and then using that collected money to offset any rise in consumer’s utility bills has been floated, but gained no traction.  A system along those lines would even the playing field for renewables while reducing tax expenditure and nullifying any rate increase for consumers.

      The only losers would be fossil fuel sellers.  And they’ve got a lot of friends.

      • http://ronaldbrak.blogspot.com.au/ Ronald Brak

        Australia’s recently introduced carbon price is an example of how a carbon tax can be done in a way that is mildly progressive.

        • Cl1ffClav3n

          I was following the Australian carbon tax controversy awhile back, but lost contact.  Is Australia paying the A$23/ton carbon taxes for coal exported to and consumed by China or not?  If you are then you are just accelerating your wealth transfer to Asia.  Either way, China is not paying it and won’t pay it because it would slow their economic development (at least they’re upfront about refusing rather than signing on to the protocols and then ignoring them).  India will not abide by carbon taxes either for the same reason.  Neither will sub-saharn African nations.  The western nations can sign up for credits or caps or taxes, but it is just a feel good move for liberal governments that further slows economies and thereby reduces tax revenues.  It unfortunately has a minimal impact on slowing GHG emissions growth. 

    • Cl1ffClav3n

      I agree that pricing in externalities is the most effective way to adjust markets and consumer behavior.  But we need to do this fairly for all energy sources and all costs and risk.  If we tax carbon dioxide emissions, we should tax nitrous oxide emissions at 298 times that rate and methane at 25 times that rate to reflect their relative contributions per molecule to global warming.  To this tax on food and biofuel farmer’s fertilizer and cow farts, we must also ask the farmers to pay for the environmental damage they cause by nitrate eutrophication and agri-chemical runoff poisoning of streams and lakes, for irreversible land use change when converting forests to farm land, and for soil erosion.  We must also add in the healthcare costs for the epidemic of diabetes and obesity resulting from people engorged on high-fructose corn syrup.  Big Macs should go for about $50 bucks.  Let’s also price into solar panels and modules the environmental costs of mining silica and bauxite and the rarer materials needed to make the glass and aluminum and semiconductors, and the life-cycle environmental damage of the industrial chemicals and toxins used in manufacturing and which must be handled in decommissioning.  We also need to reimburse the taxpayers for any public land used for solar farms and furnaces, and for the pristine natural views and property values ruined by square miles of mirrors and panels.  Even more importantly, we need to calculate the cost of the extinction of species and loss of biodiversity from industrializing millions of acres of natural habitat with solar farms.  We also need to price in the toxins associated with the storage batteries and capacitors and fuel cells and smart grid meters necessary to make this viable, and reimburse the taxpayers for new rights of way for HVDC transmission lines and the costs of forcing existing electrical power plants to operate inefficiently with spinning reserves idling to make up for unpredictable lapses in variable solar power that otherwise endanger the grid.  If we’re not going to be fair and rational and intellectually honest and recognize that all forms of energy entail costs and risk, then we deserve to come under the dominion of practical-minded countries like China that currently has 27 nuclear power plants under construction.

      • Bob_Wallace

        You left out the price for disrupting/destroying just about every living thing on the planet via runaway global warming.

        That’s the big bill we’re trying to avoid having to pay.

        • Cl1ffClav3n

          It’s in there, Bob, right up front: carbon tax, N2O tax, methane tax.  These are the major greenhouse gases per the IPCC.  Cement manufacture, BTW, is a big contributor, as is steel.  There is a big upfront GHG bill to be paid  for making and installing wind turbines and solar farms.  Let’s price in the costs for all forms of energy, not just wag fingers and oil and coal.

          • Bob_Wallace

            That’s the price of renewable energy.

            That is not the cost of screwing the planet.

            BTW, don’t forget the concrete and steel it takes to build coal plants, refineries, railroads, highways for oil delivery, etc.

