While the pros and cons of the Fiscal Cliff deal continue to swirl in the pool of the American body politic, and the debate rages on even here in an orangy and "robust" fashion, here's one nugget of good news that relates to the deal and affects all of our lives in a positive way, regardless of your leanings on the deal:
Wind-turbine installations are poised to exceed natural gas-fueled power plants in the U.S. for the first time this year as developers race to complete projects before a renewable energy tax credit expires.Wind power installations are exceeding hydro-fracked backed natural gas installations (as well as coal) for the first time in our history and it's because of a tax credit that was set to expire on December 31st if a deal could not be brokered.
New wind capacity reached 6,519 megawatts this year, so far beating natural gas and coal, and the reason we, as a society, were able to clear our air a little more, reduce CO2 emissions, offset another rural drinking water aquifer poisoning, maybe reduce another mountain top removal, is because of a tax credit that encourages wind generation that utilities took advantage of and would like to continue to do so.
The tax credit offers a 2.2 cent per kilowatt-hour incentive to utilities for 10 years for installations completed before January 1. Here's another case where the government can encourage changes in our society that lead directly to better health outcomes, longer lives, clearer skies, and cleaner drinking water.
It was thought that if the tax incentive expired and went over the Fiscal Cliff (along with other things that people depend on) well then this was a possibility:
Unless Congress extends the incentive, wind turbine installations may fall 88 percent next year to as low as 1.5 gigawatts, New Energy Finance forecasts.I don't know about you but I enjoy clearer skies, cleaner drinking water, full mountains with their tops still on them, and power generation that has a very small ecological footprint.
As this article notes, the uncertainty over whether or not the tax incentive would be renewed had negative effects on industry jobs and product orders for companies that manufacture wind turbines and their parts. Hopefully, now that the deal has passed, more stability will be seen in the wind energy sector and utilities will start to order more turbines again putting people back to work and cleaning up our energy production at the same time.
Meanwhile, in the Gulf of Alaska, Shell Oil's exploratory drilling rig Kulluk ran aground on the southeast of Sitkalidak Island, stranded with over 150,000 gallons of diesel fuel and oil-based lubricants on it. This is the same drilling rig Shell Oil boasts will explore the Arctic Ocean for oil, an effort so far that has been wracked with numerous safety and environmental violations. The strait where the Kulluk sits, run aground, is home to an endangered species of sea lion, over 250 bird species, and the Kodiak brown bear.
The more we do as a nation to move towards a cleaner power generation paradigm and the more we offset Big Oil, Hydro-frackers, and mountain whackers I see as a victory. A victory not just for us. But for our planet. For fish, for animals, for poor rural residents who are powerless against hydro-frackers and mountain whackers who degrade the landscape and poison ground and drinking water around them.
To be as balanced as I can, one critic of extending the wind generation tax incentive was Exelon Corp. Know who Exelon Corp is? Well they're the largest operator of nuclear power plants in the U.S. Seems as though Exelon doesn't like how wind is cheaper than most other energy options and although ALL energy sectors (ESPECIALLY nuclear) receive subsidies, they think for some reason that wind should stop getting a subsidy and being so darn competitive:
"At this juncture, wind power can and should stand on its own in competing with other clean energy alternatives," the company said in a statement.And:
Some utilities oppose the plan, noting that the strength of installations shows wind can survive without subsidy, according to Joseph Dominguez, a senior vice president of Exelon Corp. (EXC), the largest owner of U.S. nuclear power plants.I'm sure Exelon considers "clean coal" as "clean" energy, or natural gas, or nuclear as "clean energy." But I'm fairly certain there are a few people in the world who would argue otherwise. No, what Exelon's gripe boils down to is that wind drives down energy prices for consumers, which is good for America, but that means Exelon won't make as much money because the energy market is too competitive for its liking.
Though Exelon is also a major wind-farm operator, it opposed the tax credit for distorting energy markets and driving down margins at competitive power producers.And in a Free Market System, dontcha know, when things get too competitive the Big Boys start complaining. Now, to be fair, Exelon is also involved in wind power generation, so they at least have the facade of being an objective critic. But by far their biggest holdings are in in nuclear power. They also own coal fired plants as well. They have a few horses in this race, but there's at least one horse they've thrown a lot of money into (hint: nuclear). I think this quote shines brightly the hypocritical (and ironic) position Exelon put itself in opposing the extension of the wind energy tax incentive:
It’s worth noting the irony of Exelon, a large nuclear plant operator, complaining about a production tax credit. Since 2005 new nuclear plants have been eligible for a production tax credit of $18 per megawatt-hour. This, of course, is on top of at least $185 billion in federal subsidies the nuclear industry has received since 1947.So if Exelon wants to suggest that wind power should stop receiving subsidies or help from the government so that it "stands on its own", well then I'm of the mind to say, Why stop there? Let's let the Free Market play out then. Remove the subsidies from nuclear, from coal, from natural gas, and Big Oil. Let's see how this ends up. I'm guessing that Exelon might not think like I do. I'm guessing they want that sweet, sweet cake and the cookies too.
Anyhoo, here's one part of the Fiscal Cliff deal (extension of the wind energy tax incentive) that I think is very positive. And part of my New Year's intentions is to be more positive. To look for the positive news in the world and spread it. The market for negative news is pretty well saturated and we could all use positive news every now and then to inch the balance a little more towards positivity. May the wind be at our backs (and pushing those turbines)!
MTL (a.k.a. Ramblings Over Earth)