The final installment of “10 from 10″ is, as you might guess, my very first post ten years ago today, December 1, 2005. I have more to say after the (very brief) post.
I was actually trying to think of some serious weighty subject to do the “first” blog post on, but then a package arrived in the mail today. I’ve only waited 38 years for this shirt!
And there is a parallel in the shirt’s arrival to the purpose of monoblogue. On my old site I somewhat confined myself to the political realm. But now it’s more about my passions on a lot of subjects. (If you go to the “About” tab you’ll see something about my thoughts while creating monoblogue.) If you want to see my archives from the old website, I did place links to almost every one of my 100+ posts in the “ttrwc” section of the site. You’ll see that a lot of them are politically related. Politics is something I follow closely and will frequently comment on.
The post that may tell you a little bit about the 38 year wait for my shirt is the one called Joy in Mudhenville, part 2.
But tonight I’m just getting my feet wet here and making sure it all looks good. Tomorrow I’m going to catch up on my reading and start getting out the red meat. Actually, I’m watching the MAC championship and it’s tough to work back and forth while keeping focus. How’s that for honesty?
So here I go into decade number two. Doing the “10 from 10″ series reminded me of a lot of experiences I’ve had and people I’ve met over the years, many of which and whom wouldn’t have been possible without this website.
Yet it’s strange to see all I’ve learned as well as how far the technology has come. I didn’t know how to attach the photo in the original post to the WordPress site, for example, because it was all new to me. Now I do 25-picture posts without flinching. Meanwhile, this latest post is among the first to be compiled on a new laptop, which is the third I’ve gone through in doing this site. That was a liberating experience in and of itself since I used a desktop computer for the first 2 1/2 years – on the other hand, the vast majority of my posts of late were banged out on an iPad. It worked in a pinch for about 4 to 5 months, but wasn’t really a viable long-term solution.
Another thing I’ve come to learn over the years is to not make a lot of forecasts about how things will progress with this site. As one example, a year ago I had no real interest in picking up a second writer but then the opportunity presented itself and I decided Cathy Keim would be a worthy addition. That may be the best move I ever made insofar as this site goes because not only does she bring a little different audience but also a unique but comparable viewpoint. In time I think she will help me grow the site back to where it was in previous years.
Admittedly, the last year has been tough on me. For a short time I had thoughts about making the 10-year anniversary the swan song for the site. I had lost the passion for writing it, and when that goes the writing gets stale and boring. And yes, there’s been a sharp decline in readership – more than I would normally chalk up to being in an off-year election. Hopefully now that the passion is coming back, the actual equipment is improved (it’s not easy writing this blog on an iPad; however, it is good practice for particular situations), and the election cycle is coming back around to an important election year, I can rekindle both the fire of desire and the ambition of people to check this place out more often.
In short, I still think I can utilize these writing talents that God gave me for the common good of enhancing peoples’ awareness of the benefits and advantages that freedom and liberty, firmly based on a moral, Judeo-Christian foundation, can bring. It’s not a fight I’ll win in ten years or perhaps even whatever time I have left in this world, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try and do so anyway.
So I have no idea what the next decade will bring. But as long as it’s interesting to me I will do my best to keep this enterprise going for years to come.
I received an amusing e-mail missive this evening from the Washington Times, and it suited me well because I didn’t really want to discuss politics after last night’s debate I didn’t watch. Seems it only took them 33 years and over a billion dollars to finally have a profitable month. And if you go to their website – which is the reason they are even close to being in the black, since the print edition is a money pit – you’ll find the reason: it’s almost as bad as the Examiner site for annoying ads. (Having once written for examiner.com I can vouch that money doesn’t spread much among those who provide content.)
Reading that and realizing I’m only weeks away from the decade mark of doing this site made me ponder my profitability. While it’s not making me rich, my site does make me a modest profit mainly thanks to compensated posts and the handful of political ads I accept. (I don’t want to guess my hourly rate on doing this, though, because I’m sure it’s expressed in millage, not even pennies.)