      • Ross

        Agreeing a fair price for every last external cost from major to minor would take too long to prevent devastating global warming. 
        Arguing for that looks like a spoiling tactic. Building more nuclear wouldn’t get enough additional power on-line in time even if it didn’t have its safety, waste management, and proliferation issues.

        • Cl1ffClav3n

          Just to stop the annual 2.2% increase in global anthropogenic CO2 emissions and level off atmospheric PPM would require 300GW of electrical power generation to be converted from fossil fuel to nuclear or solar or wind every year.  And these powerplants would have to be converted with a magic wand, because, as Bob points out, there is a huge upfront GHG cost in building any of these options.  To put this in perspective, that’s magically bringing online one nuclear reactor or  58 square miles of PV solar or 322 square miles of wind turbines A DAY.  This does not fit into fallow farmers’ fields, but requires millions of acres of new land be cleared and bulldozed for the heavy equipment to come in and pour the foundations and erect the towers and install the arrays and put in the service roads and cableways, etc.  Of course, in the real world, all our churning to convert from one power technology to another is releasing huge additional GHG emissions that will bust Kyoto Protocols.  Assuming that someday we do zeroize the CO2 increase at some PPM, the climate models say the surface temperature will continue upward for at least another century till approaching equilibrium.  There are 400M people just in India who don’t yet have electricity to their homes (in addition to the 620M who lost their power the other day).  That is more people than live in the US who are going to get electrical power this century.  They and the billions like them around the world are absolutely going to get electricity, and it is most likely going to come from coal because it is simply the fastest and cheapest and most plentiful.  I’m not advocating, I’m just trying to communicate reality and probability.  China is currently firing-up one new coal power plant a week.  Does anyone here think anything the G20 nations do to themselves is going to make even a dent in the global increase of anthropogenic CO2 or stop the 90% of the world’s population with lower standards of living from developing along the same trajectory as we have?  I’m advocating the big picture Gaia view here.  Earth is an organism, and the exhalation of all the animal kingdom and human civilization is CO2.  We can either root for mass extinction of animals and ourselves, or we can fortify (and not harvest) the green biomass that inhales CO2 and scrubs it from the air.  Burning biomass for fuel or industrializing hundreds of millions of acres for solar or wind is the exact opposite of a solution.  Where is the Sierra Club and the WWF and GreenPeace?  They should be leaping from the top rope onto folks who want to reclaim more of the Earth’s surface for human use.

          • Ross

            Your claim that China is starting one coal fired power plant a week is false. They’ve actually decided to cap their coal use in 2015 and the rate of new plants being commissioned is way down.
            http://cleantechnica.com/2012/03/08/china-to-simply-cap-coal-use-within-3-years/The lifecycle carbon footprint of renewables is significantly below fossil fuels. That is not a valid argument against deploying renewables instead of fossil fuels or nuclear. 

          • Cl1ffClav3n

            Ross, I looked into more recent data on China based on your comment, and I agree with you that they have likely halted near-term coal plant construction.  There is growing evidence that they are in a big economic slide and electricity demand is actually falling right now and coal is piling up on the docks.  This doesn’t change the long-term reality that they are going to have to build their hundreds of additional plants by some point in time to bring a minimal level of electricity and economic development to all their people, but it does push it off to the right.  I recant the “1 coal plant a week” factoid as being out of date.

          • http://ronaldbrak.blogspot.com.au/ Ronald Brak

            Cl1ffClav3n, can you help me out?  My state, South Australia, gets over a third of its electricity from wind and solar but I can’t seem to find any millions of hectares devoted to this on google maps.  Can you find this huge area of land for me?  Thanks.  

          • Cl1ffClav3n

            According to the Australian Department of Resources, Environment and Tourism, Solar provided 1/860th of the electricity for all of Australia in 2009-2010, and wind 17/860ths (http://www.bree.gov.au/documents/publications/energy/energy-in-australia-2012.pdf) – Table 5.  Together that’s 18/860 = 2%. If South Australia is generating 33% of its electricity from solar, then either almost no one lives there, or the rest of Australia is running negative.  Where is your figure of 1/3 from?

