By Rich Kozlovich
Wind Power: Questionable Benefits, Concealed Impacts
By Paul Driessen
America is running out of natural gas. Prices will soar, making imported liquefied natural gas (LNG) and T Boone Pickens’ wind farm plan practical, affordable and inevitable. That was then.
Barely two years later, America (and the world) are tapping vast, previously undreamed-of energy riches – as drillers discover how to produce gas from shale, coal and tight sandstone formations, at reasonable cost. They do it by pumping a water, sand and proprietary chemical mixture into rocks under very high pressure, fracturing or “fracking” the formations, and keeping the cracks open, to yield trapped methane.
Within a year, US recoverable shale gas reserves alone rose from 340 trillion cubic feet to 823 trillion cubic feet, the Energy Department estimates. That’s 36 years’ worth, based on what the USA currently consumes from all gas sources, or the equivalent of 74 years’ of current annual US oil production. The reserves span the continent, from Barnett shale in Texas to Marcellus shale in Eastern and Mid-Atlantic states – to large deposits in western Canada, Colorado, North Dakota, Montana and other states (and around the world)……What to do? Environmentalists voiced alarm. HBO aired “Gasland,” a slick propaganda film about alleged impacts of fracking on groundwater. Its claims have been roundly debunked (for instance, methane igniting at a water faucet came from a gas deposit encountered by the homeowner’s water well – not from a fracking operation). A politically motivated Oscar was predicted, but didn’t happen.………But if a life-cycle study is warranted for hydraulic fracturing, because drilling might pass through subsurface formations containing fresh water, similar studies are certainly called for elsewhere: wind turbine manufacturing, installation and operation, for instance.
Turbines require enormous quantities of concrete, steel, copper, fiberglass and rare earth minerals – all of which involve substantial resource extraction, refining, smelting, manufacturing and shipping. Land and habitat impacts, rock removal and pulverizing, solid waste disposal, burning fossil fuels, air and water pollution, and carbon dioxide emissions occur on large scales during every step of the process...........
The false promise of green jobs
………Investment in alternative energy technologies such as solar and wind is no longer peddled on environmental grounds. Instead we are being told of the purported economic payoffs, above all the promise of so-called "green jobs". Unfortunately, that does not measure up to economic reality……
Gulen concluded job creation "cannot be defended as another benefit" of well-meaning green policies. In fact, the number of jobs these policies create is likely to be offset - or worse - by the number of jobs they destroy………..More disturbing is Gulen's finding that some claims of job creation have rested on assumptions of green energy production that go far beyond reputable estimates. Of course, if you assume vast swaths of the countryside will be covered in wind turbines and solar panels you will inevitably predict that a large number of construction jobs will be required…………Yet many studies used by advocates of green jobs have not addressed these costs at all, overlooking both the cost of investment and the price hikes to be faced by end users.
The companies calling for political intervention to create green jobs tend to be those that stand to gain from subsidies and tariffs. But, because these policies increase the cost of fuel and electricity, they imply layoffs elsewhere, across many different economic sectors……..In addition to job creation, some researchers have blithely claimed all sorts of other economic benefits will accrue from investment in alternative energy, including increased productivity, higher disposable incomes and lower operating costs for businesses. Here, too, Gulen concludes the assertions are "not backed up by any evidence and are inconsistent with the realities of green technologies and energy markets".
The fundamental problem is that green-energy technologies are still very inefficient and expensive compared with fossil fuels. Deploying less efficient, more expensive alternative energy sources will hurt businesses and consumers, not help them.