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No industrialized society can replace conventional power with wind, solar

Published: Monday, Feb. 18, 2013 11:55 a.m. CDT

To the editor:

While I don’t doubt that your region produces excellent wind turbines and I can understand Rep. Dan Kelley’s desire to “look forward,” it is also important to consider whether or not President Obama’s drive to replace a significant amount of coal-fired electricity generation with wind power makes any sense on a national level.

Even though wind and solar power have had decades to mature, energy from these sources still costs between three and ten times that from coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear.

While Obama was right to say in his State of the Union address that, “Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America”, this only happened because the American government funneled vast amounts of money into wind subsidies. 

No industrialized society can replace a large fraction of conventional power generation with intermittent and diffuse sources such as wind and solar.

We need massive quantities of reliable, high quality power to run steel mills, Internet servers and our transportation system, even when the wind drops or a cloud passes in front of the sun. 

Obama’s opposition to coal is not because of supply problems – the U.S. has enough to last for centuries.  It is not because of cost – coal is the least expensive of all sources and, unlike natural gas, its price remains steady for years. It is not because of pollution – modern coal stations are far cleaner than ever before. 

It is because the President believes that carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion, coal in particular, is causing a climate crisis. Yet this idea is falling into disrepute as the world fails to warm as forecast by computer models even while CO2 continues to rise quickly.

It’s time for Obama to change his mind on America’s most important power source and, while still supporting wind power, keep its contribution in proper perspective.

Tom Harris

Executive Director

International Climate Science Coalition

Ottawa, Ont., Canada

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