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  • Electricity and Ethics and Europe

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on December 29th, 2015 (All posts by )

    When I was a young auditor I was on an airplane heading out to a utility client in Iowa. I sat next to a woman and her grade school aged child. I was making small talk with them and the kid asked me what I did. I said I worked with the electric utility. And he said

    Are you the guy who comes over and turns off the power?

    The child’s mom was embarrassed and the conversation was muted after that but I never forgot that exchange – the reality that, for the poor, electricity was a bill that had to be paid, and frequently it came ahead of other key necessities which then was brutally enforced by pulling the plug. Electricity is a big bill for the poor.

    This discussion is completely relevant to what is occurring in Europe today, as these countries move to wind and solar renewable energy instead of economically efficient coal, natural gas and nuclear power. This great article from Forbes summarizes the current debacle:

    To illustrate, Denmark and Germany are the proud wind capitals of Europe, but they also have the highest home electricity prices on Earth, 42 and 40 cents per kWh, respectively, against just 12.5 cents in the U.S…. Undeniably non-sensically, Germany has been paying over $26 billion per year for electricity that has a wholesale market value of just $5 billion

    This sort of mass economic distortion (possibly suicide) has a real, human toll:

    higher cost electricity (and energy) is horrible for our health. That’s because, since electricity is so indispensable, meaning that it “cannot not be used,” higher cost power drastically erodes our disposable income, which is the very basis of our health – while also disproportionately hurting the poor most. As a percentage of income, poor families pay 5-9 times more for electricity than rich families do. Predictably silently, higher cost electricity in Europe is killing tens of thousands of people a year, ”Excess Winter Deaths,” where older residents on fixed budgets in particular are forced to turn their heat down to avoid overly expensive utility bills. For example, there were 44,000 Excess Winter Deaths in England and Wales in 2014-2015

    It is amazing that while Europe is able to penalize the poor and elderly on fixed income in the name of clean energy, their same economic champions, the car companies, ran elaborate schemes to defeat emissions limits on diesel cars in a massive scandal that we’ve all heard about. The cost of remediation and penalties will be in the billions.

    Finally, in perhaps the bitterest pill, moving to expensive and unreliable energy sources means that the reliable blood-money energy available from Putin and Russia becomes even more important to maintaining their grid. While Western Europe has been making a (relatively feeble) effort to punish Putin for his atrocities in the skies and in Ukraine, they ignore the obvious morality issues linked to filling his coffers so that he can buy weapons and pay his soldiers that are used for repression and dictatorship in the east. It is amazing that there will be sit-ins for climate change and animal rights but the rights of Ukrainians and fellow European citizens apparently count for nothing if it enables their energy fantasies to be supported.

    The Europeans are breathtaking in their ability to unilaterally punish the poor and the elderly and increase their payments to Putin while cheating on emissions testing and pursuing their odd goals of “clean” power. These issues apparently do not keep them up at night despite their real-world effects.

    Cross posted at LITGM

     

    51 Responses to “Electricity and Ethics and Europe”

    1. Jonathan Says:

      It is amazing that there will be sit-ins for climate change and animal rights but the rights of Ukrainians and fellow European citizens apparently count for nothing if it enables their energy fantasies to be supported.

      They don’t want Vladimir to cut off their heat.

    2. pst314 Says:

      “they ignore the obvious morality issues linked to filling his coffers”

      As they did when they made sold arms to Saddam, or made secret deals to bypass the embargo.

    3. Subotai Bahadur Says:

      “Forget it Jake, it’s the EU.”

    4. Mike K Says:

      The duplicity of Europeans is difficult to estimate without remembering their history.

      There are Germans and English who remember a world of reality but they are not the elites.

      We are moving toward such a world where elites who have no idea how real people live rule.

      With their massive, and early, accumulated wealth, the tech oligarchs will dominate us long after the inheritors have financed the last art museum or endowed the newest hospital. Two decades from now, many tech oligarchs will still be young enough to be counting their billions and thinking up new ways to ‘disrupt’ our lives – for our own good, of course.

      This tech elite differs from the founding generation of Silicon Valley. The early leaders – Bob Packard, Bob Noyce, Andrew Grove, Jerry Sanders – tended to be centrist and pragmatic. After all, the early Valley was heavily subsidised by the military and NASA, and produced industrial products that faced enormous competition. They also managed vast organisations with large numbers of ordinary employees. Like other industrialists, they were concerned with low-cost power and water, reasonable labour regulation and the health of the overall manufacturing economy.

      This changed when a combination of keen Asian competition and Californian regulation gradually shifted the chip and computer manufacturers out of Silicon Valley, which has lost roughly 80,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000. The new Valley is predominately post-industrial. For example, only 30 of about 16,000 production workers for the iPod are based in the US.

      As Silicon Valley became software valley, tech firms no longer needed large numbers of semi-skilled workers and the network of small subcontractors to keep the industrial machine going. Those services, if needed, could be performed in India, China, Utah, Texas or North Carolina. ‘The job creation has changed’, notes long-time San Jose economic development official Leslie Parks. ‘We used to be the whole food chain and create all sorts of middle-class jobs. Now, increasingly, we don’t design the future – we just think about it. That makes some people rich, but not many.’