Yet it took from about the time I graduated high school to now for the Washington Times to make money. This despite the fact they had a niche in the market that was otherwise mostly unfilled as a right-leaning print outfit. It sort of makes me wonder about whether I have the patience of Job in developing this site further given the fact I work full-time outside the home.
While that was the case for the first three years I did this site, too, the big difference is now being in a family rather than single. It takes time to be the soon-to-be husband and stepdad, and that lack of available time was one reason I brought Cathy on board.
But let’s talk profit. I still think this site is the right venue for certain non-political advertisers who want to reach a regional audience. It’s been some time since I checked my Google Analytics, but historically I have had an audience all across Maryland, with some play in D.C. as well. Maybe you have a niche of your own that seeks customers who are more intelligent and discerning. I think this could be the ticket.
In strict terms of how much I pay for the server vs. revenue, this has been a net winner for most of the last ten years. But I want to help you succeed, too.
After some technical difficulties with my server and then the internals of my site, I am back up – and not a moment too soon. I’m going to try and get a record review in for tomorrow and Cathy Keim has some wisdom to share this weekend as well.
So don’t fret for me, I’m fine and hopefully monoblogue will stay that way too.
This is sort of a programming note for those who are interested.
Over the last week on social media I was detailing some of my findings as I went through the votes for the monoblogue Accountability Project. There was a Delegate who was racking up an impressive record of consecutive correct votes; alas, his streak stopped at 15. Anyway, I have completed the tallies and over the next few days will write up the “awards” segment.
However, one thing I cover in my summary is the disposition of bills and that depends on Governor Hogan. On Tuesday he will sign the last batch of bills he plans on making into law and hopefully will present veto statements for others which won’t. You may recall he was supposed to sign a group of them on April 28 but the Baltimore riots forced a postponement. It means come Tuesday Larry might have carpal tunnel from signing so many bills because he’s doubling up the batch. This means I should be ready for release on May 18, since I like to put things like that up to begin a week.
Speaking of veto statements, this also allows me to bring up the idea that MDPetitions.com (the brainchild of Delegate Neil Parrott) is urging people in a last-ditch effort to veto three bills. As it turned out, they were all votes in the monoblogue Accountability Project and for all three the correct vote was against passage – so I join that call to veto the following bills:
- SB 416/ HB 838 – Insurance Mandate for same-sex wedded couples to get In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) treatments
- SB 743/ HB 862 – Modified Birth Certificates for Sex Changes, No Surgical Change Necessary
- SB 340/ HB 980 – Convicted Felons Voting without Completing Their Sentences
I go into the reasons as part of the mAP, although on the IVF and birth certificate issues Cathy Keim and I have already explained our opposition.
As regards my writing partner Cathy, she is on a little hiatus for family time. So if you miss her pieces – and I’ve noticed she’s made quite a few fans over the short time she’s been associated with this site – don’t fret because she should be back in the saddle over the next couple weeks.
Once I get through that I have a couple more pet projects. And you thought I’d take it easy on the off year.
After nine-plus years of doing monoblogue, the time has come to expand my horizons.
In the interest of both broadening the readership base and getting an occasional day off, I have decided to take on (with apologies to my Maryland GOP friend Heather Olsen) a “partner in crime.” In other words, monoblogue won’t necessarily be “mono” anymore.
Longtime readers, however, should know I’ve tried to break in this direction before with the “GO Friday” feature where I solicited guest opinions. But it really never caught fire in the way I wanted it to. It’s not to say I won’t keep doing that when the opportunity is presented, but I think this approach will work better for my needs.
However, the impetus behind bringing my new associate on board was somewhat accidental. I’ve actually featured some of this lady’s writing on occasions when I’ve quoted the Wicomico Society of Patriots, as she’s been instrumental in that cause for several years. But she came to me at the last Wicomico County Republican Club meeting with questions and thoughts about blogging. yet worried that she wouldn’t have to time to do a blog justice because of her busy schedule.
