The old folk tale says if you place a frog in hot water it will jump out of the pan, but if you place it in cold water and slowly bring up the heat, the frog will just sit there and cook to death. Actually, it’s not true about the frog, but it does seems true for us humans.
As example, simply look to the push to use industrial wind turbines to help meet alternative and renewable energy goals. Not to pick on West Virginia, but I live here and can see the patchwork quilt that will blanket the Alleghenies beginning to form. Take a look –
Back on On June 17, 2009, Governor Joe Manchin signed WV House Bill 103
Here’s an excerpt from the bill:
(a) General rule. — Each electric utility doing business in this state shall be required to meet the alternative and renewable energy portfolio standards set forth in this section. In order to meet these standards, an electric utility each year shall own an amount of credits equal to a certain percentage of electricity, as set forth in subsections (c) and (d) of this section, sold by the electric utility in the preceding year to retail customers in West Virginia.
(b) Counting of credits towards compliance. — For the purpose of determining an electric utility’s compliance with the alternative and renewable energy portfolio standards set forth in subsections (c) and (d) of this section, each credit shall equal one megawatt hour of electricity sold by an electric utility in the preceding year to retail customers in West Virginia. Furthermore, a credit may not be used more than once to meet the requirements of this section. No more than ten percent of the credits used each year to meet the compliance requirements of this section may be credits acquired from the generation or purchase of electricity generated from natural gas.
(c) Twenty-five percent by 2025. — On and after January 1, 2025, an electric utility shall each year own credits in an amount equal to at least twenty-five percent of the electric energy sold by the electric utility to retail customers in this state in the preceding calendar year.
(d) Interim portfolio standards. —
(1) For the period beginning January 1, 2015, and ending December 31, 2019, an electric utility shall each year own credits in an amount equal to at least ten percent of the electric energy sold by the electric utility to retail customers in this state in the preceding calendar year; and
(2) For the period beginning January 1, 2020, and ending December 31, 2024, an electric utility shall each year own credits in an amount equal to at least fifteen percent of the electric energy sold by the electric utility to retail customers in this state in the preceding calendar year.
On the surface this seems an admirable thing to do. Bring down the level of emissions that results from burning fossil fuels by using the sun and the wind. West Virginia, thankfully, still sees the value in coal and natural gas as part of the energy portfolio and seems willing to support improved methods of utilizing these abundant and necessary resources.
Of course, the Obama Administration, in spite of promises to Governor Manchin when campaigning, is attacking on all fronts. Unfortunately, West Virginia is not held in high esteem like, perhaps, Pakistan, where Secretary Clinton urged the country to develop its coal resources “to exploit your coal as opposed to being dependent upon imported energy is a choice for you to make, but it is certainly a choice that your neighbors have made. And that’s something that should attract foreign investment and should attract capital investment within your own country. And we don’t know how we’re going to proceed on the climate change issue. We’re working hard to come to some framework before Copenhagen, but coal will be, for the foreseeable future, part of the energy mix. And if you have these kinds of reserves, you should see the best and cleanest technology for their extraction and their use going forward.” Interesting how we continue to encourage those outside of our country and discourage those within.
Anyway, back to WV House Bill 103. Typical of most legislation, state legislators pick goal values out of the federal sky, apply incentives to encourage participants to meet them, delegate authority to enforce the credit shell game that attempts to regulate producers, pat themselves on the back and pretty much forget about the chaos that will ensue. Unfortunately, in the methods utilized to structure these programs there is far more use of politics than science. A scientist normally works to a rounded decimal where politicians speak in terms of tens, fifteens and twenties. e.g. 10% by 2015. A scientifically based number would more likely be 8.7% or 11.5% by 2015.
But more to the point, this political acceptance of anything that sounds good is what has made industrial wind energy is the poster child for wishful thinking over reality. The emperor’s clothes of environmental politics, you might say. The ultimate David Copperfield stage show of flashing lights masking the illusion. But I’m drifting off the topic.
By 2015 it’s fair to say a number of the legislators passing House Bill 103 will be retired or staring retirement in the face. Governor Manchin will be in the middle of his first term as Senator. By 2020, I wouldn’t be surprised to find only a few of the folks who voted for this legislation remaining in their seats. By 2025, only the youngest of the current gang will be able to judge the success of their efforts from their seat of elder wisdom in Charleston by measuring the size of the subsidies sent home by the Senior Senator from West Virginia, Joe Manchin.
So, before too much time passes, ask your legislator these questions:
1 – “Which agency have you assigned responsibility to balance the mix between alternative:
(A) Advanced coal technology;
(B) Coal bed methane;
(C) Natural gas;
(D) Fuel produced by a coal gasification or liquefaction facility;
(E) Synthetic gas;
(F) Integrated gasification combined cycle technologies;
(G) Waste coal;
(H) Tire-derived fuel;
(I) Pumped storage hydroelectric projects;
(J) Recycled energy, which means useful thermal, mechanical or electrical energy produced from:(i) Exhaust heat from any commercial or industrial process; (ii) waste gas, waste fuel or other forms of energy that would otherwise be flared, incinerated, disposed of or vented; and (iii) electricity or equivalent mechanical energy extracted from a pressure drop in any gas, excluding any pressure drop to a condenser that subsequently vents the resulting heat; and
(K) Any other resource, method, project or technology certified as an alternative energy resource by the Public Service Commission.
… and renewable:
(A) Solar photovoltaic or other solar electric energy;
(B) Solar thermal energy;
(C) Wind power;
(D) Run of river hydropower;
(E) Geothermal energy, which means a technology by which electricity is produced by extracting hot water or steam from geothermal reserves in the earth’s crust to power steam turbines that drive generators to produce electricity;
(F) Biomass energy, which means a technology by which electricity is produced from a nonhazardous organic material that is available on a renewable or recurring basis, including pulp mill sludge;
(G) Biologically derived fuel including methane gas, ethanol not produced from corn, or biodiesel fuel;
(H) Fuel cell technology, which means any electrochemical device that converts chemical energy in a hydrogen-rich fuel directly into electricity, heat and water without combustion; and
(I) Any other resource, method, project or technology certified by the commission as a renewable energy resource.
2 – Is this same agency responsible to determine the maximum number of wind turbines to be permitted in the state of WV, (including additional transmission lines and peripherals)?
3 – “Plus or minus 10, what is the maximum number of industrial wind turbines to be permitted in West Virginia before land and air saturation is achieved? Don’t know? – how about plus or minus 20? 30? 50? 100? 500? OK … 1,000! 5,000? Just pick a number, please!”
4 – “How many acres, square or linear miles will the quantity of wind turbines you are authorizing, consume?”
5 – “What will finally trigger the responsible agency that saturation is reached and one more turbine will be the proverbial straw?
I’m going to write State Representatives, perhaps you can do the same.
By the way … if they don’t have the answers, chances are you’re already in hot water!