President Joe Biden’s plans for offshore industrial wind facilities lining the nation’s coasts have more than a few hurdles to clear before they can become reality.
As part of his plan to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, Biden has initiated efforts build 30,000 megawatts of traditional offshore wind facilities (with structures attached to the ocean floor) in federal waters by 2030, and an additional 15,000 megawatts of floating industrial offshore wind by 2035. To hit those targets, the Biden administration is pushing to lease areas in federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf of Maine and off the coasts of New England, the Mid-Atlantic States, North Carolina, South Carolina, California, and Oregon.
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, whose department has regulatory control over the U.S. outer continental shelf, discussed the plan at a wind industry gathering in Boston in 2021.
“The Interior Department is laying out an ambitious road map as we advance the administration’s plans to confront climate change, create good-paying jobs, and accelerate the nation’s transition to a cleaner energy future,” Haaland said.
As Haaland made clear, the Biden administration’s offshore wind efforts are about more than fighting climate change. They also amount to a federally financed jobs program with hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars being shoveled into boosting so-called green energy and transportation projects. Think of it as the climate change equivalent of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps and as Biden’s backdoor Green New Deal.
The problem is Biden’s green energy dream is a nightmare for consumers, who will get hit with much higher energy prices.
Fortunately, economic problems created by provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) may erect insurmountable hurdles to Biden’s green dream of giant wind turbines marring the ocean-scapes from sea to shining sea.
Before we get into the economic problems that are entangling various proposed wind projects, let’s talk about the economics that should have ensured none of the proposed offshore industrial wind facilities ever reached the permitting stage.
Offshore wind is absolutely the most expensive source of electric power being considered anywhere, and it is among the most unreliable. The heavy reliance on offshore wind facilities for electricity is one reason why the U.K. now has the highest electric power prices in the world. Unlike markets, where price hikes almost always ensure supplies increase to meet demand and thus ultimately reduce prices, wind power is not dependent on incentives but on nature. Despite high prices, the U.K. and other European nations suffered energy shortages when winds over the North Sea went calm during the summer and left turbines dead in the water for days or weeks at a time.
Let’s talk about the comparative cost. Before generous federal tax credits and other federal and state support, the levelized cost of electricity from new offshore wind is $136.51 per megawatt hour (Mwh), according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Even if new gas pipelines had to be constructed, natural gas could provide energy in place of Biden’s offshore wind monstrosities for a fraction of that cost. In addition, jobs from natural gas production and use don’t have to be subsidized by taxpayers, because those companies do not rely on government support for continued operation: they make profits and pay taxes instead of consuming them.
If you reject natural gas out of hand because it produces greenhouse gases at the point of generation, either solar at $36.49/Mwh before tax credits or onshore wind at $40.23/Mwh would be a much better deal for taxpayers and ratepayers than offshore wind.
Offshore industrial wind facilities are nothing more than big virtue-signaling boondoggles—a windfall for the politically connected companies that build and operate them.
Or they would be, if reality didn’t raise its ugly head. To wit:
“Plans for massive offshore wind farms that President Joe Biden hopes will power as many as 10 million American homes by 2030 are starting to wobble,” Bloomberg recently reported. The New Jersey utility Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), which owns 25 percent of Ocean Wind 1, proposed to be the largest offshore wind facility off the coast of New Jersey, is considering pulling out the project. Ocean Wind I is expected to deploy 98 gigantic 12-megawatt turbines, towering 900 feet above mean low water level at their blade tips, and would be located 13 miles offshore from Atlantic City. If operational and functioning as designed, it would generate 1.1 gigawatts, enough for 500,000 homes.
The problem for PSEG is that material and labor costs are rising and supply chain shortages persist in delaying construction. These problems are not unique to Ocean Wind I. Bloomberg noted in mid-October, “New England utility Avangrid Inc. said its similarly sized Commonwealth Wind project was no longer viable because of higher costs and supply chain woes.”
“‘Global commodity price increases, in part due to ongoing war in Ukraine, sharp and sudden increases in interest rates, prolonged supply chain constraints, and persistent inflation have significantly increased the expected cost of constructing the project,’ [Avangrid’s] attorneys said in the filing,” Bloomberg reports. These problems have forced Avangrid to ask state regulators to pause their review of its contract so the company can reevaluate the timeline and cost estimates.
Further complicating Biden’s grandiose offshore wind plans are provisions in the recently enacted and grossly misnamed Inflation Reduction Act. Although the IRA subsidies for green energy technologies such as offshore wind are lavish, they come with labor-union-favoring strings attached, which will almost certainly prevent many projects from coming to fruition.
I have written previously about the how the “Buy American” and prevailing wage provisions in the IRA are likely to make its goals for electric vehicle use impossible. The auto industry notes the provisions requiring the materials used to construct and power electric cars be produced and/or manufactured in America will make it virtually impossible to replace all gasoline-powered vehicles in the time demanded. Those minerals and materials are not mined, refined, or assembled in America, and there is no evidence environmental laws currently preventing their domestic development and manufacture will be changed soon. Mines opened in 2030, 2035, or beyond won’t get electric vehicles manufactured or sold today.
Those provisions or similar ones apply to offshore wind developers applying for federal loans, subsidies, and tax credits.