As I was compiling the notes for my post about that meeting, the thought struck me about bringing her onboard here. Even though she was a bit skeptical at first because of the “mono” part, I explained to her that numerous bloggers and writers with their names on the site have at least one other writer writing under their banner – for example, Michelle Malkin and Herman Cain have secondary contributors. This way, I said, you don’t have to worry about keeping up your own site and you can write when the mood strikes you.
I don’t know exactly what I said to bring her on board, but whatever it was proved to be successful. So tomorrow you will read the first post from my new contributor, Cathy Keim. First of all, Cathy pledges not to write about music or sports - which is a plus in my eyes – but I think you will really like what she has to say. She had an intriguing experience recently and you get to learn a little about it.
It’s also worth pointing out that Cathy has been trying to expand her contributions to the community, but despite the efforts of the Central Committee she was rebuffed for both a County Council seat as well as a spot on the Wicomico County Board of Education. I’m not guaranteeing blogging will further her political career – insofar as I know I’m the only local blogger who has won an election, even if it was just squeaking by in the final spot in 2010 – but this can be a place where Cathy can help to advance her conservative causes.
As for me, I will still be here and attempt to keep a daily schedule. But it will be nice to have the break and I look forward to bringing you Cathy’s perspective beginning at noon tomorrow.
The folks at Red Maryland must be so successful that they have put out the bat-signal that they want more helpers. Billing it as the Citizen News Project, they are looking for contributors representing all of Maryland’s counties to provide reports on “hot topics of government and policy” in their respective counties. Flush off their success at picking the right gubernatorial horse and joining the Liberty Alliance (which is nice, aside from the annoying popup tabs I now regularly get to ignore when visiting their family of sites) they want to spread the wealth as it were. At least that’s the impression I get.
But seriously, despite my differences with them over the years (hence my status as an erstwhile RM contributor) this could be a good idea. Having said that, though, I think they may be going about it the wrong way.
I’ve been blogging for almost a decade now, in perhaps a dozen different outlets I can think of off the top of my head – two blogs of my own and several others on a scale from local to national as a contributor. Bloggers tend to go through an initial stage where they write on a regular and frequent basis – it’s a stage that runs from a few weeks to maybe a few months. Almost invariably, though, there comes a point where a blogger feels like they are beating their head against a wall or the effort is no longer worth the reward. Often they burn out on the task of writing and leave the blog go for days, weeks, or simply never get back to it. Millions of blogs are considered dead sites as they stopped updating – my original site would be one.
But while having a website of one’s own is daunting to a degree, joining an established site with a reader base already in place is an attractive option for some. It’s a model which has been tried to some extent by everyone from the Huffington Post to Examiner.com to RedState, with various incentives put in place. Red Maryland is apparently trying that same model.
I also believe that content is king and a good site has plenty of it. Red Maryland does relatively well in this respect as it averages a post or two per day; just a little bit more output than I do – although a significant percentage of the posts are simple promotions for their upcoming radio shows and events. Obviously they want to create more content, which is an admirable idea with the benefit (they hope) of increasing their site’s readership and cross-promotional opportunities.
Looking at this from the perspective of a guy who has more than just this site to maintain, in the case of my overall body of work the most important content is done for this site unless there is sufficient incentive to make someone else’s venue worthwhile – in other words, if I’m being paid a reasonable amount for my effort then it becomes a more pressing priority. In my case, that’s why content may be lacking at certain times because I have clients who pay me for my work – this space, not always so much.
On the other hand, if I’m a contributor who is working simply for credit or for a pittance I may ask myself why I’m placing my work where it may not be promoted well or in a place where I may not be allowed to use it for myself on my own site. In some cases I have managed to blend the two, but in general if I’m doing content I want to be able to use it for myself since I have a site to fill, too. Work smarter, not harder and all that.