      The reaction, somewhat like the Trump reaction here, is coming. It will not be pretty.

    5. Robert Schwartz Says:

      Willis Eschenbach is one of my favorite writers at “Watts Up With That” which bills itself as “the world’s most viewed site on global warming and climate change”. If you are at all skeptical about global warming, you should read it regularly so that you can understand why the proper attitude towards claims of CAGW (Catastrophic Anthropomorphic Global Warming) is skepticism bordering on disbelief. Lots of the commentary is provided by or linked to real scientists, such as Roy Spencer and Judith Curry.

      A few moths ago Willis analyzed the relationship between the retail price of electricity and national amounts of “renewable” generating capacity.

      Obama May Finally Succeed! by Willis Eschenbach on August 3, 2015

      His chart shows that the retail price of electricity should be expected to increase by 0.0002 U.S.$ for each additional KW of installed renewable generating capacity. R^2 = 0.84, p-value = 1.5E-8.

      He says: “That is a most interesting result. Per capita installed renewable capacity by itself explains 84% of the variation in electricity costs. …

      Today, President Obama said that he wanted 28% of America’s electricity to come from renewable energy by 2030. …

      Currently, we get about 4% of our electricity from wind and solar. He wants to jack it to 28%, meaning we need seven times the installed capacity. … this means that the average price of electricity in the US will perforce go up to no less than 43 cents per kilowatt-hour. …

      Since the current average US price of electricity is about 12 cents per kilowatt-hour … that means the true price of electricity is likely to almost quadruple in the next 15 years.”

    6. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      One of these days we’re going to crack the nut of fusion. That will change everything. Really, that will be tectonic in its effects.

    7. TMLutas Says:

      The US military is acting like fusion is going to be a reality in the medium term. They’re changing their weapons purchasing plans in ways that make no sense unless we have cheap, small plant fusion. Rail guns and lasers are the future and that is going to reduce shot cost and up lethality by a lot.

    8. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      The Gerald R Ford class carrier was designed to produce a lot more electrical power than previous generation carriers. They’ve eliminated the steam catapult and replaced it with EMALS, essentially a rail gun launcher. They have excess power beyond that need and it’s expected it will be used for laser weapons.

      Capt. Meier on Ford: Nimitz Class vs. Ford Class: https://youtu.be/C2sOTBN4s-Y

      Railgun Update from General Atomics: https://youtu.be/NEmgSpJK9qQ

    9. tomw Says:

      I have read/heard nothing of advances in controlled fusion of late. Creating positive power production for millionths or billionths of a second just isn’t going to cut it. Especially when the ‘research’ is going on in Livermore as the amount of power consumed in a short instant may become unavailable due to the greens desire to deconstruct hydro power dams. The valley is already brown to save a ‘bait fish’, and some food production is decreased, so power may be the next ‘delivery’ of the greens and liberals.
      Glad I left. Next door in Dublin, I was supposedly exposed to particles that stopped for essentially nothing.(not that I am that worried)
      I am afraid there is little except ‘twenty years from now’ over and over re fusion. Hope to be extremely wrong.

      Maybe a future CA or Fed administration will require ‘subsidy’ to provide affordable power to the less economically equipped. Yeah! That’ll do it! Subsidize power, just as fuel, cooking oil and basics were subsidized in Venezuela. That worked out so well.

    10. Whitehall Says:

      But those inventive Germans in the energy Ministry have a helpful solution!

      Turn off the lights when you’re making love. (Watch the video of the “public service commercial below.)

      http://www.climatedepot.com/2014/11/28/germanys-environment-minister-calls-on-citizens-to-turn-off-lights-during-sex-to-protect-climate/

      One symptom of the hypocrisy in California is to cruise the tonier neighborhoods of Silicon Valley and see all the roofs with photovoltaic panels on the McMansions then to read how the electric rate structure means the people PAYING for the PV power live in the rental apartments and in the Central Valley. I would note that the top tier marginal rate for electricity in the SF Bay Area is already approaching 40+ cents/kW-hr.

      The various governments have already shut down 4 reactors in the state (4 if you count Humboldt Bay 3). It took Barbara Boxer threatening criminal action against the executives of Southern California Edison over an engineering/procurement screw up at San Onofre 2 and 3 to close it. They are ALWAYS gunning for Diablo Canyon.

      Meanwhile, a major oil and gas EXPORTER, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is building 4 new nuclear reactors to provide electricity to a growing Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Jordan is considering its first reactors and the Czechs want some too – both countries just need financing. Even the Brits are coming to their senses and building more nukes. The Baltic states are trying to break the Russian monopsony by installing underwater electric cables to Scandinavia.

      Indeed, whenever I hear a new moral cause being pushed, I look for the thievery behind the façade of good intentions.

