The Energy Battlefield

plug-greenEDF Renewable Energy had proposed constructing 25 wind turbines in Foster Township, Luzerne County PA.   EDF requested a special exception for the project in 2014.

The request was denied by the zoning board, and denied again in subsequent meetings of the zoning and planning boards.

It was denied again following a town meeting. The special exception was denied in December 2014 after the board determined the wind turbines were not compatible with other permitted uses in the zoning districts where EDF proposed putting them. In addition, the board found that the site plan submitted by the company wasn’t specific enough to comply with requirements.

(Frackorporation was unable to locate EDF’s plans to determine if it was specific enough or not to comply with zoning requirements.)

EDF then appealed to the Luzerne County Court, where it was denied.

This should sound familiar to many “fractivists” just substitute wind farm and turbines with fracking and pipelines:

Opponents of the wind farm said the turbines would be injurious to the health, safety and welfare of the neighborhoods, and argued that noise could cause sleeping and mental health issues.

Opponents also said they would not be benefiting from the energy created by the wind farm as it would be going elsewhere.

Maybe Foster Township was wrong to deny the special exception, maybe they were right, but there is one unreported take away from this story – the TOWN made the decision, it wasn’t forced on them.

If this were an oil or natural gas pipeline, the town would not be able to deny it.   A fossil fuel corporation would simply declare it as a public utility or obtain a Certificate of Public Need and Necessity from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and begin taking properties through eminent domain.

THE ENERGY BATTLE

When commenting on the Foster Township decision, Frackorporation linked to Natural Gas-Got Glut blog post. One comment in response was “must everything be about natural gas?”

Yes and No.

Everything does not need to be about natural gas, but Yes it does need to be about energy, because that’s the battlefield.

Whether you oppose or support wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, oil, natural gas, coal or nuclear, etc. – the battle is all about energy. Where will the energy come from and what are the impacts on our environment, the economy and our lifestyles?

We know continual reliance on fossil fuels for energy and manufacturing is having a detrimental impact on our climate, environment and health.

We also know, with the current technology available, we will still need fossil fuels to meet some of our needs.

However, we can reduce these impact and needs by significantly scaling back our reliance on fossil fuels.

NO BRIDGES

The fossil fuel industry is spending millions to kill alternative energy because it threatens their dominance as an energy source. The natural gas sector claims to be a bridge fuel, yet they are doing what they can to make sure that bridge is never built.

Lobbying: Spending 7 to 1 in Favor of Fossil Fuels:

In 2013, total dollars spent lobbying in Washington for:

  • Coal, oil and gas industries: $156 million
  • Alternative energy industries: $22 million

A reported 852 lobbyists worked for the fossil fuel industries. Three companies reported spending more than $10 million on their lobbying efforts: Exxon, Chevron, and Koch Industries.

By contrast the alternative energy industries reported 334 lobbyists with the top spender laying out $1.6 million. There were six companies with expenditures between $1 and $2 million: Clean Energy Group, American Wind Association, Growth Energy, National Biodiesel Board, Clean Energy Fuels Corp and Renewable Fuels Association.

lobbying fossil fuels

SOLAR, WIND COSTS TOO MUCH TALKING POINT

At one time solar and wind did cost more than fossil fuels to produce energy.   Two reasons for this were/are:

  • Fossil Fuel industry is heavily subsidized, and cost was artificially cut lower.   If there were no subsidies, the cost would be equal to or higher than solar or wind.
  • The efficiency and costs associated with solar and wind technology was not there at one time. It is now, and becoming cheaper and more efficient as technology advances.

Solar is estimated to cost 12 to 30 cents per kilowatthour, and experts predict it will drop below retail electricity rates between now and 2018.  

 Department of Energy and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory report pegs utility-scale wind power-purchase agreement pricing as averaging 2.5 cents per kilowatt-hour for projects that negotiated contracts in 2013. That’s cheap power.

Wind and solar electricity have become some of our least expensive ways to generate electricity in several markets around the world.

Wind is now the cheapest way to bring new electricity generation to the grid in the US as well as many other countries. Solar PV costs are rapidly dropping and solar is expected to join wind over the next few years. Furthermore, low-cost utility-scale solar is already beating out all other sources of electricity in some bidding processes, and home solar power beats the price of retail electricity (on average) in many markets.

Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) is often used in the electricity industry when discussing price. It is generally the estimated price of electricity coming from power plants when taking into account capital costs, operation and maintenance costs, performance, and fuel costs. A recent study from Lazard shows that wind power and solar power are already cost-competitive with all other sources of electricity when it comes to LCOE:

energy-unsubsidized chart

 

HIDDEN COSTS

Continual reliance on fossil fuels is taking a toll on our health costs. These costs are usually not factored when comparing energy production from fossil fuels.

The burning of fossil fuels contributes to four of the five leading causes of death in the United States, including heart disease, cancer, stroke, and lung diseases, while putting children at risk of asthma and delayed mental development. All these missed work days, hospital visits, and deaths not only cause suffering, but they handicap our economy, increase insurance premiums, and contribute to an unsustainable growth in health care costs.

Additionally, global energy subsidies, including the social and environmental costs associated with heavily subsidized fossil fuels, are costing the world’s governments upward of $5 trillion annually, according to new estimates released by the International Monetary Fund.

WHY IS AMERICA STILL ADDICTED TO FOSSIL FUELS?
We can point to the legislators who snugly reside in the industry’s pockets.

We can point to a lack of infrastructure to make something like electrical cars practical in terms of a lack of roadside “recharging stations”.

We can point to a multitude of reasons NOT to break from fossil fuels, and multitude reasons why we should.

We can do it, we can break the addition, IF we summon the political and social will to do it.

Will it be easy? Will it happen quickly?  No, but not to do so condemns us to a very bleak future.

 

© 2015 by Dory Hippauf

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