So where am I going with this?
It may not be true of every county, but I suspect there are a number of people who already do the work Red Maryland seeks to have on sites of their own. I think that’s where they need to look first – do a little research and find out what counties already have alternative, regularly-updated news sites and see if there’s a match between the vision and coverage of those sites and what Red Maryland has in mind. If it’s a match they can then work out a content-sharing agreement perhaps similar to the former arrangement between RM and the Baltimore Sun.
Otherwise – and I admit I could be reading their appeal wrong – they are just looking for people to write for them occasionally and hoping these contributors don’t mind giving away content for free in the vain hope they’ll be discovered as part of the Red Maryland network.
Maryland has a lot of good writers, and RM‘s Mark Newgent should know because he was the editor of the now-defunct Watchdog Wire – Maryland. If that’s the model Red Maryland is looking to replicate, there’s a reason why Watchdog Wire is no more and it has nothing to do with the editor – just the lack of incentive.
So if you’re thinking about being a Red Maryland contributor, my advice to you is to go into it with eyes open and ask a lot of questions.
Let’s face it: the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is the forgotten time in the news cycle. So little of import happens that the news becomes retrospectives of the prior year and predictions of what may happen in the next. I’ve found the reason this works so well is that many of the newsmakers go on their own extended holiday, so no one is really in a position to create hard news.
So over the next few days between now and the New Year I’ve lined up reprisals of some of the features I enjoyed putting together at the end of last year, with one new addition. Tomorrow I will debut my top 5 list for monoblogue music, and Sunday I’ll put up the year in review for my site.
Turning to 2015, Monday through Wednesday will be a look forward at what I think will be some of the things to watch for in 2015, as well as thoughts on how some of what I foresaw in 2014 actually came out.
Believe it or not, though, these are some of the more time-consuming posts I do over the course of a year – I spent parts of several days putting together my year in review piece, for example. You now have a glimpse of the subject matter, so what will draw you in is what I have to say about it.
Most people who read this site realize fairly quickly that its bread and butter is political news and commentary; oftentimes it references and considers a proper course of action on legislation which is introduced, debated, and voted on. Having studied our state legislative website for hours on end over several years and watched it evolve from a relic from the 1990s to a more functional site thanks to a fairly recent makeover, I have a pretty good idea of how to navigate through it to get the things I want out of it, but there are still some elements that it lacks.
I also have become aware that Maryland can be a trendsetter in legislation, but there are times where other states which have sessions that are longer or year-round consider legislation that’s sure to be eventually contemplated in Maryland – speed cameras are an example, as other states had them first before we passed the enabling legislation. And being as close to Delaware as we are, there is the potential for a spillover effect from bills they debate and pass as well.
Those who are truly in the loop about such things rely on a small number of websites that specialize in tracking legislation as it moves through the various states and Congress. StateNet, CQ Roll Call, Bllomberg Government, and Westlaw are examples of entities which perform this service for a fee, one which often runs into the five figures annually. While they are very useful sites, that sort of cost isn’t always attainable for a non-profit or advocacy group like a Maryland Pro-Life Alliance, Maryland Citizen Action Network, or Delmarva Poultry Industry. Their needs may be limited to just one state or a small group of states like those comprising Delmarva, along with relevant federal legislation.
You may ask where this is going, so let me let you in on some good news. Now it’s possible to get the legislative information you need in almost real time at an affordable price while helping maintain the political news and commentary you’ve enjoyed for over nine years. Allow me to introduce you to TrackBill.
TrackBill is a system which allows its users find the legislation they are interested in and track its progress through the state or federal legislative body of your choice. As they describe it, “TrackBill is a simple, yet robust, platform empowering government affairs professionals to search, track, and report on legislation in the US Congress and 50 state legislatures. Professional service firms, Fortune 1000 companies, and nonprofit organizations rely on TrackBill to spend less time tracking legislation and more time impacting the outcome.”