      • http://ronaldbrak.blogspot.com.au/ Ronald Brak

        Good luck doing all that Cl1ffClav3n.  Personally I am interested in stopping global warming.  Take a look at Australia’s recently introduced carbon price for an example of how carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions can be cut at low economic cost.  Personally I don’t think it cuts emissions quickly enough, but it is a good start.

        • Cl1ffClav3n

          My whole comment was about stopping global warming.  The point is, we cannot make any meaningful reduction in global anthropogenic GHG emissions except by mass extinctions or holding billions of people by force from advancing to industrial age quality of life.  The only rational strategy is to therefore accelerate nature’s role in sequestering CO2, and that is by increasing green biomass growth.  Harvesting biomass for any reason thus contributes to global warming because the need is not carbon neutrality but running a carbon deficit.  The only plant harvesting we can justify if for food.  Using plants for fuel is the peak of climate change folly.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Cliff – That’s just plain wrong.  Very wrong.

            Right now we could move all our personal transportation to either EVs or PHEVs.  That would cut our use of oil by at least 75%.

            We could move our public ground transportation largely to electricity by using electric buses, subways, light rail and high speed rail.  Much of our air travel could move to electrified HSR – just as fast and a lot more comfortable.

            We could shut down coal quickly by  accelerating wind and solar installations, using natural gas to fill in the gaps.  As we develop better storage we can gradually reduce NG usage and rely on stored renewable energy.

            There is essentially no place on Earth that does not have access to some sort of renewable energy.  There are no shortages of critical materials that would stop us from providing clean energy to everyone, everywhere.

            It might (notice that I said might?) make sense to use plant material for airplane/ship fuel.  Better that we recycle some of the carbon already above ground rather than bring more to the surface to fuel planes (and cargo ships).  

          • Cl1ffClav3n

            Spoken like all the simple folks who don’t seem to realize that electric cars are powered by electric power plants that burn fossil fuel.  I have asked three times and no one on Clean Technica will answer, how is solar (or wind) going to provide the 27 quadrillion BTUs of energy that the US transportation sector consumes each year?  “He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense.” –John McCarthy, Stanford U.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Here Cliff, read this.

            http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-path-to-sustainable-energy-by-2030 

            Read it all, all five pages, and read with comprehension.

            I get the feeling that you’re actually trying to figure stuff out.  Perhaps if you had a better grasp of what is possible you could do a better job.

          • Cl1ffClav3n

            Come on, Bob.  That Jacobson article is a puff piece that should be in the opinion section, not Scientific American.  It has been picked to pieces in online and peer criticism that the author’s refuse to acknowledge let alone rebut.  It is a fairy tale full of “might,” “should,” “could,” and “may,” with hand-waving dismissals of virtually anything that involves math.  Per NREL land use factors, 12.5 TW of power with 51% from wind and 40% from solar equates to 850,000 mi2 of wind turbine farms and 158,000 mi2 of full density solar panel coverage — with zero power redundancy.  Of course, the Achilles heel
            with wind and solar is the variability, and that is why both the cost and the EROI are crushed in the real world by having to maintain spinning reserve fossil fuel on the grid or on-site diesel backup.  Wind and solar customers pay for twice the power they need.  It is the $6.28 in net revenue that the federal government collects on each barrel of oil consumed in the U.S. that is ironically being used to underwrite such follies.  Love ‘em or hate ‘em, fossil fuels built and sustain this country, and it is only because of their high EROI we can waste energy on money pits like today’s wind and solar.  The subsidy data tell the story.  Solar is getting closer to break-even and I believe will get there, but it will never supplant a significant portion of overall energy supply.  Wind turbines are too land-hungry and painful to the senses.  What a way to ruin 850,000 square miles of land with giant monuments to man’s carelessness for nature.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Cliff, bring us one piece of peer reviewed publication from a quality journal that finds errors in the Jacobson and Delucci paper.

