An Embarassingly Bad Argument for Wind Power in Kansas Newspaper

An Embarassingly Bad Argument for Wind Power in Kansas Newspaper
July 25, 2014

James M. Taylor

James M. Taylor is senior fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute, and... (read full bio)

Wind power shills serially embarrass themselves by making claims that wouldn’t even make the multiple-choice options for “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?” Whether economic illiteracy, political mendacity, or some other reason is to blame, the following is an example published July 25 by a newspaper in Kansas.

Patrick Lowry at the Hays Daily News published an article, “Against the Wind,” about staffers for Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) wordsmithing Brownback’s statement that he would like to see the Sunflower State phase out its renewable power mandates. Lowry used this news hook to display his embarrassing lack of knowledge about economics—or, as more cynical readers may conclude, propagate a deliberate and mendacious effort to misinform Daily News readers about energy economics.

Wind Does Not Compete with Oil
Lowry began his wind power shilling by claiming the primary objective of people who don’t want to be forced to purchase expensive wind power is “protecting long-standing interests of the oil industry.” Oil, however, is rarely used for electricity production. Oil is used to power motor vehicles. Oil and wind power do not compete for market share in any sector of the economy.

The “long-standing interests of the oil industry” might be in play if putting a propeller beanie on a Mack truck would allow the truck to barrel uphill at 70 mph, but I am wagering even 99 percent of 5th graders know a wind propeller is no substitute for gasoline.

Expensive Electricity Harms the Economy
Lowry further claimed forcing consumers to purchase higher-priced electricity has “bolstered significantly” the Kansas economy.

“The relatively new wind energy business sector is reliant on subsidies, tax credits and forced mandates for energy companies to attract any private venture capital. It's an expensive proposition, one that will not make it in the marketplace if left to its own devices. Not until that storage problem is solved. But that is precisely why the industry deserves taxpayer support. If turbines aren't producing, there will be no research on how to maximize that energy,” Lowry argued.

Lowry acknowledged wind turbines “aren’t producing” enough to be economically competitive. He admitted Big Wind needs special “subsidies, tax credits and forced mandates” merely to remain in business. And somehow, forcing such an expensive failure of an industry on electricity ratepayers is good for the economy? Lowry never explains how this might be the case, largely because it simply cannot be true.

Future Affordability Irrelevant Today
Although Lowry believes government research investments in battery storage for wind power may someday make wind energy cost-competitive (despite decades of government and private research investments having already failed to do so), forcing expensive wind power on Kansas now, while any such elusive technological breakthroughs are still a pipedream, has done just the opposite of “bolster[ing] significantly] the Kansas economy. Forcing an expensive technology on electricity ratepayers has merely driven up the cost of living in Kansas much faster than would otherwise be the case. Making it harder for people to pay their bills lowers the state’s economic well-being.

Given such pitiful efforts to make the case for wind power, I will help Lowry along and present the best argument wind power apologists have to offer—wind power companies pay money to farmers and ranchers who allow wind turbines on their land, which enriches those farmers and ranchers.

The problem with this argument, of course, is wind power companies don’t simply wave a magic wand to create the money given to farmers and ranchers. Instead, the wind power companies raise electricity prices for all electricity customers throughout the state to pay the few farmers and ranchers who host the turbines. In a most unappealing manner, this means taxing the many to pay the few and redistributing money from poor and middle-class electricity customers to pay rich landowners.

Wind power shills say and write the silliest things.

James M. Taylor (jtaylor@heartland.org) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.

James M. Taylor

James M. Taylor is senior fellow for environment and energy policy at The Heartland Institute, and... (read full bio)