So let’s say you are a Maryland Citizen Action Network and you’re interested in legislation relating to education or Common Core. Each day you can receive an update on the progress of any Maryland or federal legislation dealing with these subjects and use that to spread the word about key votes and hearings. Delmarva Poultry Industry can do the same for all three states (Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia) plus other key poultry-producing states to keep an eye on their pet issues. There are three pricing levels:
- A single state
- Up to ten different states
- Nationwide (all states)
Each of those also includes Congress, so even a statewide group has the advantage of knowing about federal legislation as well. This can be useful for keeping tabs on a state’s delegation to Congress.
I will cheerfully grant that this service isn’t for everybody. But TrackBill sought me out to ask if I would consider being their Maryland partner, and I decided to accept this new advertiser on a commission basis. Simply put, for each package they sell through my site (which has its own landing page) I get a percentage, and insofar as I know I’ll be the sole Maryland outlet for awhile.
This is one way to support a startup company which is trying to help out the little guys (packages range from just $999 to $1,999 a year, which is far less than five figures) as well as the one conservative Maryland political blog you’ve come to respect. I don’t do radio nor do I plaster my logo all over stuff at an online store – my energy is focused on providing the best content I can each day.
So I call on those of you who read here and are activists for various interest groups to see and hear what the fine folks at TrackBill have to show you and say. They say knowledge is power, so the more you know the better chance you have of making positive change. Since I get a trial version to play with, I almost can’t wait for the “90 days of terror” we call the Maryland General Assembly to start so I can see what all this website can do. Judging from the little bit I’ve done so far, I think it will be a great resource for all of us!
Well, here we are. Another year, another dollar.
Since the blogging phenomenon is perhaps 15 to 20 years old, depending on how you interpret its history, I would have to guess mine is a middle-aged site. Lots of sites have come and gone in the span of time since I began this enterprise but still I press on. And middle age is a time when the naivete of youth is replaced by both a maturity and a growing awareness of one’s legacy.
Normally when I do this annual introspective I consider a sort of “state of the site” address I have a number of accomplishments from the previous year, but this year was a little different. Unlike 2013, where I made it to regional and national events like the Turning the Tides conference, the David Craig announcement tour where I snagged a great interview, or – the granddaddy of them all – CPAC 2013, the last year was somewhat devoid of real exciting milestones. Those I had were more in the non-political realm, such as my too-brief tenure for American Certified, which allowed me to focus on a topic I enjoyed researching and writing about, or broadening my scope with occasional music and book reviews.
Instead, the main focus was a Maryland electoral campaign which had plenty of blogging fodder and was won by a candidate who was short on specifics but long on money to lend his campaign, at least to start. No, I was not a Larry Hogan supporter early on (although over the preceding two years I’d written about Change Maryland quite a bit) but he won the Republican primary and found a message which won the day in Maryland, reflecting a Republican tide nationally.
Yet just as the national GOP is already beginning to disappoint supporters who want a stiffer fight on amnesty, Obamacare, and the budget, the potential is there for Larry Hogan to fail the conservative movement in Maryland. It will be something that bears watching, and hopefully other outlets which were extremely critical of Martin O’Malley and his liberal, free-spending ways will be equally as quick to keep the incoming governor in line should he falter from a conservative stance. I know Rome wasn’t built in a day and it will take some time to dismantle, but we need to continually move the ball forward against a stiff defense. (One advantage we may have, though, is that Democrats in Maryland aren’t used to playing that way.)
To be bluntly honest, though, the last couple months have been difficult. Toward the end of the campaign I was so burned out on everything that the thought of packing this enterprise in once the election was over crossed my mind a couple times. After all, my direct political involvement was coming to a somewhat disappointing end because I was defeated for one last term on our Central Committee and I thought it would be a little more difficult given my comparative lack of resources to provide the coverage my readers were used to. I still don’t think I’m back at 100 percent satisfied with my work and output as the election recedes farther into the rear view mirror but it is coming along and perhaps being upfront with those who support me will add a few percentage points to that total.
