By “Matt Lewis & The News” guest blogger Emily Zanotti
The Department of Energy has finally released a report detailing the absolutely massive success that is American wind energy production. Even though it’s threatening to kill off entire species of birds and has almost completely destroyed John Kerry’s ability to windsurf off the coast of his summer home, after two decades of government subsidies, finally America has a fever and the only prescription is more wind energy.
More than 20 gigawatts of proposed wind entered the queue in 2012, behind natural gas’s 55 GW but ahead of solar, nuclear and coal, according to DOE’s 2012 Wind Technologies Market Report. Wind power’s recent jumps in production capacity mean that the overall queue has 125 GW of wind in it, more than twice the wind capacity that currently exists in the U.S., and just short of natural gas, which has 130 GW in the queue.
Unfortunately, while requests to put up windmills on useless land is jumping, partly because its a way to profit off the government by letting them take up fields people weren’t using anyway and partly because, as we know, Department of Energy subsidies are incredibly lucrative and policed about as well as the Drug Bridge at the annual Gathering of the Juggalos, it seems interest is actually declining. According to the same report, interest in wind as an alternative energy overall is down by 59%, second only to the decline in interest in coal, which is down almost 75%. The DOE estimates that most people are looking into solar and natural gas.
Why the decline? Well, the DOE makes a big point of leading off the report with a powerful statistic. Wind now accounts for a whopping 812 megawatts in the U.S. at the end of 2012. The DOE considers this a resounding success, and I guess it should considering what it has to compare it to, but if you parse that out, that means wind energy is powering about .7% of American homes. And the cost to power that .7% is astronomical: we spent nearly $100 billion of taxpayer funds on wind energy .
And that’s if you don’t consider how much room it takes to make wind power possible. Even if you’re not crazy about solar power (and if you live in the Midwest like I do, your weather makes it basically impossible, plus who wants to spend days cleaning solar panels?), according to land use studies, it takes a fraction of the space needed for wind turbines to produce the same amount of energy through solar panels. It takes even less space to produce that same amount of energy using a nuclear power plant, but no one at an OFA Climate Change sit-in is ever going to let one of those move in next door. That is, if anyone ever shows up to an OFA Climate Change sit-in.
According to one speech by Dominion Virginia Power’s CEO, who is trying to “green” his existing fleet of repair trucks with electric, natural gas and biodiesel vehicles, if Virgina only used wind energy for electric power, windmills would need to cover 1/5 of Virginia’s surface area just to power his fleet.
Not exactly minimizing the human footprint on Gaia, there.
So in short, for all Obama’s hard work at stimulating energy independence through the DOE’s support of alternative fuel production, we’re probably not getting our money’s worth: at least $100 billion for less than 1% of our domestic energy production, and that’s probably at the height of its popularity. Of course, Al Gore would probably say it was a fair trade off, especially since to keep his job he needs to keep those Qatari oil barons in business.
Emily Zanotti is a political communications consultant and the editor-in-chief of NakedDC.com, an incredibly fantastic political gossip and humor blog that all of you should read.