            Please don’t bother me with the comments on web sites. I’ve been through many and there is no there there.

            And please drop the dishonest wind farm math.

            Oh, and drop that “spinning reserve” nonsense. There’s no need to keep turbines spinning to backup wind and solar. Wind farms are already adding battery storage in order to insure blocks of power and gas turbines can be spun from off to full speed in 10-15 minutes if needed.

          • Cl1ffClav3n

             http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421511007269

            That took 30 seconds.  Here’s a nice news article on how wind has screwed the Dutch.
            http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/16/us-dutch-wind-idUSTRE7AF1JM20111116 .

          • Bob_Wallace

            Can’t tell what the article says from just the abstract. How about you furnish the body of the piece that you must have read in order to understand their argument?

            You are reading too much into the article about offshore wind in Holland. The government is having to pull back on financing wind at the moment. Offshore is still a bit expensive but likely to fall to what onshore costs (higher installed cost but higher capacity).

            You just can’t grab something that you think sounds like it supports your position and fling it out. You need to understand what you read.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Here’s the rebuttal to Turner. Also behind a paywall.

            Apparently there’s a bit of a problem with the paper you grabbed.

            Delucchi, Mark A. and Mark Z. Jacobson (2011) Response to “A Critique of Jacobson and Delucchi’s Proposals for a World Renewable Energy Supply” by Ted Trainer. *Energy Policy* 44, 482 – 484
            Abstract:

            Ted Trainer’s “A critique of Jacobson and Delucchi’s proposals for a world renewable energy supply” (hereafter T11), directed at our two *Energy Policy * articles “Providing all global energy with wind, water, and solar power, Part I: Technologies, energy resources, quantities and areas of infrastructure, and materials” (hereafter JD11) and “Providing all global energy with wind, water, and solar power, Part II: Reliability, system and transmission costs, and policies” (hereafter DJ11), makes two main points:
            (1) that JD11 and DJ11 do “not deal effectively with the problems set by the variability of renewable energy sources,” and

            (2) that the JD11/DJ11 “analysis of investment costs is inadequate.”

            Neither of these criticisms is valid. We show here that T11′s first main point is based on a misrepresentation of what is stated and referenced in DJ11, and that his second main point is based on mistakes and unreasonable assumptions. As a result, T11′s critique does not affect our original analyses or our conclusion that it is technically, economically, and environmentally feasible to provide all global energy with wind, water, and solar power.

            We organize our response around T11′s two main criticisms (variability and investment costs) and under each main criticism by T11′s topic headings.
            ——

            Here you can read part of the problem with the Turner paper. Turner, it seems, misrepresented what was written in the original Scientific American paper. First of three pages is readable without paying.
            http://www.deepdyve.com/lp/elsevier/response-to-a-critique-of-jacobson-and-delucchi-s-proposals-for-a-vg17M7mD3k

  • rkt9

    If it is any consolation, I hold a few MLP’s & REIT’s in my IRA, and every quarter when the dividends drop, I reinvest them in renewable energy stocks.  So in a very miniscule way fossil fuel is subsidizing renewables.
     
    I suspect this dialog about tax credits and subsidies will continue, either way, wind and solar will be cheaper than fossil fuels soon.  Then will we still subsidize fossil fuels just so they can compete with wind and solar?
     
    Of course the fossil fuel industry is up in arms, they are scared $hitless, sunlight and wind are free, and you don’t have to dig it up, pump it through pipes, refine it, and scrub the exhaust. 

    On a bright note, I drove across PA yesterday, and saw two things that are new, one was several PV farms, near cold storage warehouses and manufacturering plants, the other was bight colored billboards put up by the coal industry telling me that that wind doesn’t always blow, and the sun doesn’t alway shine.  Hmmm, tell me sumthin I don’t know.  They got some real geniuses running their public relations campaign.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Perhaps someone needs to put up some dingy-colored billboards with the message that coal is always dirty….

