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Guest Column

December 8, 2012

The reality of renewable energy sources

Half the households in the USA, a total of 52 million, are heated with gas. Pipeline networks like the proposed Constitution deliver cheap, plentiful, and clean(er) gas to cities transitioning from heating oil. Over the last four years, coal-fired electric generation has fallen by one-third, from 48 to 32 percent, for the same reasons. These trends are resulting in the lowest CO2 emissions in 20 years.

All this in a free market. No cap-and-trade; no crony capitalism. So why are the uber-greenies fighting gas down to the last molecule?

It’s simple when you follow the money. Gas trumps renewables for the foreseeable future. Gas is an efficient, scaleable, flexible energy product selling at a bargain price. Renewables aren’t. Without huge taxpayer subsidies, renewables will be gone with the wind.

The Department of Energy reports that the federal government doled out $37.16 billion in energy subsidies in 2010. These include ear-marked tax breaks, direct loans, loan guarantees, R&D, home heating assistance, special consumer programs, and on and on and on. Of the $37 billion in federal handouts, oil and gas combined got about $3 billion. Nuclear and coal also fed at the public trough, but the bulk of the subsidies went to renewables.

Does the country get its bang for the taxpayer buck?

The Institute for Energy Research used Department of Energy data to determine the subsidy paid per megawatt of electricity. Oil, gas, and coal clocked in at 64 cents per megawatt; hydropower at 84 cents; nuclear at $3.14. Wind blew in at $56.29 per megawatt and solar topped off at a sky high $775.64. For every tax dollar spent supporting an oil or gas or coal company to produce a given amount of electricity, a wind company got $88 and solar (Solyndra, anyone?) got $1,212 for the same output.

Are renewables worth it?

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