The inspiration for this post was received yesterday when I perused a commentary by Townhall.com writers Amy Oliver Cooke and Michael Sandoval called “Disasters Keep Hitting Clean Energy Scam.” It picks out over two dozen news items which illustrate the folly of so-called clean energy, alternatives which have “so far failed to demonstrate the necessary economic and energy-efficient capacity to succeed in a true energy market,” the authors write.
Their work got me to thinking about events closer to home. While Maryland doesn’t have its own Solyndra on a federal level and our efforts against Radical Green have been more concentrated lately on the battle to thwart the adoption of PlanMaryland, we indeed have our issues and spend many tax dollars on alternative energy. Governor O’Malley is foursquare a believer in anthropogenic climate change and has connived the Maryland General Assembly into passing several measures ceding a significant market share to these alternatives without a clear market demand for them.
For example, we’ve passed and since tightened twice a solar energy portfolio utilities are mandated to meet or pay a penalty, entered the extortion of local utilities otherwise known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – a nifty model of wealth redistribution – and mandated a 25% reduction in greenhouse gases (read: our standard of living), just to name a few. Aside from the original solar energy portfolio mandates, these bills were all introduced at O’Malley’s behest and rushed through without much thought about the impact on the state’s economy. On the other hand, even exploring for offshore oil is something O’Malley “can’t imagine anyone actually wanting to go forward with” and tapping into a proven source of energy such as the Marcellus Shale formation has to be studied to death before Marylanders can take advantage. Meanwhile, our state is a net importer of electricity because of its high density, small land mass, and unwillingness to build the generating plants to bring balance (a Calvert Cliffs would likely not be built today.)
I have little doubt that there may come a time when some of these alternatives could work well, but the problem is we can’t depend on the fickle nature of natural phenomena to promote a 24/7/365 economy. To do so would place us in the same category as Third World nations which are lucky to have electricity a few hours a day, if at all. A stretch of cloudy, rainy days isn’t going to make a solar panel very useful nor will those hot, still days of midsummer do much to turn a wind turbine. Even a more reliable natural source like hydroelectric production could be curtailed by a lengthy dry spell.
It’s quite telling to me that radical environmentalists reflexively believe that any alternative energy or restriction of fossil fuel usage is great, and those skeptics like me need some sort of reeducation. (After all, why else would Maryland mandate environmental education in the schools? Can’t let those who know the real score influence those “skulls full of mush” in a politically incorrect way.) I’ll concede that someday in the distant future we will indeed eventually run out of marketable fossil fuels, but I have faith that someone in the private sector will also figure out a way forward – sort of like how Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, or the Wright brothers did.
The problem I have is in the force of law telling us we must adapt or the government tilting the playing field in a specific direction toward these unproven technologies. If someone wants to place a bed of solar panels or put up a windmill to power their farm (as was done a century ago) I say go ahead and do so – just pay for it out of your own pocket. If there’s economic viability in doing so, then by all means take advantage. But that economic viability shouldn’t include a cut from the state funding siphoned from your neighbors while other legitimate functions of government go wanting.