Alternative Energy Sources Offer Minimal Promise

Published November 1, 2009

Each month, Heartland Institute Science Director Jay Lehr presents evidence showing mankind has no significant impact on the Earth’s climate and carbon-reduction mandates are unnecessary and ineffective.

The Nature Conservancy predicts by 2030 “eco-friendly” wind, solar, and biofuel projects will require the development of land equivalent in size to the state of Minnesota, simply to replace the energy we now get from oil, gas, and coal.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s proposal to have offshore wind turbines replace those power sources would require 336,000 gigantic, migratory bird-killing wind turbines off our coasts producing power 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Far more wind turbines would be required under more realistic production conditions.

Where exactly will we site those turbines—and get the billions of tons of concrete, steel, copper, and fiberglass to build and install these expensive, unreliable, subsidized monsters?

The idea that we can run America on solar, wind, and biodiesel is laughable. Since 70 percent of the electricity generated in the United States involves the burning of coal, natural gas, or oil, with another 20 percent coming from nuclear power, any viable alternative energy option is decades away.

A single 555 megawatt gas-fired power plant in California generates more electricity per year than all 13,000 of the state’s wind turbines. The gas-fired plant occupies just 15 acres. The 300-foot-tall wind turbines affect 106,000 acres, destroy scenic vistas, and kill tens of thousands of birds and bats every year, to provide expensive, tax-subsidized, intermittent, insufficient electricity.

The federal government has been investing in renewable power research and technology for decades, with virtually nothing to show for it. Billions of federal dollars are diverted to the industry every year, yet it still cannot come close to producing power anywhere near as economically as conventional sources such as coal and gasoline.