FREEPORT – Tux Turkel has done a great job (March 30, “First Wind set to test the waters with IPO”) in digging into the current wind power developments here in Maine.

He offers us facts and numbers that give us a rough picture of the cost and viability of wind power here.

Turkel reports that Maine lawmakers have set a goal of installing 2,000 megawatts of wind power by 2015.

He then quotes a local financial analyst who points out that, “Ratepayers are going to pay for all the government mandates,” and “The market isn’t driving this. The government is driving this.”

The article suggests 2,000 megawatts of power will cost $4 billion. But it is not clear whether that is actual produced power or maximum capacity of the wind turbines.

The generally accepted “capacity ratio” for wind power is at best around 20 percent, which means you get 20 percent of the power that you could get if the turbines were producing at maximum capacity 24/7.

Wind power benefits from huge subsidies and tax incentives. It is in that context that we would do well to remember what has happened with another highly subsidized energy industry, biofuels.

That one was also aggressively promoted by government, politicians and environmentalists to solve our problems with dependence on foreign oil and risks to the global climate.

Seldom, if ever, have we seen such a graphic example of the law of unintended consequences. Ethanol has turned out to be a curse rather than an asset. The world’s food supplies have been horribly distorted and strained, with resulting increases in prices. Machinery is being damaged.

The ecological damage to the planet is incalculable — rain forests are being destroyed while the precious nutrients in our valuable farmlands are being sucked out and poured into our gas tanks.

And, it turns out that burning ethanol seems to be adding more nasty gases to our environment than gasoline.

Ethanol was foisted upon us by the same people who now want to give us wind power, solar power, biomass and an array of other “alternative, renewable energy sources.” They want to do it the same way — by rushing us all into completely unknown, unproven technologies with a hyped-up, emotional, quixotic, mindless fervor.

All the while, the Russians, Japanese and the Chinese are not at all interested in all this nonsense.

The Russians have contracted to build a number of their amazing BN 800 fast-breeder nuclear reactors for the Chinese for approximately $2 billion a unit. These reactors produce about 880 megawatts and they do it at about a 90 percent capacity ratio.

It is very likely that the reason the Russians have been so agreeable about arms reductions is that they can sell the Chinese nuclear materials gleaned from the decommissioned weapons to fuel these new plants.

This technology, referred to under different names such as integrated fast reactors (IFRs) has the potential to alter the course of history.

These plants are simple, highly efficient, completely safe and produce very, very little nuclear waste. When pro-rated over an average 30-year life span, these plants produce power at a cost much lower than any other technology yet devised.

And they produce no carbon dioxide!

But don’t believe me. Do yourself and your country a big favor and buy the book “Prescription for the Planet” by Tom Blees. He describes the irony of all ironies.

Beginning in 1951, the United States started a program to prove the viability of a breeder reactor — one that would produce more fuel than it burned.

The program, dubbed EBR-II, evolved at the Argonne West Laboratories in Idaho into a fully functioning IFR, producing electricity and feeding it into the grid.

First, Jimmy Carter shut it down, claiming it was a proliferation risk. Then, in 1994, Bill Clinton and John Kerry not only refused to restart this fully functional IFR prototype, but they had it dismantled and destroyed.

Blees suggests that they owed the environmentalists such a huge political debt that they had no choice.

The irony is that the Russians, Japanese and Chinese had been paying close attention all along and now are decades ahead of the United States with a technology that will lead the world into the 21st century.

But for that mindset that sold us on ethanol and now wants us to buy into wind power, the United States could be energy independent while selling this technology and building modern power plants all over the world. That would create millions of jobs and an enviable trade balance.

 

– Special to the Press Herald