I sometimes feel this site is having a midlife crisis of sorts as it approaches a crossroads. It was great to have my political advertisers – who, by the way, went 3-1 in their elections – but so far none have stepped forward to replace them. While there was a point earlier this year where Salisbury fell to second or third place among the cities which visited this site most, it’s regained its lead as about 1/8 of my audience, and 3/5 of the total comes from Maryland. (Washington, D.C. is my second-biggest city, though, at a little over 10% of audience.) There have been some new, more passive revenue sources over the year, with another potential one waiting in the wings, but as far as direct sales I have long struggled to reach a goal of 6-10 constant advertisers.
Nine is an awkward age for anything. It seems that it takes having a decade under your belt to bring a little gravitas, but you’re no longer the new kid on the block either. I’ve tried a few new features over the last several months but not all of them have taken root and grew, which is a shame.
Still, I am hoping to go into the one-decade mark next year on the upswing in both revenue and readership; the real test, though, will be what kind of time I can devote to the enterprise. I think that shifting gears a little bit and focusing more on overall policy – with emphasis on key issues like energy, manufacturing, Radical Green, and the quest for limited government – will make for a better site than trying to keep up with the doings of umpteen local and state candidates involved in races I’m interested in because deadlines aren’t quite as pressing. We won the election, so now it’s time to win the argument and start setting sound policy.
In the end, if I were to assess the last year of monoblogue I would have to say I struggled to meet expectations, for a number of reasons. As I noted above, though, the passion is beginning to come back and that’s a good thing. I’m beginning to feel more excited about writing something on a daily basis rather than looking at it as a chore just to keep fresh content up.
I know I have a lot of fans out there, so if I have let you down a little in the past few weeks you will hopefully understand why. But I must say that the one consistent site metering system I’ve used over the years is pointing to 2014 being a record-breaking year – perhaps the new high will be reached as this very post is promoted because the numbers between 2014 and 2012 (my previous record) were extremely close. Through the end of November my readership for the year was up 4.8% over all of 2013. Add in December and it may be a 10% hike.
I’m hoping to have a little more clarity in other aspects of my life soon, too, so if that pans out I think things will work out for this site as well. Still, your support, thoughts, and prayers would be appreciated as I begin year ten.
Those who know me and have some idea of what makes me tick realize pretty quickly I am a numbers guy, and there is just something about round numbers that I like. So every time I turn the odometer of 1,000 posts it’s a big deal to me, and hitting the 4,000 mark is no different than hitting 1,000, 2,000, 2,500, or 3,000. (For the record, the last 1,000 posts took 853 days to compile.)
But today is an interesting day in the life of monoblogue. As you probably know, mine is primarily a state-based blog so I write constantly about Maryland politics. Aside from the first year of this site’s existence, though, I have been on the side which was out of power and had little to no say in the governing of this state. Last night, with the election of Larry Hogan, that all changed. While I’m not going to get into my election observations quite yet – I’m saving that for tomorrow morning’s post – but it should suffice to say that it will be interesting going trying to hold Larry’s feet to the fire.
Unlike the last few observances of Pxk, I don’t really have any earth-shattering news on the writing front. Obviously there may be a subtle change in direction now that I won’t be as active in the state GOP, but hopefully the nuts-and-bolts of a party in power will be relatively smooth and uninteresting writing anyway. (The Democrats, on the other hand – now that could be intriguing as a number of them will be pointing fingers about the demise of Anthony Brown statewide and the shellacking they took locally and many may be lining up for 2018.)
Honestly, I don’t know what part I played (if any) in recent successes, but one thing I do know is that I’m glad campaign season is over. Frankly, the last 2 or 3 weeks was a definite grind writing about the political because I was bored with it. When you figure I started covering this election in earnest about the middle of last year (arguably earlier since David Craig was in the running unofficially since 2011) it’s no surprise that I needed something different to write on.