  • Scott Cooney

    Too bad there’s not a “Love” on FB button. Thanks for getting this info out there…it’s amazing how many people think that the only thing getting subsidized is all the good, healthy, green stuff. Oil gets $4 Billion a year…insane. 

  • Yep

    Windmill ‘technology’ where the wind hits the surface of a blade or sail then turns some gears, has been in place since the time of the Egyptian Pharaohs.  It’s had 4,000 years to ‘catch up’.  Funny, the wind hasn’t gotten any more reliable since then either. BS butt-cover?  nice comeback.  Our current constant and reliable ‘on demand’ energy sources are not viable?  Time to stop hitting that bong.    

    • Bob_Wallace

      Well, you’ve demonstrated that your knowledge pool is shallow when it comes to wind, so let’s fill it up a bit for you.

      Capacity factor, annual energy produced/”nameplate capacity” has risen from about 30% to now 50% due to better turbine/blade design and better placement.

      That “50% capacity” does not mean that the wind blows only 50% of the time.  The wind actually blows closer to 85% of the time.  Capacity drops to 50% because the speed of wind varies.

      Increased capacity – think more electricity generated from the same amount of wind and for a cheaper cost.

      That increased capacity means that wind is now our cheapest way to generate electricity except for natural gas.  And NG is only temporarily cheaper due to a supply glut and that cheaper price does not include the cost of carbon released.

      Our current constant and reliable ‘on demand’ energy  sources are not viable.  They are producing large amounts of CO2 and wrecking the planet.  We have no choice but to either quit burning fossil fuels or find ourselves living in a climate that would be very difficult for us.

      Now, there’s some facts to help fill your pool.  Are you now floating up high enough to be able to see why continued subsidies for renewables is a good idea?

      • Yep

        Sorry, no.  Maybe I am typical in that I was initially pro-wind energy up to a few years ago (why not? Seemed like a great idea) but as I started seeing wind farms go up a few hours away, and started reading more about them, I became much more ambivalent and concerned.  So much that I read from the wind industry appears to be propaganda, spin, and blatantly biased / unproven claims to justify its existence (e.g., the AWEA, the EWEA) and the disproportionately huge subsidies for wind developers (who, frankly, it appears couldn’t give a damn about wind energy any more than toxic landfills that they’d develop just as quickly if they could get taxpayer subsidies for them).  Conversely, what I read from those that are not in favor of wind energy in its current form makes a helluva lot more sense.  I’d say the wind industry has only itself to blame for losing supporters.  I am no longer convinced wind energy is viable as a solution, even in part, to climate change.        

        • Bob_Wallace

          Too bad.  Seems like you’ve sealed yourself off from the data.

          Wind is now producing electricity in the range of $0.04/kWh to $0.05/kWh.  And having wind on the grid is bringing down the cost of electricity in places that have an adequate amount of generation installed.

          Before you jump to the next wind-negative talking point, no, the wind does not blow 24/365.  But we have ways to work around that, just like we work around the lack of any form of generation being 24/365.

          Are the subsidies for wind disproportionate as you claim?  Let’s take a look at the first graph on this very page, shall we?

          That big, tall gray bar?  Oil and gas.

          That very much shorter green bar?  Renewables.

          Something is badly out of proportion….

          • Cl1ffClav3n

            Per the 2011 Deparment of Energy EIA report prepared specifically for Congress: US wind energy subsidized at $31.33 per barrel of oil equivalent energy output.  Solar at $59.60 per BOE.  Oil at 27 cents per BOE. (Take subsidy amounts from Direct Federal Financial Interventions and Subsidies in Energy in Fiscal Year 2010. Energy Information Agency, July 2011. http://www.eia.gov/analysis/requests/subsidy and divide by energy totals from

            Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. “Estimated U.S Energy Use in 2010: ~98.0 Quads.” Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, 2011. https://flowcharts.llnl.gov/content/energy/energy_archive/energy_flow_2010/LLNLUSEnergy2010.png).

