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Bang for Our Buck?



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We’ve posted at length about the huge costs associated with non-hydropower renewable fuels like wind and solar. And I’ve written about the fact that we get so much more energy from conventional fuels than from renewables, on a subsidy-per-output basis. So, how much of a dent are wind, solar, and other non-hydro renewables making in our overall electricity supply?   According to the latest data from the Energy Information Administration, in January, February, and March 2009, non-hydro renewables accounted for 3.16, 3.44, and 3.95 percent, respectively, of all electricity generated in the U.S. Granted, these contributions are higher than non-hydro renewables’ overall contribution for 2008 (3.01 percent), but intermittent technologies are still not capable of meeting bulk demand, given their inherent on-and-off nature, our lack of commercial-scale electricity storage, and our electricity-transmission limitations. 

But hey, that’s okay. As I’ve written before, we should tap all resources, from coal to solar, and let them contribute to our electricity supply in whatever way technology and economics allow. The market can find the appropriate mix. Throwing more and more money at — and imposing more and more mandates for — economically less efficient fuels is not the answer to getting more (and less expensive) energy and electricity.

I’m all for wind and solar and everything else under the sun, but let them stand on their own two feet and find their cost-benefit-appropriate place in our fuel supply. 



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