    11. S O Says:

      “Undeniably non-sensically, Germany has been paying over $26 billion per year for electricity that has a wholesale market value of just $5 billion”

      This is actually perfect nonsense, and the same thus applies to all conclusions drawn from it.
      ________________________

      This is the composition of the electricity price in 2015 in Germany:
      http://strom-report.de/medien/strompreise.png
      0.2881 €/kWh paid, of which only 21.4% is from the EEG subsidy, and 25% production costs.
      Obviously, there’s no way to save 80 % on electricity bills.

      The reason is simple; the quote is from a very incompetent person who compared apples with oranges.

      The 0.2281 €/kWh consist of
      25% electricity production and marketing
      23% grid fees, measuring, administration
      21.4% EEG subsidy
      16% value added tax (19% piled on the other 84%; 84% * 119% = 100%)
      7.1 % electricity tax
      7.5% other

      It makes no sense to compare those 0.2281 €/kWh to the wholesale trade price of “cheap” forms of electricity, particularly not since coal and nuclear energy were subsidized indirectly to a large extent (hiding their true prices).

      _________________

      Ignoring the hidden costs of nuclear and coal energy, one could at most have approx. one third lower electricity bills in Germany.

      Germany is a democracy, though. It’s not ruled by coal barons, nor did they buy our politicians.
      Support for the Energiewende is stable at above 70% in representative polls in Germany. More than 60% of Germans consider the EEG subsidy as either adequate or too low.
      We’re getting what we want.

      As an economist I tell you this is where the calculations stop and economic theory accepts that the people have spoken, their cumulated preferences have shown. They had product A on offer for price a and product B on offer for a higher price b – and they chose B.
      Anyone with respect for markets has to have respect for such an economic decision, unless he or she can show that the decision was tainted by poor information or psychological defects.

    12. Gringo Says:

      Forbes article
      To illustrate, Denmark and Germany are the proud wind capitals of Europe, but they also have the highest home electricity prices on Earth, 42 and 40 cents per kWh, respectively, against just 12.5 cents in the U.S….

      Texas is the wind energy capitol of the US. In 2014, about 9% of electrical energy consumption in Texas came from wind energy. A website with electricity prices for the Houston area provides us with some wind energy prices.

      Change Energy 100% Green[wind] Energy 8.3 cents/KWH
      Green Mountain Energy 100% Wind Energy 8.7-9.6 cents/KWH [dependent on contract length]

      These prices are competitive with other sources.

      From Texas Wind Energy Gaining Ground At Expense Of Coal.

      Texas, though long thought of as an oil gold mine, is the sixth-biggest producer of wind electricity globally, sitting just behind India and just ahead of the UK. This places Texas as the United States’ leading generator of wind electricity by a long margin, outshining even the golden child, California.

      The record follows in the wake of an October 22 record of 12.24 GW, which itself broke the record set only a day earlier.

      Maybe even more impressive is that on Thanksgiving Day itself, wind power in Texas provided 43.55% of the state’s total electricity demand. In fact, thanks to favorable conditions, wind energy generated more than 40% of Texas’ electricity demands for 11 hours each day from November 24 to November 26, and more than 30% during the rest of the hours over that same timeframe.

      So the race is on, as coal use falls in the great Lone State and wind energy continues to grow.

      There is a graph at the bottom of the webpage which shows how wind energy output has increased in Texas the last decade.

      The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) publishes daily Wind Integration Reports. When we look at “Actual Wind Output as a Percentage of the ERCOT Load,” [ERCOT accounts for about 90% of electrical energy output in Texas], we observe a great amount of variability. On December 20 2015, wind accounted for about 30-42% of the ERCOT load- I would eyeball it at 35% for the day. ON December 27, 2015, wind accounted for 15-35% of the load, which I would eyeball at 18%. If you look at the weekly graph, one observes that the ERCOT load varied from 26,000 to 40,000 MW for the week of December 20-27, while my eyeballing of wind energy output gives a variation from 1,000MW to 14,000 MW. That is a lot to juggle. And we just turn on the switch at home, not realizing all that went on.

      It turns out that one of the big oil producing areas in Texas, the Permian Basin out in West Texas, is also a major site for wind farms. Given the intermittent nature of wind energy, wind will be a supplementary energy source until some cheapo form of energy storage is found. Which I predict is never. Perhaps the cheapest form of energy storage- pumping water uphill- is not viable on the arid plains of West Texas. Wind in Texas is strongest at night, when energy use is lowest. As a result: A Texas Utility Offers a Nighttime Special: Free Electricity.The idea behind free at night means less capital construction costs to accommodate peak demand.

      At least in Texas, wind energy works and is competitive with other sources, but given its intermittent nature, using it involves a lot of juggling. Given how Texas has done wind energy better than Europe, I was going to say something about the Eurosneers who put down the US – and especially Texas- but at this stage I realize the strongest feeling I currently have towards Europe is not shaudenfreude, but sadness at a stumbling brother.

      http://www.vaultelectricity.com/Compare-Houston-TX-Electricity-Rates.html

    13. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      It makes no sense to compare those 0.2281 €/kWh to the wholesale trade price of “cheap” forms of electricity, particularly not since coal and nuclear energy were subsidized indirectly to a large extent (hiding their true prices).

