Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Governor Walker and Clean Energy Go Together Like Oil and Water

My recent trip to South Carolina took me past a huge wind farm along Interstate 65 in Benton County, Indiana, near Purdue University.  Here is a YouTube video to give you a sense of the scale of the wind farm:

Governor Mitch Daniels, the Republican governor of Indiana, touts renewable energy from the wind farm here.  Our Republican governor?  Doesn't like them.  No campaign money in them for him.  Would cost him campaign money.

Wisconsin has fallen behind our neighbors in wind energy production according to Department of Energy data:
Wisconsin is not likely to catch up in the future, despite having areas of the state which are about as well suited for sustained production as any in the Midwest.

First, we have a governor who doesn't support wind power.  Once again, there is no campaign money in it for him.  He supports fossil fuels produced by the folks that are financing his recall campaign at a rate considerably greater than his 2010 campaign.  As the Washington Post reported this week:
 Last week, he mingled with Oklahoma’s corporate elite and top Republicans at a fundraiser co-sponsored by Koch Industries, the oil company led by billionaire brothers who are top backers of conservative causes nationwide. Also in attendance were executives from Devon Energy Corp., which is building a 50-story tower that is changing the Oklahoma City skyline.
The Wisconsin Gazette also discussed the financial reasons the Governor has tried to kill wind power:
When Wisconsin voters elected Scott Walker governor and handed Republicans control of the Legislature, about 1,000 new jobs in the emerging wind energy sector stood waiting on the state's horizon, according to industry proponents.
But Walker, who received at least $1.5 million in campaign cash directly from interests opposed to wind energy and much more indirectly, quickly quashed the rules that would have allowed those jobs - and the state's energy independence - to move forward.
. . .
Gov. Walker and his allies in the Legislature are once again bowing to the special interests at the expense of Wisconsin families," said Kerry Schumann, executive director of the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters. "Wisconsin sends more than $850 million out of state every year to places like Indiana, Wyoming, and Illinois to purchase coal. Wind energy, on the other hand, creates homegrown jobs in manufacturing, construction, and other industries right here in Wisconsin. Reinstating Wisconsin's wind siting rules could bring back the $1.8 billion in new wind power investments that Gov. Walker chased out of the state."
The governor supported the 1800 foot set-back requirement that was designed by the Realtors Association and fossil fuel interests to make wind farms untenable in Wisconsin.   While the new setback requirement hasn't been enacted, the fact that it was proposed and supported by the governor essentially shut down wind farm development in Wisconsin.   Midwest Energy News addressed the situation:
On the day the rules were to take effect last March, however, a Republican-controlled legislative committee voted along party lines to suspend the statewide rules. Gov. Scott Walker instead proposed an 1,800-foot setback from the nearest property line, which the American Wind Energy Association said would essentially shut down the state’s wind industry.
Since then, wind developers have cited regulatory uncertainty in suspending or canceling five major developments totaling $1.6 billion in economic investment. Vickerman says wind energy supporters have successfully highlighted the economic consequences of Walker’s action, which is why party leadership seems to have lost interest in the fight.
“These guys are afraid because the issue has boomeranged on them,” says Vickerman. “Scott Walker does not really want to be known as someone who has killed jobs by basically shutting down the commercial wind industry in Wisconsin, and neither do the legislative leaders.”
Besides the governor's opposition to wind, the government subsidies that have driven the rapid expansion of wind and solar energy projects are petering out, and Republicans in Washington will not be inclined to restore them.

Brad Plumer at Wonkblog describes the vanishing clean energy subsidies.
 . . .  the report suggests that Congress should rejigger its clean-energy subsidies in several ways. First, it should focus heavily on research and development. And second, the subsidies that are geared toward deploying new technologies — the credits and policies that help wind turbines sprout up and nuclear reactors get built — should be structured so that they reward improvements in performance. Solar power shouldn’t just get propped up no matter what. It should get money in such a way that manufacturers have incentives to keep putting out more efficient panels that get steadily cheaper.
In the chart of spending below, ARRA is the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, part of the Obama stimulus package.

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