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A Series of Letters

April 9th, 2013 by Michael Miller

In The Style of the Great Fanny Burney (13 June 1752 – 6 January 1840)!

March 28, 2013

James H. Bodurtha’s March 22 letter “Oil sheiks must celebrate our offshore wind fixation” should have been titled “Oil CEOs tickled by offshore wind delays.”

Offshore wind is being embraced around the globe as a viable renewable energy source. Dong Energy in Denmark recently announced plans for an 8-megawatt offshore turbine to help drive down costs per megawatt. Europe installed 369 turbines in 2012.

This is a growing and innovative industry, and Massachusetts has an opportunity to be the first state in the nation to host an offshore wind farm. And in terms of our tax dollars at work, it’s important to remember the government handouts given to the fossil fuel industry. Traditional fossil fuels receive over $70 billion in subsidies, compared with $12.2 billion for renewables. The nuclear industry has received billions of dollars of loan guarantees. The Union of Concerned Scientists issued a report in 2009 saying that this could result in the American taxpayers being on the hook for $360 billion to $1.6 trillion.

We need to change the way we produce and consume energy in our country. I will be proud the day Cape Wind’s turbines start spinning.

Sarah Cote

Forestdale

March 28, 2013

The media have been awash with news of Cape Wind’s manufacturing and financing plans.

Jim Gordon, Cape Wind’s president, seems to have missed the message behind the Buy American movement, which is dedicated to restoring and maintaining the long-term economic prosperity of our country by promoting and facilitating the practice of buying American.

Cape Wind is sending manufacturing jobs overseas, while, at the same time, it is seeking a loan guarantee from the federal government — a loan guarantee that would be backed by hard-earned American taxpayer dollars.

The turbines will not be built by General Electric, but by Siemens, a German company. Moreover, the steel foundations that were supposed to be built in Massachusetts are now going to a European manufacturer. Apparently, Cape Wind expects Americans to subsidize overseas jobs, in spite of the fact that we are dealing with one fiscal crisis after another.

As if this isn’t enough, Cape Wind has now announced that it is seeking financing through the Bank of Tokyo.

Renewable energy projects are hailed as good for America. Not this one!

Richard F. Mullin

South Dennis

March 28, 2013

I would like to weigh in on the controversial Cape Wind project and remind my fellow Massachusetts residents that we need to consider the “economics” of the project. The issue of “our money” has been swept under the rug.

  • Jim Gordon, the Beacon Hill multimillionaire “promoter” of Cape Wind, promised us that “free wind” would lower our utility bills. Now he tells us it will increase our electric bills.
  • Mr. Gordon said wind energy would be economical in the future, especially given that natural gas prices would skyrocket. But natural gas prices are “depressed,” and experts are telling us “clean natural gas” is the fuel of the future.
  • In the recent Cape Wind/Mass Tank dispute, Cape Wind now wants the Department of Energy to use our federal tax dollars to “guarantee” billions of dollars of debt so Cape Wind can send our Massachusetts jobs to Germany.

Let me get this one straight. We are supposed to be excited about Cape Wind because it will raise our tax bills, raise our electric bills and send our jobs to Germany? I thought we’re supposed to use “our” tax dollars to invest in America and create American jobs.

Ted Palashis

West Hyannisport

March 28, 2013

James Bodurtha sounds off on Cape Wind in his March 22 letter. Here are a few facts to clear things up.

  • Fracking for oil and gas is not environmentally safe.
  • Gasification of coal is years away and may never be cost-effective.
  • The government is not guaranteeing all of Cape Wind’s loans. A loan from the Department of Energy would be about $300 million. A nuclear plant in Georgia is applying for $8 billion from the same program. We can’t agree on a place to dispose of high-level nuclear waste.
  • The contracts with NStar and National Grid are already done, so the federal loan has no effect on those agreements.
  • Over Cape Wind’s 20-year life, ratepayers will save $4 billion due to the price-suppression effect, because Cape Wind has no fuel cost and can bid zero in the spot market.
  • Cape Wind is rated at 468 megawatts, and 15.3 jobs will be created per megawatt. That works out to 7,500 jobs for this project.
  • Oil companies are given $4 billion per year in taxpayer subsidies. The top five oil companies made a profit last quarter of $145 billion.

I look forward to the many economic and environmental benefits of Cape Wind.

Carl K. Borchert

Nantucket

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Um, No? I Could Use A Haircut, though…

April 4th, 2013 by Michael Miller

Wind-Power Subsidies? No Thanks. I’m in the green-energy business. If Washington sent a little less ‘green’ our way, it would be good for the industry.
By PATRICK JENEVEIN

Posted with permission from the Wall Street Journal

The sequester has led to dire warnings from many camps, including advocates of clean energy, who argue that Washington’s modest cuts could derail America’s green future. But from my vantage as a CEO in the wind-power business, the sequester offers Washington a rare opportunity to roll back misguided subsidies and maybe help reverse wind power’s stalling momentum.

Since 2009, as part of the president’s stimulus, wind-farm developers have been able to get a federal cash grant or tax credit covering up to 30% of their capital investment in a new project. This is especially attractive compared with another tax credit that rewards wind farms based on how much power they actually produce. Through May 2012, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Washington spent some $8.4 billion on these cash grants.