          • Bob_Wallace

            I have no idea what point you are trying to make. Are you saying that an emerging technology should receive no more assistance than is given to an established, mature and highly profitable technology?

            Do you not comprehend that fossil fuels and nuclear have received massive public money sup accelerate nature’s role in sequestering CO2, and that is by increasing green biomass growthort over the time of their development and are still being gifted with tax payer dollars when they can easily stand on their own two feet?

      • Cl1ffClav3n

        Could I get a good neutral and credible source for your 50% capacity factor number for wind.  I’m still seeing 25% in real-world studies.  I would like to update my data.

        • Bob_Wallace

          http://en.openei.org/apps/TCDB/

          Click on “Capacity Factor”.

          If you want more detail it’s on the EIA site.

          • Cl1ffClav3n

            Great website.  I see 50.6% as the best case for terrestrial wind, with 38% being about a weighted average.  A good data point to pass back is that per NREL study of real-world US wind turbine installations since 2009, the land use / power density average is 34.5 ha/MW / 2.9 W/m2. (

            Denholm, Paul, Maureen Hand, Maddalena Jackson, and Sean Ong. Land-Use Requirements of Modern Wind Power Plants in the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, August 2009. http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy09osti/45834.pdf ).

          • Bob_Wallace

            What does it mean that “best case for terrestrial wind is 50.6%” other than we’ll need to go to offshore wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, tidal, wave and biomass/gas for the other 49.4%?

            We’ve got far more of those resources that we need.

            I’ve never seen anyone claim that we should get 100% of our power from a single source.  (However that straw man argument is made by “fossil fuel friends”)

            And what does the “ land use / power density average is 34.5 ha/MW / 2.9 W/m2″ have to do with the price of little green apples?

            We’ve got far more land than we need in windy places to put turbines.  And, remember, less than 2% of the land in wind farms gets used for turbine tower footings, etc.  The other 98+% is still usable for original purpose.

    • http://ronaldbrak.blogspot.com.au/ Ronald Brak

      Seems to work fine here.  In South Australia we get about a third of our electricity from wind.  Along with roof top solar PV it has let us shut down the state’s coal power plants.  We plan to start one up when the weather turns warm again, but given the decreasing price of electricity in South Australia it probably won’t be long until it’s shut down for good.

  • Yep

    Yes, balderdash.  Coal, gas, and nuclear may receive much more in actual dollar subsidies, but renewables, particularly wind and solar, receive something like 25 x to 50x more per usable unit of energy produced.  And coal, gas, and nuclear would be viable and profitable business models without any subsidies; wind and solar are not. (Note: I believe in no subsidies for any form of energy, I am not just ‘anti-renewables’).  Keep drinkin’ the Kool-aid dude. 

    • “dude” is rude

       profitable for the stakeholders but clearly not “viable” for the rest of us.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Tell you what, turn off the faucet for coal and oil and then we’ll talk about renewable subsidies.   What might be fair would be to turn off subsidies for renewables 100 years after we stop coal and oil subsidies.  Let renewables catch up.  

      This “I believe in no subsidies” is a BS butt-cover used by those attacking subsidies for renewables.  Are you one of those?  Only you know for sure.

    • Ross

      Are you content with coal having external health costs of $500 billion per year in the USA? 

      • Cl1ffClav3n

        Okay, National Academy of Sciences came up with $120B, and that included hidden costs of global warming as well.  Where did you get $500B? Also see other post for all the hidden costs that must be considered for biofuel farming or solar module and wind turbine manufacture and land use change.  All forms of energy come with their benefits and costs.  Not one is “clean and green.”

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