      I’m always suspicious of those type claims. We could make the argument EVERYTHING is in some way subsidized. Cost of roads, education, defense, policing, tax incentives, etc. What you’re saying is that the wholesale price of energy is much cheaper than 0.2281 €/kWh. Period. If you prefer the more expensive energy because it’s ‘green’, fine. Just say so. But please don’t play games.

    14. Mike K Says:

      Energy prices and costs will rule 21st century politics. We are just at the beginning. There is a great deal of fantasy involved and there will be more until the reality dawns.

      We have been through “Ban the Bomb” and “No Nukes” and all the rest. Global Warming is just the latest iteration of the left’s attempt to roll back reality.

      “Life is what happens when you are making plans.”

    15. Whitehall Says:

      For the Texas windfarms there is a hidden subsidy – the transmission lines to bring the electricity in from West Texas to the customers in central and eastern parts of the state.

      Another subsidy is in the tax treatment for accelerated depreciation. Here’s a piece I did a few years ago – I suspect the numbers are largely unchanged:

      http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2009/10/how_taxes_pervert_our_energy_c.html

      There are many ways to cook the books and sneak a vig.

    16. S O Says:

      “What you’re saying is that the wholesale price of energy is much cheaper than 0.2281 €/kWh. Period.”

      The wholesale price of both wind and other electrical energies (other than PV) is much cheaper than that. I criticized a quote that was grossly misleading and compared apples with oranges for deceptive effect.
      I’m not playing games – direct that accusation at the post author or quote source, please.

      ——

      Indirect subsidies to nuclear power:
      – public research
      – tolerated insufficient insurance coverage
      – tolerated insufficient provisions for deconstruction of irradiated power plant
      – tolerated insufficient provisions for radioactive waste disposal
      – tolerated non-payment of risk premium to public (negative external effects/externalities)
      … and many more
      http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/nuclear_power/nuclear_subsidies_report.pdf
      http://www.psr.org/nuclear-bailout/resources/the-high-and-hidden-costs-of.pdf

      Indirect subsidies to coal power:
      – tolerated extimated 20,000 to 50,000 annual deaths in the United States caused by air pollution from coal power plants (depending on study, but reliably above the level of an annual 9/11 disaster unless the study was sponsored by the pro-coal special interests faction)
      – tolerated health care burden caused by air pollution
      – tolerated health care burden for sick coal workers
      – tolerated early retirement burden for sick coal workers
      …. and many more. Too many to list.
      For more http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Federal_coal_subsidies

      You had a nice echo chamber here, complete with a faux outrage and collective blaming of stupid liberal wannabe do-gooders who ruin the economy or something.
      The reality is different. Wind power is intermittent, but approximately competitive in windy regions, and it’s a nation’s choice – not stupid liberal policies – if a nation decides to focus on developing wind power generation capacity.
      Moreover, you guys became free pawns for the coal billionnaires who fear for their profits in face of occasional scrutiny about the negative externalities of coal burning.

    17. Grurray Says:

      The interesting thing about watchdog’s like SourceWatch isn’t necessarily the information they provide but the recursion process that can result. In other words, what happens when we sourcewatch SourceWatch?
      Behind their studies are also “special interests factions” with their own agenda.

      The best thing to do is get rid of all subsidies for all processes, so they are all on an equal footing. If the health care burden is really as bad as you say, then mechanisms and safeguards already exist via the judicial systems to provide restitution.

    18. Mike K Says:

      “it’s a nation’s choice – not stupid liberal policies – if a nation decides to focus on developing wind power generation capacity.”

      And that choice is usually contrary to the subsidy seekers’ interest. That’s why they lie so much and sue critics instead of arguing.

      “you guys became free pawns for the coal billionnaires who fear for their profits in face of occasional scrutiny about the negative externalities of coal burning.”

      Oh ? The lefties who are promising to “bankrupt the coal industry” are just interested in our welfare ?

      The day that the environmentalist left supports nuclear power is the day that I pay attention to their rants.

      “You had a nice echo chamber here,”

      If you want an echo chamber, try the leftist blogs that ban anyone who comments and disagrees with the conventional “wisdom.” You’re here. Are you part of an “echo chamber?”

    19. S O Says:

      Mike K,
      You likely mistyped in your first line.

      Your second line isn’t really relevant, it’s a “both sides do it” argument thatonly distracts.

      Your third line ignores that environmental protection includes protection from extra radiation.

      Your final line ignores that I explicitly wrote “You had a nice echo chamber here” in the past tense.
      Besides, I know plenty “leftist” blogs that allow right wing comments. They just get drowned in replies.
      When did you check whether your “leftist blogs that ban anyone who comments and disagrees” is a prejudice or reality?

    20. Jonathan Says:

      Indirect taxes on nuclear power:

      -Tolerated frivolous litigation by Greens in the “public interest” plaintiffs’ bar, in tacit collaboration with Greens in the bureaucracies, that makes nuclear-plant construction so financially risky as to be not worthwhile in most cases.

      -Tolerated anti-nuclear propaganda at all levels of the society that is, regrettably, very effective at influencing the voting behavior of scientifically ignorant members of the public.

