Tuesday, November 09, 2010

We Just Have to Get Past "Cheap"

Our addiction to fossil fuels, especially coal and petroleum, is based on one thing - price.   Today, at least, fossil fuels deliver the greatest bang for the buck and, for that advantage, most of us would prefer to stick with them.   Hydrocarbon fuels may contribute enormously to global warming but, hey, don't ask me to pay more for clean and don't you dare ask me to give up my SUV either.

Today's New York Times reports that green energy is taking a kicking over cost in the current market:

"...Invenergy, had a contract to sell power to a utility in Virginia, but state regulators rejected the deal, citing the recession and the lower prices of natural gas and other fossil fuels.

“The ratepayers of Virginia must be protected from costs for renewable energy that are unreasonably high,” the regulators said. Wind power would have increased the monthly bill of a typical residential customer by 0.2 percent.

Even as many politicians, environmentalists and consumers want renewable energy and reduced dependence on fossil fuels, a growing number of projects are being canceled or delayed because governments are unwilling to add even small amounts to consumers’ electricity bills.

Deals to buy renewable power have been scuttled or slowed in states including Florida, Idaho and Kentucky as well as Virginia. By the end of the third quarter, year-to-date installations of new wind power dropped 72 percent from 2009 levels, according to the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group.

The long range problem is that allowing the fate of green energy to hinge on price fluctuations for non-renewable fossil fuels, denies alternative fuels the market stability they need to survive, much less succeed and thrive.   This short-sighted neglect sacrifices long term benefits for temporary savings.   I guess that's the way we run our societies today which is probably an object lesson for just how well we're going to meet the challenges of this century.


Beijing York said...

That cheapness mentality is the same reason corporate giants like Walmart have been able to promote off-shored cheap labour production, oil dependent long-haul distribution, and mass consumption.

Eric said...

At least many utilities allow individuals to pay that slight premium to support renewables - Windsource from Xcel, for example.

I'd rather have renewable standards but at least principled individuals can make the switch as they please.

I've been surprised at how many of my forward-thinking friends didn't know about the option, or hadn't bothered yet. House-at-a-time is slow, but I evangelize. :)