August 26, 2010 - more tidal; subsidies in question

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I'm continuing to follow the successes of tidal energy developer ORPC.  This article quotes ORPC President and CEO Chris Sauer as calling Eastport the “Kitty Hawk” of the tidal power industry.  (Add this to Maine's list of comparative titles, including the Saudi Arabia of wind, the Saudi Arabia of biomass and forestry and the Silicon Valley of ocean energy.)

Here's a letter to the editor of the Bangor Daily News pointing out the subsidies applied to fossil fuels versus renewables.  The author agrees with a previous editorial's claim that fossil fuel subsidies were 12 times higher than alternative energy subsidies, but adds additional figures from the Energy Information Agency.  The author claims that natural gas or petroleum-produced electricity gets a subsidy of $0.25 for every million megawatt hours produced -- yes, that's a reward of one shiny coin per million MWh produced -- while wind gets a subsidy of $23.37 per MWh.  (I suspect there is a typo here, because the author concludes that the wind subsidy is "100 times more than fossil fuels", whereas these numbers would appear to support a less credible claim of wind being subsidized "100 million times more" than gas/oil.  The author then claims that recent home weatherization and efficiency improvements have been made "without government subsidies but with free market forces."

I suspect quasi-governmental entities like the Efficiency Maine Trust and the Maine State Housing Authority might argue that subsidies, incentives, and other state government spending programs deserve significant credit for residential efficiency improvements.  Rather than argue those points here, it's worth noting that the author of the editorial raises interesting policy questions about which tools are appropriate to achieve state energy, environmental and social goals.  Due to the complex layering of both energy production businesses and federal and state governments, an exact calculation of the subsidies available for various resources can prove challenging.  This debate is a fine illustration of the challenges of an apples-to-apples comparison of various resources' costs to society.

It's great to hear that here in Augusta, three hiking trail systems are about to be interconnected:
the Augusta Greenway Trail running along the Kennebec River's east bank, the Kennebec River Rail Trail along the river's west bank, and ultimately the Viles Arboretum trails on the east side.

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