      -Tolerated political obstruction of reasonable plans to bury nuclear waste inexpensively in stable geological formations in unpopulated areas.

      Indirect taxes on coal:

      -Tolerated regulatory usurpations by Greens in the federal govt of property rights in valuable coal fields in states where mining would be popular. The Grand Staircase-Escalante land grab is a good example of this.

      Indirect subsidies for wind power:

      -The costs of the natural-gas peaking plants needed to supplement wind-driven power generation during periods of low wind.

      -Tolerated mass-killing of birds.

      There are costs and benefits for each method of power generation. I have no preference for any particular method other than to favor cheaper (costs and benefits accurately considered) methods over more expensive ones, and don’t know enough to comment about EU power costs. However, I’ve noticed that many discussions of implicit subsidies ignore substantial costs imposed on some power generation technologies by litigation, regulation and political obstructionism.

    21. Gringo Says:

      Whitehall
      For the Texas windfarms there is a hidden subsidy – the transmission lines to bring the electricity in from West Texas to the customers in central and eastern parts of the state.

      Please explain how the transmission lines were funded, and how this constitutes a subsidy.

    22. Mike K Says:

      “I know plenty “leftist” blogs that allow right wing comments.”

      Examples ?

      HuffPo finally let me comment after a long time when my comments were “moderated” and did not appear. Washington Monthly and Mother Jones both banned all comments after I disagreed with the party line on single payer back in 2006. I used to follow Kevin Drum, who I respect while I disagree. I used to read his own blog before WM hired him and followed him to MJ but gave up when any attempt to comment, even to wish him well with his illness, was blocked.

      Please show us a leftist blog “drowned in replies.” Most leftist blogs I read have comments of less than 20 or 30. I don’t read many since it is an exercise in futility and the reasoning is pretty shallow and self congratulatory. Years ago, I tried to debate about single payer and was deluged with angry and ad hominem replies. After Wash Monthly deleted my comments, the replies were left there. It was mildly amusing.

      We get trolls here from time to time who usually post comments with no links and leave it at that. Yours was more helpful as it shows where you are coming from.

      The first line in my comment was a ctrl C from yours.

      Once in a while I try to comment, for example about Kevin’s illness, and am informed I am banned.

      National Review comments are unreadable because they are flooded with angry leftist comments. I don’t even try to read them.

    23. Gringo Says:

      Jonathan

      Indirect subsidies for wind power: Tolerated mass-killing of birds.

      Wind turbines kill around 300,000 birds annually, house cats around 3,000,000,000.

      Wind turbines kill between 214,000 and 368,000 birds annually — a small fraction compared with the estimated 6.8 million fatalities from collisions with cell and radio towers and the 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion deaths from cats, according to the peer-reviewed study by two federal scientists and the environmental consulting firm West Inc.

      “We estimate that on an annual basis, less than 0.1% … of songbird and other small passerine species populations in North America perish from collisions with turbines,” says lead author Wallace Erickson of Wyoming-based West.

      There was an NAS study done about ten years ago which gave similar conclusions.

      Just wondering Jonathan, are you going to stop using devices which use cellular or radio towers, in order to not have dead birds on your conscience? I think not.
      Cry me a river, Jonathan.

      Indirect subsidies for wind power:-The costs of the natural-gas peaking plants needed to supplement wind-driven power generation during periods of low wind.
      You are correct that given the intermittent nature of wind power, some sort of additional power generation such as natural gas is necessary. However, natural gas electricity generation is run at a profit. I am really stupid, and am unable to understand how running A at a profit constitutes a subsidy for B. Please enlighten me.

    24. Jonathan Says:

      Gringo, I am not likely to change my behavior because of dead birds. My point was that dead birds are a real cost of windmills. I acknowledge that they are a cost of other technologies as well. However, there are probably more economical and reliable alternatives to windmills for power generation in many cases.

    25. Mike K Says:

      Gringo, I am not sure how many eagles were killed by house cats and would also appreciate an estimate of bats killed by house cats. They are a plague on song birds, especially in England, but bats and eagles are not among their prey as best I can determine.

      Bats, by the way, are probably more important than eagles as they are very effective in eating mosquitoes.

      Coyotes are an effective killer of house cats in my area but the political left is very protective of cats, not so much of eagles and bats. They are also protective of coyotes which poses a dilemma for many of them.

    26. Mike K Says:

      I should have added to my comment that wind farms are killing hundreds of thousands of bats which are very useful creatures and have a slow reproductive cycle.

      A recent study has found that more than 600,000 bats – possibly up to 900,000 – died at wind farms in 2012. The study will be published in the journal BioScience.

      Study author Mark Hayes said those numbers could add up over the years.

      “That additional mortality has the potential to substantially reduce populations,” Hayes said.

    27. Gringo Says:

      Jonathan:
      Gringo, I am not likely to change my behavior because of dead birds.
      That was my assumption. Are you going to post “Indirect subsidies for cell towers: Tolerated mass-killing of birds?” I think not. Yet you posted “Indirect subsidies for wind power: Tolerated mass-killing of birds.”

