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Wind More Pork Than Power


Dan Barrett
May 6, 2010

Cape Cod looks to have a change in scenery in the coming years as 130 wind turbines will soon be visible on the horizon of such historic areas as Nantucket Sound and Martha's Vineyard. But instead of calling the project a boon for environmental "green energy," it looks as though it's a bust in environmental, industrial, and economic spheres.

Environmentally, wind energy creates little to no carbon emissions but the manufacturing process most certainly does. The metals, plastics, and transportation of the massive fans are created in a petroleum-rich system. Much like ethanol, the efforts put into the process offset the gains in the clean energy. The FAA has also raised safety questions because the turning blades interfere with aviation radar instruments. Underlying the entire change to wind power are the displaced workers of more traditional industries.

Taxpayers have grounds to be concerned because the costs won't be recovered, as the power generated will likely not meet regional power demands (unless the government sees fit to ration it as it will with healthcare). A New York Times article projects a $1 billion cost by supporters (real numbers have been kept confidential), with up to $10 billion likely spent on grid and transmission upgrades as greater energy storage capacity will be required because winds are not constant or wholly predictable. When in place, the system COULD produce up to 75% of Cape Cod power needs. With a year-round population of only 230,000 people, it looks as though a lot of money will go towards status quo results and remains to be if it will be financially self-sufficient.

After some research, I found the project is really projected to cost closer to $2.2 billion overall and that subsides will cost the American people roughly half that price tag, according to Beacon Hill Institute Senior Economist Jonathan Haughton. The handout comes in forms of both the federal and Massachusetts tax credits and subsidies, all totaling almost $1.1 billion.

Some energy sources don't require government money to startup or remain in business. However if the government subsidy didn't exist, the wind turbines wouldn't be built. The plan to clean up energy production is a noble venture but not one to sacrifice American economic longevity. With about 42% of the entire new 2008 power-producing capacity added in the US being wind, totalling $17 billion in that same year, we must ask who will benefit and who will be left picking up the tab.


 

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