As reported by Tom Johnson of NJ Spotlight, Hal Bozarth, executive director of the Chemical Council of New Jersey and an opponent of offshore wind development recently said,
“Without big federal subsidies, you cannot make wind power affordable.”
That’s a lot of chutzpah from someone whose industry receives big federal subsidies.
His statement was in response to NRG Energy’s withdrawal from the offshore wind business in New Jersey. NRG’s rationale was the uncertain regulatory climate and the lack of subsidies for offshore wind developers.
How hypocritical that Bozarth is opposed to subsidies for this clean technology. After all, the oil and gas industries, on which Bozarth’s members depend, have received government subsidies for decades. And the taxpayer has been repeatedly called upon to spend billions to clean up oil, gas, and chemical spills and to pay for health care due to chemical pollution of the atmosphere.
Despite the mantra of the Republican Tea Party, there are important roles that the government plays. One is assuming risk for bold and important initiatives that would otherwise not be taken on. A prime example is one of the capstone achievements of the past century, landing a man on the moon. No commercial company would have assumed the $25 billion risk (in 1960s dollars) without a specific short-term financial reward. Yet the space program gave us thousands of down-to-earth competitive advantages in technology, communications, and health
New Jersey has a competitive advantage over most other states. The conditions of the state’s offshore coast are ideal for siting of wind generation turbines. But just as commercial companies are now starting to sprout up in the space transportation industry, it will take some time, and some investment of taxpayer dollars, before offshore wind moves from a nascent technology to an economically viable enterprise.
New Jersey has another important energy choice to make. The license to operate the Oyster Creek nuclear plant in Lacey Township expires in eight years. Governor Christie wants to build another reactor at the Salem site. That solution would perpetuate dirty energy along with the hidden costs of disposal of highly radioactive waste, not to mention the potential cost of a Fukushima-type accident.
A nuclear plant will require federal and state investment in development, safety, and infrastructure. So will any other type of electric power generation facility. So why not invest in wind? It’s cleaner than nuclear, gas, or oil, and does not require raping the environment to extract the energy.
So my chutzpah quote of the day is, “I’m willing to bet Mitt Romney $10,000 that wind is cheaper than fossil fuels in the long run when all costs are taken into account.”