There are some areas I’m thinking may be included here more, though. Thanks to the exposure of doing American Certified for a few months, I have more interest in the nuts and bolts niche of manufacturing, which is a worthy subject to explore. I’ve also had more of an interest in energy issues recently, in part because the two go hand-in-hand to a great extent.
Yet there’s one thing which has carried me through and that’s the support of my readers. I suppose I would be writing something even if I had five readers a week, but getting the occasional accolades and “attaboys” about pieces I write doesn’t get old. I’m still humbled by the recognition. When I see the Paypal notice about a hit to my tip jar or get the payment from an advertiser (or, as has happened before, a check from a supporter of the site) I’m still proud to have made that impact with someone. Look at it this way – my advertisers were 3-1 in their races.
I suppose if I have remaining goals for this site, they would be to maximize the readership which can be attained from a part-time blogger (who also has writing clients and works outside the home) and make it even more of a profitable enterprise. I’m hoping those political advertisers who helped me during campaign season transition into non-political ones who keep this thing going for the 3 1/2 years we’re not doing the heavy vote gathering.
In less than a month I’ll be starting my 10th year of doing this site, which is longer than many of those who I link to. Maybe I wasn’t in at the ground floor, but I wasn’t too far from the foundation.
Most blogs don’t make it to 400 posts, let alone 4,000. But as long as I enjoy doing it and am able to do so – I just renewed my server for another year – I hope you keep looking in this space for readable and thoughtful political content.
I’m back in the swing of news, and this gem from DaTechGuy hit home because it’s so, so predictable. The stories he cites are the ones which can be used to prop up Barack Obama’s approval numbers or distract from what’s really going on – in the grand scheme of things, is the NFL scandal really that important or newsworthy? It’s pretty sad when actions on the field take a distant back seat to actions which happened months ago far off the gridiron.
But how long have we known the mainstream media is in the tank for liberals? I mean, Dan Bongino’s supporters have stated chapter and verse that at least one major newspaper in his district ignores him, and it plays right into the outsider image Dan is trying to cultivate in this election. Chances are that same paper will endorse opponent John Delaney, as most local newspapers tend to endorse incumbents over challengers unless the incumbent is a Republican and even less likely when the Republican is a TEA Party adherent.
I’ve seen this over and over again over the last twenty to thirty years I’ve studied the media. And notice how that cadre of news dinosaurs tut-tuts at any challenger to its dominance, whether it was conservative talk radio a generation ago or the rise of the internet media in the opening years of this century? I may not have the circulation of a Baltimore Sun or even a Salisbury Daily Times, but the potential is always there for something I say to be cast before a huge state, national, or even global audience. Their lack of a monopoly on news is what frightens the other side.
So it’s quite predictable that their coverage dictates what is considered news to the masses, but at the same time people aren’t being informed as well about important issues of the day. In my youth I would read the local paper cover-to-cover, and it would be maybe 32 pages – a 12-page section of national and state news with the last 2 pages being editorial content, a 16-page second section with local news, 4 pages or so of sports, a few pages of classified ads, and the comics, and a 4-page “Peach Section” with the features, a smidgen of entertainment news, and the TV listings. It seems now the lines between all of this have been blurred, with entertainment and sports news hitting the front pages and editorials being placed willy-nilly as part of the news.
In short, the avalanche and overload of information we’re fed on a 24/7/365 basis may be allowing the most important stuff to slip by unnoticed, and that’s a shame.
No, I’m not talking about a political figure today. Instead, I received an e-mail from the American Wind Energy Association telling me about the state of the wind industry and how its costs are falling rapidly. (This blog post at Into the Wind, the AWEA blog site, has the same information.)
If you look at points 1 through 4, they make varying amounts of sense. With the maturation of the market, it’s no stretch to assume that costs would go down just as they would for any technology. Personally, though, I disagree with the premise that additional carbon emissions are necessarily bad, particularly when the idea is to blame them for climate change. Nearly two decades of steady temperatures combined with the increasing emissions seem to me a fairly good testament that increasing emissions aren’t the problem.
