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Effects of Renewable Energy Policy


To the editor: 


Paul Lysen

Annandale, MN


Human-caused global climate change is an article of faith for the Left and any sacrifice demanded of us to curb it is justified. Gov. Walz’ has joined the chorus by proposing that Minnesota legislate “carbon-free” electricity generation by 2040 along with other “clean energy” mandates like allowing only electric cars to be sold. Does he realize what a disaster this would be for Minnesota’s energy future? Some have talked about pouring our revenue surplus of $18 billion surplus into clean energy technology. But, what would we get for our money?


Minnesota currently generates almost 30% of its electricity from wind and solar power. As the percentage of renewable energy has increased, so has the cost to the customer. Electricity costs in Minnesota have increased more than twice as fast as the national average since 2007. But, wait until Walz’ proposed energy mandates kick in. To meet them by 2040 we will have to erect twelve times the number of wind turbines that have been built in the last 15 years (according to a Center of the American Experiment report). This massive new energy infrastructure, including transmission lines, would raise the cost of electricity for residential households by an average of $1650 per year over the next 18 years (Center of the American Experiment report).


Once this infrastructure is built, will we at least have dependable electricity? No, wind and solar power, the backbone of renewable energy, are intermittent and weather-dependent. Natural gas or nuclear energy backup generation is needed but purists won’t accept their use. Battery storage is short-term and expensive, so reserve capacity comes from overbuilding more windmills and solar panels. But, that won’t assure a backup supply. Blackouts will be inevitable, especially in winter (Center of the American Experiment report).


For the country as a whole, generating all electricity from wind and solar power and storing it in batteries would turn the country into forests of windmill towers and prairies of solar panels. Windmills would cover 350,000 square miles, 12% of the total land in the U.S. (equal to two Californias), and require 240,000 miles of new transmission lines to connect up with distant population centers (Center of the American Experiment report). Wind turbines and solar panels have limited life spans, 20 and 25 years, respectively, and are expensive to remove. Already, dead metal forests of decommissioned windmills (about 15,000) litter the landscape in America.


Requiring all cars to be electric will compound the demands made on the electrical grid. Charging batteries will be restricted to certain hours and waiting in lines for an hour-long battery charge when you run out away from home will become common. Materials needed for building these cars, as well as for wind turbines and solar panels, include copper, nickel, lithium, cobalt, silicon, and rare earth minerals. These are not abundant in the U.S. and are mined in a number of countries, but refined mostly in China. Eighty percent of the solar panels made in the world come from China.


Wind turbines, in addition to their lack of cost effectiveness and reliability, are also known to be bird choppers. One researcher reports that hundreds of thousands of birds and bats are killed each year by turbine blades. In the Altamont Pass of California, 75 to 110 golden eagles are hacked to death every year (Golden Gate Audubon Society).

The health of people living near wind farms is adversely affected, too, and many rural communities have been successfully fighting the sitting of wind (and solar) farms in their areas.


If “green” energy is so efficient and so vital to the future of the planet, why won’t market forces sustain it? Why do wind and solar installations receive massive government subsidies that mask the true cost of their energy production? These subsidies were not meant to be permanent, but only to get production underway. Now, should the subsidies end, so will green power.


So, why are we eagerly spending billions of dollars to transform our energy grid when the costs clearly outweigh the benefits? Gov. Walz would like households in Minnesota to pay thousands more each year for electricity, tolerate power outages in winter, buy expensive electric cars, and kowtow to China. Yes, he says, but we have a mission to save the planet! We are told that if we eliminate carbon emissions from fossil fuels, global climate change will cease and the world will be a happy place at last.


Once we have spent billions (trillions?) of dollars reducing the CO2 in the atmosphere, what will we have gained? According to the federal MAGICC climate model, eliminating all “human-caused” CO2 in the U.S. would reduce global temperatures by an amount too small to measure. Actually, all of the billions spent on CO2 abatement over the years has made no difference in global temperatures. How does this result save the planet? What is the point of wasting our productive capacity on achieving the meaningless goal of carbon-free electricity when India and China will continue to spew forth tons of carbon emissions swamping our efforts to limit them, anyway? Continuing to chase this chimerical goal will only drain away resources from families and communities while opening the door to authoritarian government.


If climate science wasn’t under the thumb of left-wing ideologues, additional CO2 in the atmosphere would be welcomed. The polar icecaps have not melted, the seas have not risen, and the world has not become a hothouse (the Viking Age was warmer than today). Global climate disaster predictions are always wrong. CO2 is not a pollutantit’s plant food. Trees, grass, and crops would grow faster and more productively. CO2 is still only about .04% of the atmosphere—a little more won’t cause the oceans to boil. Even if more CO2 means slightly warmer temperatures worldwide, what a boon that could be for the Asian landmass, much of which is too cool for significant crop production.

So what should we do then?


Nothing. Go back to burning coal and gas.