Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Amy Klohuchar Guiding with a Whip

Amy Klobuchar believes all it takes for technical  advancement is to mandate it.

Udall, Udall, and Klobuchar introduce bill to enact renewable energy standard

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Mark Udall (D-CO), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) have introduced legislation that would enact a federal Renewable Energy Standard (RES).
The bill would set the first national threshold for renewable electricity by requiring utilities to generate 25 percent of their electricity from wind, solar geothermal, and other renewable energy sources by 2025. Utilities would be required to provide a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable resources – with a 6-percent requirement by 2013, followed by gradual increases thereafter to meet the goal of 25 percent by 2025.
We have seen this mode of guidance before.  The ethanol programs were the first attempt.  We now have reports of:
Minuses: Ethanol is energy intensive to produce, and the recent boom has pushed corn prices to more than $5 a bushel (from $2 in 2006). That is increasing the cost of everything from beef to soft drinks. The biofuels craze is helping drive up grain prices worldwide as farmers devote more acres to corn and less to other crops. Over 450 pounds of corn are needed to fill a 25-gallon tank with ethanol_ enough calories to feed a person for a year. 
 and this from Yale studies
Thus have biofuels made the slow fade from green to brown. It is a sad irony of the biofuels experience that resource alternatives that seemed farmer-friendly and green have turned out so badly.

 The amount of water used to produce the ethanol is huge, as well as carbon based product required to produce and distill the ethanol.
Since most U.S. ethanol is produced from corn and the required electricity from many distilleries comes mainly from coal plants, there has been considerable debate about how sustainable corn-based bio-ethanol could be in replacing fossil fuels in vehicles.

There are similar pitfalls for the use of air power turbines.  The flicker from light interference and noise pollution contribute to the unintended consequences.  Add to that the inconsistent energy supply, wind doesn't always blow, and we still have to have traditional power plants as backup.

Encouraging technology development for alternative energy systems is a good endeavor.  We will ultimately need them.  However that is better done with a consistent tax policy and research and development incentives.  One of my particular favorites as something that can produce fuel that could be used in our existing fleet of cars is algae based fuels.  We have some very interesting programs for this at the University of Minnesota. and here. While these are very promising, they are still in their infancy and not yet ready for prime time, regardless of mandates.

In the land of unintended consequences, mandating technology developments and forcing ambiguous and ultimately bad choices seems to be a liberals first choice.  Amy Klobuchar and other environmental activist supporters do not have a very good track record for success.  But they are very successful  at spending other peoples money to no good effect.

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