      My point was that dead birds are a real cost of windmills.
      And MY point is that as we tolerate dead birds as a consequence of many human actions- or actions of our pets- and the number of birds killed from wind turbines is a small fraction of birds killed by human action or by our pets, it is a lamentable but accepted cost of wind energy. Here is the study I wrote about, from 2007:National Academies Press : Environmental Impacts of Wind-Energy Projects. More recent: The Avian and Wildlife Costs of Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power. Which brings up another point: it has been known for nearly ten years that “wind power kills birds” is a bogus argument, given the context of bird deaths caused by humans or their pets. So why bring up an argument that was refuted nearly ten years ago?

      However, there are probably more economical and reliable alternatives to windmills for power generation in many cases.
      In many cases, yes, as there are places where there is not enough wind blowing to make wind power economically viable. We are in agreement that there is no point in installing a wind turbine in an area that has little wind. However, the wind tunnel that constitutes the Great Plains is probably the prime area in the United States where wind energy is economically feasible. Check out the Houston electrical prices I posted.

    28. Gringo Says:

      Regarding bats being killed by wind turbines, here is a more recent article from 2014:Bats Get Confused by Wind Turbines Pretending to be Trees.

      One, three quarters of bats killed by turbines were ones that roosted in trees, at least in North America and Europe.

      Two, most fatalities at Northern Hemisphere sites occurred during the late summer and autumn, with a smaller peak in the spring.

      Three, while multiple tree-dwelling species were affected by turbine-based mortality, what they had in common was certain behavioral traits. That suggested that bat behavior would play a key role in solving the mystery.

      Four, fatalities were more likely when wind speeds were lower than 5-6 meters per second. Early research suggested that bats could be saved if the turbine blades were prevented from turning until winds grew faster than that speed. The problem is that there are financial incentives to keep the turbines spinning even in those lower speeds, despite the tremendous costs to bat populations.

      Cryan’s goal, then, was to see what the underlying reasons were for bats’ susceptibility to wind turbines. Perhaps he could find a way to reduce fatalities while simultaneously maximizing power production…..
      Perhaps anti-bat measures, such as speakers playing startling sounds, could be installed on turbines, aimed at the space around the nacelle and downwind of the blades. Since bats seem attracted to blades spinning at low speeds, but not at high speeds, safeguards could be installed to limit the blades’ ability to rapidly speed up when the wind picks up. Instead, the turbine could speed up more slowly, giving bats a chance to fly away. Finally, turbines could be outfitted with additional features, such as flashing lights, to make their non-tree status more salient. Support for that idea comes from another study of eastern red bats in Texas. There, turbines with flashing red aviation lights were less likely to strike bats than those without.

      I don’t know what will eventually be done to mitigate wind turbines killing bats, but at least it is being investigated.
      Back in 2009, there was an article in The Guardian on using radar technology to stop wind turbines when bird are migrating. Texas wind farm pioneers radar technology to protect migrating birds. I don’t know what has happened since then.

    29. Mike K Says:

      People like eagles and dislike bats so the problem has not gotten much traction. I think of Mao telling the Chinese to kill sparrows because they eat grain and China then had a plague of insects destroying crops.

      Unexpected results is the guide for governments.

    30. Gringo Says:

      Mike K
      Gringo, I am not sure how many eagles were killed by house cats and would also appreciate an estimate of bats killed by house cats.
      For the United Kingdom, here is an estimate courtesy of our friend the Daily Mail: but cats also targeted many bats, which are very slow to reproduce, possibly killing 230,000 a year across the country.

      It would have to be an estimate, as I doubt that cats would willingly answer “How many bats did you kill in the last year?” :)

    31. Mike K Says:

      The number of bats is interesting although far below the wind farm toll. When I had a house in Tucson, I had bat houses which look like bird houses but the entrance is at the bottom and the bats hang from little rafters inside. I would think they’d be safe from cats but bats that nest in trees would not be. The bat houses are available in Ace hardware stores and such and hang on the house wall. You put them up high on the wall. I have not seen them in California.

    32. Mike K Says:

      Amazon has a large selection of bat houses.

      I ordered one for here.

    33. Gringo Says:

      The number of bats is interesting although far below the wind farm toll.
      But this estimate is for the United Kingdom, not for the US. A corresponding estimate for the US would be greater.

      My one childhood memory about bats is observing a biologist looking for bats in an abandoned one-room schoolhouse. My hometown used one-room schoolhouses until four years before I started elementary school. I believe that was the only time I saw a bat.

    34. S O Says:

      @Mike K:
      Crooks

    35. Michael Hiteshew Says:

      the Great Plains is probably the prime area in the United States where wind energy is economically feasible.

      There was a program on PBS a few years ago about a depressed prairie community where many residents signed contracts leasing land on their farms for windmills, big ones. The stroboscopic effects of light entering people’s homes gave them headaches, as it was unceasing. There was a low frequency hum which also irritated people. Most residents (shown in the program) ended up sorry that had signed contracts.