It’s point number 5 that’s the payoff for me, because I knew it would be coming sooner or later.
5. Policy support is still essential for the U.S. to keep scaling up renewable energy
The Lazard study also highlights the need for clear, long-term policy support for renewable energy. While projects located at some of the best wind resources in the country are now cost-competitive, it notes that this is still not the case in most regions. The most recent expiration of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) resulted in a 92% drop in new wind projects from 2012 to 2013.
The PTC helps correct for flaws in our electricity market design that do not value wind’s benefits for protecting the environment and consumers. Wind energy creates billions of dollars in economic value by drastically reducing pollution that harms public health and the environment, but wind energy does not get paid for that even though consumers bear many of those costs.
Wind energy also protects consumers from price increases for fuel, but that is not accounted for in the highly regulated electricity market because other energy sources get to pass their fuel price increases directly on to consumers who have little choice in the matter.
Policies like the PTC correct for those market failures to reach a more efficient market outcome. The PTC has expired, however, for any project not started by the end of last year. An extension is now urgent to avoid shutting down the U.S. manufacturing base, and to ensure that more wind farms are built so that more consumers can benefit from these record low prices.
Yet what if the lack of subsidy isn’t a market failure as they describe? In the original blog post there’s a graphic which shows that every time the tax subsidy is cut, the amount of wind capacity installed plummets. Between that subsidy and the various renewable portfolio standards enacted by many states (including Maryland) it seems to me they artificially prop up the wind energy market, which can’t stand on its own otherwise. This approach is the same argument which posits a carbon tax is necessary because fossil fuel users aren’t paying for the supposed destruction of the environment and public health they create, but discounts the increased standard of living brought on by the usage of reliable sources of electricity to, among other things, improve public health.
Another thing worth pointing out about these studies and reports is that they look strictly at land-based wind turbines. While they are falling in price, researchers around the world are finding that residents nearby are complaining about a litany of health issues derived from the constant noise. Naturally, naysayers would contend that other methods of power generation, such as fracking, also have ill effects but these are anecdotal as well.
So while offshore wind would seem to be a solution, the cost is far more prohibitive. Maryland’s 2013 offshore wind bill, for example, subsidizes the effort through both an increase in the required renewable energy portfolio and $1.7 billion in direct subsidy over 20 years, parceled out as an $18 annual surcharge to residential consumers and a 1.5% hike for businesses. (A business paying $1,000 a month, such as a restaurant, would have to add $180 a year.) Naturally this doesn’t take into account the penchant for our General Assembly, once a new tax or surcharge is enacted, to declare it’s not enough and raise the tariff accordingly. I give it no more than 5 years before someone demands to raise the fee to $30 or $40 annually and hike commercial users up to a 2% or 3% a month surcharge just to keep the business in Maryland’s waters.
It would seem that wind power is a logical way to create electricity in certain locations and situations, but for general use it has the drawback of not being as strictly reliable as fossil fuels are. The fact that we have to create a renewable energy portfolio tells me that the market has otherwise spoken.
We really haven’t heard about this as an issue for the 2014 election, but I would presume the Brown administration would continue on this path as they promise to:
Expand our renewable mix with investments in (read: subsidies for) Maryland-based solar and wind, which can both create new jobs and reduce air pollution that affects the health of everyday Marylanders.
It would be my hope that Larry Hogan would revisit this effort, backing legislation to eliminate this expensive renewable energy portfolio and repealing the prospect of higher electricity rates come 2017 – at the very least, recast this scheme as an opt-in program just like consumer choice has already created with companies like Ethical Electric, which I wrote about last year. Let the market decide how much it wants to support the renewable energy boondoggle, and how many of us simply crave the reliability of knowing that when we flip the switch, the light will turn on.