Thursday, March 3, 2011

Energy Subsidies:

A Matter of Perception?

The juxtaposition of events could not have been more timely--and more irritating. I had just gotten through reading my morning paper, the Washington Post, and learning that Martin O'Malley, the governor of my fair state of Maryland, is proposing that Maryland ratepayers pay several dollars more a month to subsidize an off-shore wind farm "at a price far above the market rate and at which its developers agree they could turn a profit." [emphasis added] The fee has been estimated at $1.44 a month for residential customers, but a legislative budget analysis puts the initial fee at more than double that--$3.61. Plus, they would tack on a state administrative fee of $0.15 a month to "study" and write offshore wind regulations. And that's just for starters.

I then walked over to my computer and read the day's newsclips there. Among them was a headline from Nuclear Power Daily stating that, "After 50 Years, Nuclear Power is Still Not Viable Without Subsidies." The article refers to a Union of Concerned Scientists report by almost the same name--"Nuclear Power: Still Not Viable Without Subsidies." [Now, I must point out that, at the time of this writing, is some glitch in the Nuclear Power Daily report, as the link to the UCS report goes to a UCS document with a totally different title: EIA Energy Subsidy Estimates: A Review of Assumptions and Omissions. A brief search, however, revealed the right report, and the links in this blog are to the correct reports.] As expected, the UCS reports apply the term subsidy very broadly, labeling measures such as loan guarantees and Price-Anderson accident liability insurance subsidies, even though they are not funded by our electric bills or taxes.

Now, I'm not sure what UCS would call a $3.76/month direct surcharge on my electricity bill for wind that doesn't always blow, but in this case, I would use the "S-word."


1 comment:

  1. You know, of course, that one of the first rules despots implement is the re-defining of language. So naturally UCS would not call payments for a boondoggle wind farm a "subsidy". They'd probably call it an "investment". And maybe throw in "for the children" for good measure.