Symposium speakers assert renewable energy’s need for governmental assistance
March 5, 2014
U.S. Congressman Gene Green, Democrat of Texas, alumnus Jimmy Glotfelty of Clean Line Energy and Robert L. Bradley of the Institute of Energy Research took to an elevated podium Tuesday in the Energy Symposium Series in the UH Hilton’s Waldorf-Astoria Ballroom to articulate their opinions about whether governmental support is necessary for renewable energy operations in the state.
“I want Texas to be the energy capital of the world — not just oil and gas,” Green, another UH alumnus, said. He represents the 29th Congressional District that comprises most of eastern Harris County.
Green, whose district contains five refineries and more than 20 chemical plants, pointed out he was also in support of wind and solar energy, categorizing them as important parts of a whole that would be a net positive for the economy of his district as well as Texas. He said that, according to a report he had seen, there would have been rolling and massive brownouts from North to Southeast Texas during Sunday’s rapid cold snap had there not been available wind energy.
“I’m a Republican and I like wind energy,” Glotfelty said in agreement.
Green’s pitch was heavy against criticism of the cost of the Production Tax Credit — the federal incentive for financial support for developing renewable energy facilities. Representing the stance that the PTC works for wind, solar, nuclear and clean coal while still focusing on the perks of wind power, Glotfelty said that “improving wind-turbine technology is increasing capacity factors and reducing wind costs,” a pre-emptive response to Bradley’s later critique that many subsidies to wind companies outweighed other governmental efforts to help energy efficiency.
“Are costs coming down? The answer is yes,” Glotfelty said, pointing to a part of his PowerPoint presentation that said the average contract price for wind energy dropped 43 percent between 2008 and 2012. “The PTC is intended to drive the price of wind down through technology. It’s very good component because it doesn’t have resource costs. It pays for itself. It’s a very Reagan-era policy. 70 percent of turbines built in the U.S. increases tax revenue on all levels. That’s a net positive benefit over PTC cost.”
Founder and CEO of the Institute for Energy Research, Bradley was critical of the money already set aside for wind energy.
“Renewable gets 44 percent of tax preference,” Bradley said. “29 percent goes to overall energy efficiency.”
Bradley said that Enron effectively rescued the wind industry in the mid-90s through a series of large purchases. He explained that his experiences around these companies somewhat soured him to the idea of singular dedication to wind.
“I think we need to stop using the term ‘wind power,’” Bradley said. “It’s wind gas.”
Bradley’s central argument was that there is a fundamental over-reliance on the idea that one form of non-oil and gas energy can be a viable substitute.
“There’s a tension with economic principle of ‘scarce means to unlimited ends,’” Bradley said. “PTC’s are a central planners dream: Open sesame for government waste.”
His focus on the proven sustainability of fossil fuels, bolstered by documented claims from the 1970s that the world was quickly running out of oil, touted his devotion to the free market.
“There should be a separation of government and energy,” Bradley said. “The wind industry will disappear if the PTC is allowed to truly expire.”