Wound-up Windmill Welfare Queens


Enlightened self-interest helped this country be great. Rent-seeking, well, not so much. Still, you can’t blame entrepreneurs — even those in the world’s oldest professions — for wanting to put up a fight. Particularly when they are in an outdated, inefficient industry on a decades-long taxpayer-funded gravy train that no one’s questioned with any vigor. Said rent-seekers have decided to throw the long ball and actually claim — instead of defending their subsidies (without which they would not exist) as not all that costly and something they swear they won’t need in a decade or so (which is what they’ve been saying every year for decades) — that more subsidies and mandates will actually heal our economic woes.


Yes, it insults the intelligence — but as I said, you can’t blame them. In the face of some recent pushback — for example, from the studies out of Spain and Denmark referenced in this space on numerous occasions — the windmill welfare queens over at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) have been cranking up the snivel volume to eleven.


Reading the group’s press releases it does seem that they even had a hand in getting the President of the United States to sic a taxpayer-funded agency on a foreign academic study about a foreign country’s experience with its own policies, because said academic team and its writings threaten the welfare if the word gets out.


These releases — eliciting mostly pity — ritually begin by invoking “the Institute for Energy Research (IER), a fossil-fuel industry funded group.” This is styled as a pejorative, implying also that IER is doing the bidding of certain interests. Like, say, the wind-energy funded AWEA, dedicated to securing mandates and subsidy rents for the wind industry.


Of course the AWEA, too, is “a fossil-fuel industry funded group.” Go beyond their members to the industry’s coziness with T-Boone or Aubrey McClendon, or the simple fact that more windmills means more gas — as Spain’s experience has proven, with gas use soaring there as a direct result of their political, tail-wagging-the-dog windmill mandates. Just as T-Boone laid out, windmills mean more gas (they don’t emphasize the minor issue of essentially building twice the “capacity” we would otherwise have to pay for, for this reason).


But move beyond the ritual whimper and you see absurd things like in the recent release complaining of the March 2009 Spanish study that even the Spanish government has ratified in its April 30, 2009 Royal Decree. It contains quite a lot of fluff that has already been substantively rebutted, parroting an attempted distraction by the National Renewable Energy Laboratories — two parties engaged in more back-scratching there never were. But in whining that “the study is largely based on assumptions,” the juvenility is brought into stark relief.


Read the thing yourself, but know that among the NREL complaints are these two: the Spanish authors refused to speculate about the unknowable; and that they applied consensus economics. Their biggest fit comes over the authors refusing to use the input-output (or Leontief) methodology designed for central planning — in which all is assumed (gasp!) as knowable, controllable, and static. That is to say, it’s a method discredited outside of social democratic government agencies and select associated friends.


Instead, the Calzada study relied upon methodology employed by real-world businesses in competitive fields when deciding how to deploy resources, which is not “non-traditional” as dishonestly claimed by NREL and by extension AWEA. In short, it’s feeble, and probably a reason that NREL’s authors and enablers in government and AWEA all refused open debate with Calzada while he was in the U.S. this week.


So anyway, I learn today of behavior like AWEA reps calling in to invite-only conference calls and calling around Capitol Hill probing staffers to see if they plan on meeting with experts whose work exposes AWEA’s racket. Who knows, given their past Enron connections, maybe the practices go a little further. Of course, gentlemen don’t read other gentlemen’s mail (well, not always), but maybe we’d see how their world works by taking peek at how it comes to pass that a federal office is mobilized against an inconvenient academic and his work in another country about another country.


I just wanted to close that way to give this starving little group of (I’m told) over 60 staffers — it takes a lot of money to beg for more money and, dollars being fungible, those are your taxpayer dollars in action — something else to scramble after in fear.


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review