      With that in mind, there’s no doubt there’s a place for windmills, especially in areas with no population and lots of continuous prevailing wind. I’m an all of the above person when it comes to power generation. Use everything that makes sense, in it’s proper place.

      We could be producing lots of power via fission. The USA and Europe have a stellar record of providing safe, clean power from nuclear plants. Our plants are incomparable to Chernobyl type plants, in that they have containment buildings, backup cooling, etc. It is because of irrational, fear based, ideological opposition to nuclear power that we aren’t building even safer, even more efficient generation 3 and 4 power plants, and are stuck upgrading generation 1 plants.

      I feel the least good about coal, since it’s such a dirty fuel. I would like to find an analysis on the cost of cleaning the fuel or filtering emissions to make it useful, or to know if that is possible. However, the subject is so politicized I no longer trust the ‘objective science’ I read. And that’s the cost of politically biased science, it makes it impossible, once trust is lost, for society to engage in rational discussion.

    36. S O Says:

      @Mike K:
      crooksandliard.com

    37. S O Says:

      3rd time is the charm…
      crooksandliars.com

      I posted there recently, correcting the article on a small thing, was mistaken for a right winger and received one upvote plus a couple worthless replies.

    38. Mike K Says:

      Thanks, SO. I really am not into trolling for nasty replies. I tried on WM and MJ because I like and respect Kevin Drum and had followed him from blog to blog because he was honest and fair in spite of a strong left bias.

      The debate that got me banned from WM was about single payer health care. I am something of an expert on that subject as I went back to Dartmouth after retiring and spent a year getting another degree in health policy. I have some posts linked here on the subject. When I offered disagreement about single payer as I believe it would never work here, people even went to my own blog, found personal info and posted obscene replies concerning my family. I make no secret of my identity and the only time I have any experience like that was from the WM blog. When Kevin moved to MJ, I followed and found I was banned there, too. I was not even allowed to post good wishes on his serious illness.

    39. Whitehall Says:

      Gringo,

      $7 billion for a dedicated transmission line in Texas and now the windmill owners want more.

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/lorensteffy/2014/07/11/is-texas-souring-on-wind-power/

      As to Jonathan’s point about a hidden subsidy for wind in the form of standby natural gas electric generation capacity, I usually look at it as the question of what wind is really worth to the customer in an electric market.

      Here’s official US government cost projections for fuel, O&M, transmission, et al costs:

      http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/electricity_generation.cfm

      For transmission costs alone, nukes are at 1.1 cents/kW-hr vs 3.1 cents for wind and 4.1 for solar PV. As per the Forbes article the transmission costs for the West Texas wind farms are charged against the system, not against the producer’s price

      Wind’s market VALUE, or its cost versus competitive alternatives, is really the just cost of the fuel and variable O&M that is NOT burned when wind is operating. The fixed cost of the natural gas or coal capacity STILL has to largely be absorbed by the system since wind has such a low availability and capacity factor. Per the EIA source above, this is about 2.94 cents per kW-hr for coal and 5.36 cents for combined cycle natural gas.

      In Texas, the PUC only credits wind with ~9% of its installed capacity for planning and capacity payment purposes. Nuclear is 90%.

      If you had to turn down the production on an operating nuke, that cost would be even lower as the fuel + variable O&M cost per kW-hr in a nuke is only 1.2 cents/kW-hr.

      In other words, wind and solar are worth next to nothing in real dollars and cents to the customer. In a rational market or a well-engineered and regulated system, nobody would invest in wind and solar except hobbyists and cranks.

    40. Mike K Says:

      Wind and solar are of real value on cruising sailboats. I had my boat on a mooring at LA Yacht Club and had a solar panel and b=voltage regulator to keep the batteries up. A lot of cruisers use wind power for the same purpose in remote anchorages.

      Aside from those uses, the wind and solar industries are farming subsidies.

      I even put LED lights in my sailboat to lengthen battery life but the cost is not competitive. The big light bulb companies had to pay off Congress to ban incandescent bulbs., I still buy them from Amazon and have what I hope is a lifetime supply.

    41. S O Says:

      There are vastly more uses for PV energy. Lots of remote off-grid installations can be powered with PV power.

      I personally like solarthermal powerplants in arid regions more for large powerplant installations, though.

    42. Mike K Says:

      “Lots of remote off-grid installations can be powered with PV power.”

      Yes and that is where they are appropriate. Not in trying to supply base needs for an industrial society.

    43. Whitehall Says:

      S O,

      Sure there are lots of applications for PV installation. Go for it!

      Just pay for them yourself and don’t try to push the costs off on me and other rational energy users through our electric bills.

    44. S O Says:

      Whitehall,
      the redistribution fee on the electricity bill is equivalent to taxation.
      It’s fine and perfectly legitimate to oppose it, but at the same time it’s fine and perfectly legitimate to impose it if there’s democratic legitimation to it. This democratic legitimation is given in Germany.

      You implied those who disagree with you on this would be irrational. Well, everybody is irrational, but those people aren’t particularly irrational for it. Instead, they have different preferences, and act on them.

