We could fill up this space every day with new items about the latest environmental idiocy or green energy madness. I keep meaning to comment on a couple of the more notable ones, and highlight some good recent analysis on the issue from my pal Ben Zycher, but the greenfail news stacks up so fast in my in-box that I can’t keep up.
But here’s a few recent stories of note. First, out of California—good news! Fewer solar projects in California will fail in the future! This is chiefly because the state is simply mandating that utilities buy their power, no matter what it costs. Pretty easy for your business model to work when you have tax credits and the government mandating that people buy your product. Where can I sign up for this deal? (Oh yeah, the White House. I forgot.) Try this headline out as a thought experiment: “Fewer Oil Wells Will Lose Money.” Doesn’t seem too likely, does it?
Amyris had generated excitement in recent months when it announced would produce 40 to 50 million liters of farnesene in 2012, and build two plants with a total capacity of 150 million liters. . .
But now Amyris has given up on its 40 to 50 million liter prediction, and indefinitely delayed construction on the larger of the two plants it had planned. Large scale biofuels production awaits construction of facilities by the joint venture companies. That construction seems unlikely to happen in the near term in light of the difficulties Amyris is having in achieving its announced goals this year. The promise of large scale biofuels is still some time off.
Meanwhile, on the wind front, there is furious lobbying going on in Washington right now to renew wind power subsidies. Meanwhile, just reported in England, the largest 15 landowners in the UK will collect £850 million in subsidies (well over $1.3 billion) this year for hosting windmills on their property—costs that will be added to ratepayers’ bills. Total subsidies to 2030 might be as high as £130 billion—a nice wealth transfer from middle class Britons to rich landowners. Meanwhile, even as Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, an aspiring candidate for president in 2016 apparently, is barreling ahead on offshore wind—the most expensive kind of windpower—a new report suggests that many offshore windmills will be blown over in a hurricane:
Stephen Rose and colleagues from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, modelled the risk hurricanes might pose to turbines at four proposed wind farm sites. They found that nearly half of the planned turbines are likely to be destroyed over the 20-year life of the farms. Turbines shut down in high winds, but hurricane-force winds can topple them.
By the way, note the 20-year projected lifespan of winds farms. No wonder wind turns out to be more expensive, even though wind is “free.” Conventional power plants can last decades.
Back on the crony energy/Solyndra front (you do remember Solyndra, don’t you?), as the time Solyndra went upside down the defenders of green energy downplayed it by saying it was just one loan out of $35 billion, and investments sometimes go bad, right? What’s the big deal. The Obama Administration has now released a dry report saying that total taxpayer losses from bad loans in the program may reach $2.7 billion, which starts to look like real money, even if the figure is a low-ball estimate, which is likely is. The Wall Street Journal comments on the issue today.
Now, if you really want to get a fuller grasp of the whole “renewable” energy scene, you should get your hands on Ben Zycher’s new short study of the issue, Renewable Electricity Generation: Economic Analysis and Outlook, just out from my peeps down the hall. It is easily digestible at just 60 pages. The takeaway: renewable energy “can be summarized as high costs combined with low reliability.” There’s lots of fancy charts and graphs, but that sums it up pretty well.