Tax credit bonuses are awarded only for offshore wind projects that pay their workers “prevailing” union wages, meaning they cannot use low-cost contractors. More importantly, the IRA has a domestic-content requirement for the components used in every facet of a large wind operation. Nacelles, turbines, batteries, wires, and other items must have at least 40 percent domestically produced content if construction begins before 2025, and 55 percent if construction begins after 2026. There is absolutely no evidence these “Buy America” standards can be met by any industrial offshore wind project currently in the construction or permitting stage.
In fact, the provisions are likely to wind up before an international tribunal because our European allies and probably the Chinese, who would be affected the most by the domestic content requirements, will want to challenge them as unfair trade practices under various trade agreements.
As a matter of economics, the large-scale, rapid approval of offshore wind projects makes no sense when compared to any other possible source of electric power. As a matter or energy security, Biden’s plan is downright dangerous: it would subject large areas of the United States to unpredictable periodic power outages. Fortunately, as a practical matter the provisions in the IRA intended to get labor unions to support it are likely to foil many if not all of Biden’s grand schemes for offshore wind. At least we had better hope they do.
IN THIS ISSUE …
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK SHOWS NO ANTHROPOGENIC CLIMATE DECLINE … UHI BIASES CANADIAN TEMPERATURE DATA
GLACIER NATIONAL PARK SHOWS NO ANTHROPOGENIC CLIMATE DECLINE
The decline of Glacier National Park’s glaciers is commonly attributed to anthropogenic climate change, but research indicates glaciers wax and wane in response to natural cycles and the recent glacial decline began long before humans began putting significant amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates glacier cover in Glacier National Park declined by approximately 70 percent between 1850 and 2015. Melting began at the end of the Little Ice Age (LIA) in 1850. Surveys began only in the 1880s, but the evidence suggests the glaciers were in retreat before then and had been expanding during the LIA before that.
Discussing Glacier National Park’s history, Judith Curry, Ph.D. explains,
Looking … back, Glacier National Park was virtually ice free 11,000 years ago. Glaciers have been present within the boundaries of present-day Glacier National Park since about 6,500 years ago. [link] These glaciers have varied in size, tracking climatic variations, but did not grow to their recent maximum size until the end of the Little Ice Age, around 1850. An 80-year period (~1770-1840) of cool, wet summers and above-average winter snowfall led to a rapid growth of glaciers just prior to the end of the Little Ice Age. So, the recent loss of glacier mass must be understood in light of the fact the glaciers reached their largest mass for the past 11,000 years during the 19th century.
More recently, data in a 2017 USGS report show glaciers in the park declined by approximately 50 percent from the end of the LIA to 1966, the equivalent of a 4.5 percent loss per decade. The decline slowed between 1966 and 1988, to about 3.7 percent per decade, a 12 percent decrease. Between 1998 and 2015, the glacier loss slowed further, averaging a loss of 2.8 percent per decade. This USGS report clearly shows glaciers in the park were declining much more rapidly in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when human carbon dioxide emissions were negligible, than they have been during the recent period of rapid increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.
Since 2015 it appears the glacial retreat may have halted entirely, Curry notes, with some evidence suggesting seven consecutive years of normal to above-normal snowpack and multiyear instances of “exceptionally cold outbreak[s]” have resulted in a modest increase in glacier cover.
The evidence strongly suggests nature, not human activities, drives glacial expansion and contraction in Glacier National Park.
SOURCE: Climate Etc.
UHI BIASES CANADIAN TEMPERATURE DATA
Roy Spencer, Ph.D., principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, has found the urban heat island (UHI) effect biases the reported temperature data in Canadian cities.
On comparing rural temperature monitoring sites across Canada with urban ones for the summers of 1978 through 2022, Spencer found a significant average nighttime warm bias in urban areas, plus a weaker daytime effect. When the ground-based temperature data was compared to the temperatures recorded by the Landsat satellite system, Spencer discovered an overall “hot” bias of as much as 20 percent for the two cities, with as much as a 50 percent nighttime bias in Calgary.
Spencer found techniques used to adjust for bias in temperature data performed poorly for urban areas:
Current “homogenization” techniques for thermometer data adjustment do not explicitly attempt to correct urban trends to match rural trends, although I would expect that they do perform this function if most of the stations are rural. Instead, they amount to statistical “consensus-building” exercises where the majority wins. So, if most of the stations are affected by increasing UHI effects, to varying degrees, these are not forced to match the rural stations. Instead, the reverse occurs. For example, in the U.S. the Watts et al. analysis of station data showed that the U.S. homogenized dataset (USHCN) produced temperature trends as large as those produced by the stations with the worst siting in terms of spurious heat sources. They further found that use of only well-sited thermometer locations leads to substantial reductions in temperature trends compared to the widely used homogenized dataset.
Spencer compared temperature data from 70 ground-based systems with Landsat data to determine how the UHI affects 10 urbanized areas in Canada. The results are shown in Table 1:
Based on this comparison, Spencer concludes,
Canadian cities show a substantial urban heat island effect in the summer, especially at night, and Landsat-based estimates of increased urbanization suggest that this has caused a spurious warming component of reported temperature trends, at least for locations experiencing increased urbanization. …
The issue is important because rational energy policy should be based upon reality, not perception. To the extent that global warming estimates are exaggerated, so will be energy policy decisions.
SOURCE: Dr. Roy Spencer
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