But under the sequester, Uncle Sam is cutting the cash-grant program by 8.7% between March 1 and Sept. 30. Advocates of clean energy should welcome this haircut and urge for even more fundamental policy change.

Government subsidies to new wind farms have only made the industry less focused on reducing costs. In turn, the industry produces a product that isn’t as efficient or cheap as it might be if we focused less on working the political system and more on research and development. After the 2009 subsidy became available, wind farms were increasingly built in less-windy locations, according to the Department of Energy’s “2011 Wind Technologies Market Report.” The average wind-power project built in 2011 was located in an area with wind conditions 16% worse than those of the average project in 1998-99.

The Department of Energy admits that this trend is due at least in part to the 2009 federal subsidy: Because the grants that companies receive aren’t based on how much power they produce, “it is possible that developers have seized this limited opportunity to build out the less-energetic sites.” Meanwhile, wind-power prices have increased to an average $54 per megawatt-hour, compared with $37 in 2005.

If our communities can’t reasonably afford to purchase and rely on the wind power we sell, it is difficult to make the moral case for our businesses, let alone an economic one. Yet as long as these subsidies and tax credits exist, clean-energy executives will likely spend most of their time pursuing advanced legal and accounting methods rather than investing in studies, innovation, new transmission technology and turbine development.

A quick glance at the American Wind Energy Association’s website illustrates this. In July, the association is planning a Capitol Hill event aimed at “educating legislators” on the importance of industry tax credits. Never mind improving the underlying fundamentals of the wind business.

My own company began by delivering clean energy (in the form of natural gas) to rural China, where families still used animal dung for cooking fuel. We entered the wind business in the late 1990s, when a wind-turbine company asked us to provide electricity from its site when the wind wasn’t blowing. Years later, we oversaw a similar project but in reverse: In 2008, without a government subsidy, we built a wind farm in Lubbock, Texas, to supplement at lower costs the delivery of electricity to a cottonseed-oil company.

Such projects are likely the industry’s future. Wind energy will make marginal—not revolutionary—contributions. The industry’s success in Texas (where my company is based, and which is the nation’s largest and cheapest producer of wind power) suggests that wind farms do make sense in relatively windy areas where electricity shortages occur.

But policy matters. California, which isn’t located in the “wind belt,” is America’s second-largest wind-energy producer but also its costliest. The state’s high costs are partly due to “aggressive renewable energy policies . . . that give developers a strong negotiating position,” according to the Department of Energy report.

The wind industry has largely been out-competed by natural gas, which has proved to be a clean, reliable and cheap power source for the future without subsidies or even venture-capital funding. As such, my company isn’t planning any new investments in the wind business, even though we would love to still be worth the $2 billion we were several years ago.

Of course, we could yet be proven wrong by technological innovation. Without subsidies, the wind industry would be forced to take a hard fresh look at its product. Fewer wind farms would be built, eliminating the market-distorting glut. And if there is truly a need for wind energy, entrepreneurs who improve the business’s fundamentals will find a way to compete.

Mr. Jenevein is CEO of the Dallas-based Tang Energy Group.

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“Fiscal Responsibility.” Don’t Forget Social Responsibility!

April 1st, 2013 by Michael Miller

Posted with permission from the Cape Cod Times

Anti-turbine advocate challenges veteran Dennis selectmen

By CHRISTINE LEGERE
clegere@capecodonline.com
March 29, 2013 – 2:00 AM

DENNIS — The battle over a shellfish hatchery’s plan for a wind turbine on beachfront property has prompted one project opponent to make his first foray into local politics.

Richard Watts, vice president of the anti-turbine group called Save Our Beaches, will run against veteran Selectmen Paul McCormick and Sheryl McMahon in the May 14 town election, because, he said, it’s time for some “fiscal responsibility.”

Watts, a retired businessman who has lived in Dennis for 32 years, criticized the selectmen for joining Aquaculture Research Corp.’s ultimately successful lawsuit against a regional historic commission that had prohibited the turbine’s construction.

“The ARC case is indicative of poor use of public funds,” Watts said.

McCormick, who has been a selectman since 2001 and is current board chairman, said the wind turbine court case cost the town a little more than $30,000.

The selectmen participated in the suit, McCormick said, to support the Dennis Historical Commission, which had deemed the turbine appropriate for the proposed location.

The selectmen were demonstrating support for the continued vitality of the shellfish hatchery.

“It’s a very unusual business and supplies seed from almost Deer Island to Block Island,” McCormick said.

Watts said the court case expenditure isn’t the only concern he has. He noted the financial implications of some proposed town hall renovations, as well as a ballot question to staff an ambulance on the north side of town through a $356,376 tax increase.

Watts said he believed the ambulance proposal could lead to additional future costs.

McMahon, a selectman since 2004, defended her board’s financial decisions, saying the panel “has done a phenomenal job, considering the financial times.”

McMahon called Watts “basically a one-issue candidate.”

The three will have the opportunity to face off at a candidates night planned for April 24.

Other than the three-way race for the two selectmen’s seats, the only contest on the spring ballot is a six-way race for three constable terms.

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