Columnist Larry Bell recently published a misleading critique of the state of the American renewable energy industry in his article “Too-Green-To-Fail Energy Policies Fail Achievement Tests.” Mr. Bell made a slew of errors (including misidentifying FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff as “Jon Wellington,”), many of which were pointed out by Michael Goggin in his article, “Fact Check: Larry Bell’s List of Errors.” To give you an idea of the number of erroneous statements in Mr. Bell’s article, consider this excerpt from Mr. Goggin’s response:
I’d recommend going back and reading the DOE report, as you’d find that it directly refutes almost all of your attacks on wind energy. For example, it’s hard to claim that wind energy isn’t abundant, when the report identifies enough economically viable wind resources to meet our electricity needs a dozen times over. It’s also difficult to attack wind’s emissions benefits when the report concludes that 20% wind would reduce CO2 emissions by 825 million tons in the year 2030 alone and 7.6 billion tons cumulatively, in addition to large amounts of other harmful pollutants. Moreover, the report finds 20% wind would save 4 trillion gallons of water cumulatively by 2030 and substantially reduce natural gas prices by diversifying our energy portfolio away from fossil fuels. The DOE study also finds 20% wind could create over 500,000 new jobs, making it difficult for you to claim that wind energy is not a powerful job creation tool.
Unfortunately, the misstatements don’t stop there. Mr. Bell also attacks the Midwest ISO’s (MISO) Multi-Value Projects (MVP) cost allocation proposal by stating that, “Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Chairman Jon Wellington [sic, Wellinghoff] announced plans to impose a $300 million to $500 million surtax on utility bills to cover the costs of creating renewable power transmission lines across 13 Midwest states.” To begin addressing this misinformed statement, characterizing this as Mr. Wellinghoff’s plan is simply incorrect. Not only did the MVP plan originate from the Midwest ISO, but 83% of MISO states approve of the proposal. In addition, MISO’s proposal would proportionately allocate costs from new transmission lines to ratepayers based on reliability and economic benefits, not arbitrarily spreading the costs around as Mr. Bell would have his readers believe. What’s more, these additional costs are a small proportion of consumers’ utility bills, averaging about 7% nationwide and only 4% in MISO member Michigan. If every single “Starter Project” line proposed under the MVP plan were approved (an unlikely scenario that would cost $5 billion), Midwest ISO ratepayers’ utility bills would only increase by $0.60 per month — a number that looks much different than Mr. Bell’s alarmist “$300 million to $500 million surtax.”
The United States should make much-needed investments in transmission infrastructure to harness location-constrained renewable energy resources that will increase U.S. energy independence, increase national security, reduce costly blackouts, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create good manufacturing and construction jobs that can’t be outsourced. Misleading arguments such as Mr. Bell’s will unfortunately maintain the status quo, keeping the United States dependent on dirty fossil fuels and foreign oil instead of utilizing this opportunity to transition the United States towards a clean and safe energy future.