Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Harnessing the Sun and the Wind and the Soil

David Frum has a breakdown of Obama's speech in the National Post today.

He takes note of this point:

And indeed the address itself delivers an ominous early warning of how wasteful Obama’s spending will likely be:

We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.

Obama wants to move away from coal-fired electricity on environmental grounds. Fine. The best alternative, hydropower, is largely tapped out in the United States. (Although there remain some large potential projects in Canada, especially in northern Manitoba.)

So what should be used instead? As a rule of thumb, nuclear power costs about 50% more than coal; windpower, at least three times as much. Solar power costs even more than wind, at least with existing technology.

Those basic cost factors imply that the money Obama wishes to invest in energy technology will almost certainly reduce US economic growth rather than accelerate it. Obama promises that his government will aid the private economy. In reality it will be burdening it.

That needs to be said. Whenever the argument of so-called clean energy comes up, wind, solar and ethanol, the politicians and environmentalists never say that it will hurt the economy. There would be more credibility for the movement if they were up front and said, we think it's worth it, even if it means recessions and unemployment. Instead we hear that it will help the economy, all those "green collar" jobs.

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