      So while freedom of speech protects statements about others being irrational, your statement was actually a poor ne content-wise. You were trying to infer that they have inferior reasoning when in fact they reason on the basis of different peferences simply.

    45. Jonathan Says:

      S O, I think Whitehall’s point is that the proponents of photo-electric power generation try to sell it as economically superior to fission and fossil power and it isn’t. The “renewable” assertion is an example of this, since one implication of the concept of renewability is that availability is assured over the long term at competitive prices. Given that different people and perhaps people in different countries have different preferences in these matters, as you point out, it makes sense to compare different technologies by price and let the users decide what they are willing to pay for. However, these comparisons are often muddled because advocates of particular types of power generation selectively ignore significant costs. For example, a country that wants to use wind or photovoltaics on a large scale will have to have backup power generation systems whose costs must be included in any comparison of wind or PV vs. fossil or nuclear or hydro. In the USA advocates of “alternative” power-generation technologies tend to ignore these costs in their public arguments. I assume that is the case in Europe as well, even though sophisticated observers such as yourself may be aware of the higher costs but may nonetheless prefer wind or PV energy generation for non-monetary reasons.

    46. Mike K Says:

      “advocates of particular types of power generation selectively ignore significant costs.”

      This is why Medicare is promoted by those who support government programs for its “low overhead costs.” In fact, the low overhead costs are not so low but are paid by doctors’ offices and hospital billing departments which must prepare all billing items with great care or they will be arbitrarily rejected.

      Medicaid is notorious for this and for a limited “Billing period” which is quite short. After having bills rejected for arbitrary reasons, especially “late billing” when the bills were submitted during the correct time period, my office began to submit bills to MediCal, the California version of Medicaid, by registered mail with a receipt dated with the day of delivery. MediCal refused to accept registered mail.

    47. Jonathan Says:

      An economist might define sentimentality as willful ignorance of costs.

    48. Mike K Says:

      “sentimentality as willful ignorance of costs.”

      I would suggest that ignorance is ignorance.

      What infuriates so many of us is that “sentimentality” ignores known costs for reasons of emotion.

      Maybe “willful” covers it but I know people who should know better and choose the worse alternative, like raising capital gains taxes even if that loses revenue, for “fairness.”

    49. Whitehall Says:

      To expand on Jonathan’s comment, the government cost-of-service regulation of electric power systems has a long history going back to Samuel Insull and was the subject of substantial academic research. Most of the bugs had been uncovered and remedied by the 1940s.

      Regulated electric utilities worked pretty well in supplying reliable, least-cost electricity for Americans until the “deregulation” craze hit in the 1990s. In my major MBA paper in 1996 on California’s deregulation proposal I predicted that some players stood to make big profits in the new market scheme and that reliability would suffer. I got an A+ on the paper from my economics professor but was mildly chastised for not predicting just WHO was going to make the profits! Subsequent events in 2000 in California proved me right.

      The track record of “deregulation” has not been good. Only the Texans seemed to have made a workable system after some initial fumbling. What it has done is allow even MORE meddling by political actors to create un-economic niches for special interests.

      In a transparent and well-run cost-of-service regulatory regime, no one would (or did!) propose wind or solar. There were isolated examples of cost-effective and reliable “alternative” electric sources – Pacific Gas and Electric’s Geysers geothermal plant in Sonoma was one of the few successes I know about.

      Part of America’s political crisis today is that the elites willfully ignore the interests of the voters and spread disinformation to confuse and distract the public. The costs and benefits of wind and solar are a major subject of disinformation given the profits involved.

      Blog postings like Carl’s go a long way to let the public (Gringo, S O, Jonathan, et al) debate the issue without gate keepers.

    50. S O Says:

      “What infuriates so many of us is that “sentimentality” ignores known costs for reasons of emotion.”

      Back to basics:

      Robinson and Friday sit on an island, and have fish and coconuts as choice for food. One likes coconuts more, but is the better fisherman. They begin to trade based on their preference (“likes”) and productivity.
      This was a standard and msot simple introduction to trade, but it also mentiones preferences, which are different for different people. You cannot tell such preferences (~”emotions”) by any other way than offering choices.
      That’s why calculations (“reasoning”) cannot reach the optimum reliably. You need to let people have choices (elections, markets) and in absence of distortions they can reach at least approximately the optimum by making their choices.

      So essentially what infuriates you is that you incorrectly assume that you could calculate the optimum, when in reality what allows for the best possible course of action is what you think infuriates you.

      I assure you, Germans were informed and get occasionally reminded of the costs of the Energiewende. This didn’t change their choice at all. Electrical energy policy has been much more central to German politics since the 1980’s than to U.S. politics. The rejection of nuclear power was probably linked to the late Cold War protests against nukes, and the dislike for coal was probably linked to the extreme air pollution observed in the coal mining areas in the Ruhr area and Saxony where much coal was produced and burnt. Wifes who tried to dry white clothes on the fresh air there took in dried grey clothes till the early 80’s.
      Such experiences make air pollution and environmental protection needs much more understood than possible to people in the Southern, Midwestern and Western CONUS.

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