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Summary Judgment

Cold Water Thrown On Presidential Hot Air

Jul 01, 2010 | by William Perry Pendley

It came as no surprise to those familiar with President Obama's views on America's energy future that, in his first Oval Office address, he focused, not so much on his efforts to deal with BP Global's (BP's) blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, which was the ostensible subject of the talk, but instead, on the need to enact his cap and trade legislation and to shift from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources. So focused and fixated is Obama on what one pundit called his war on fossil fuels that he will use any opportunity to demagogue on the subject of green energy.

Obama and his team, including Energy Secretary Steven Chu (who opined while at University of California – Berkeley that partnering with BP will save the world), are undaunted and untroubled by the facts. Such as that alternative energy (one Ohio oil man who made a small shift toward wind energy given current subsidies calls it supplemental not alternative energy) is incredibly expensive and inefficient. Moreover, alternative energy sites, such as wind and solar, are unsightly and expansive, as anyone driving across portions of the American West can now testify. Finally, the idea that these energy sources can navigate below the radar or be propelled by the support of environmental groups is to engage in serious self-deception as the opposition of Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to a massive solar project in the California desert shows; her fear is that the desert tortoise will suffer new hardships.

Nevertheless, anyone opposing the energy transition proposed by Obama, former Vice President Al Gore, and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) is subjected to unrelenting ad hominem attacks. For example, Sir Paul McCartney, fresh from his White House visit, recently opined, "Some people don't believe in climate warming -- like those who don't believe there was a Holocaust." Furthermore, federal, state, and local politicians are exerting enormous pressure on energy producers, notwithstanding the absence of a persuasive economic or environmental case for the switch to alternative energy, to do the right thing, show leadership, and commit to a very uncertain future on behalf of their shareholders and rate payers.

A new report prepared at the request of the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States (IPAMS), however, may throw Obama's plans into further doubt. The report, which examined the impact in Colorado and Texas of statutorily imposed alternative energy targets, concludes that those mandated goals are not delivering as promised. Asserted to be certain to yield cleaner, cheaper energy, those mandates have yielded, thus far, costlier energy and a dirtier environment. In fact, it is possible that the new requirements, at least in Colorado, have caused some utilities to violate the Clean Air Act and put the State of Colorado in violations of national sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrous oxide (NOX) standards.

By examining four years of Public Service Company of Colorado (PSCO) hourly operational history, the report addresses the impact of Colorado's adoption, in 2004, of state renewable energy portfolio standards (RPS) mandating increases in wind and solar energy generation Colorado increased the mandate twice since its adoption by legislative initiative. The report finds that, instead of reducing carbon emissions and SO2 and NOX, coal cycling which takes place when coal-fired power plants intermittently integrate wind energy outputs causes plants to operate less efficiently, thereby overriding their pollution control equipment. Paradoxically, using wind energy in this way, says the report, results in greater SO2, NOX and CO2 emissions than if less wind energy were generated and coal generation not cycled. In fact, coal-fired plants in the Denver non-attainment area have increased SO2, NOX, and CO2 emissions during the last few years.

The IPAMS study has implications beyond Colorado. President Obama is pushing a national RPS, as are key members of Congress. With leadership like this, it might be prudent to consider that the first lemming over those Norwegian cliffs could be called a leader.

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