Newsletter 89 - Spring 2018
*See something, say something
*Misguided renewable energy plan
*Costly fuel cells
*In his own words (Justice Scalia)
*Simply put (Ronald Reagan)
See something, say something – As an advocate of fiscal responsibility, SAFE is appalled by the government’s fiscal recklessness. Gross debt now stands at $21 trillion, having nearly quadrupled since FY 2001, and is projected to hit $30 trillion by 2029.
Major adjustments would be required to improve this outlook, and if this country’s political leaders fail to act, the consequences could be dire. Don’t count on finessing fiscal problem, 3/5/18.
Perhaps our warnings will be for naught, but SAFE reached out to eight key players in the recent budget negotiations: President Donald Trump, Rep. Paul Ryan, Sen. Mitch McConnell, Sen. Chuck Schumer, Sen. Tom Carper, Sen. Chris Coons, Rep. Kevin Brady, and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.
Our letters were tailored to the positions and actions of the individual leaders; here’s hoping that they (or their staffs) will be inspired to read some of the underlying analyses. SAFE to DC: Please fix this problem [includes links to the letters], 2/26/18.
Misguided renewable energy plan, John Nichols (adapted from a 2/16/18 talk to the Retired Men’s Luncheon Club) - In 2005, Delaware and several other states (currently MD, NY & the New England states) entered into a regional cap and trade plan aimed at reducing CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels to generate electric power.
The Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards Act (REPSA) was subsequently enacted as a means of meeting Delaware’s commitment. Under REPSA, electric power distributors in the state must obtain a rising percentage (25% by 2025) of the power they sell from “renewable energy” sources (e.g., wind or solar) and offset any shortfalls with payments that go to subsidize the production of power from renewable sources.
Wind and sunlight are free and don’t have to be replaced, hence the “renewable” label, but this doesn’t hold true for facilities used to generate electric power from these sources. Both wind turbines and solar panels have a large environmental footprint, and substantial amounts of natural resources (including rare earth minerals, obtained primarily from “dirty” mining operations in China) are required to fabricate and install them.
Further muddying the waters, the General Assembly amended REPSA in 2011 to create a new renewable energy category – fuel cells produced by Bloom Energy in a Newark, DE production facility. These fuel cells, which generate power from the chemical oxidation of natural gas, emit more CO2 per kilowatt hour (KWH) on average than combined cycle natural gas (CCNG) power plants.
Factoring in capital costs, US Energy Department estimates show renewable-source electric power is typically more expensive than power generated from conventional sources, e.g., CCNG. Both wind and solar power are intermittent, moreover, so other sources must be used to provide 24/7 electric power availability. Fuel cell power is considerably more reliable than wind or solar power, but even more expensive. Why should the generation of electric power from any of these energy sources be subsidized?
The leading argument for wind or solar power is that the burning of fossil fuels is causing a buildup of atmospheric CO2, which will lead to global warming (aka climate change). Global temperatures have generally been rising since the start of the Industrial Revolution, but correlation is not the same thing as causation and the manmade global warming theory (MMGWT) isn’t universally accepted,
Note that CO2 is a natural component of the atmosphere (currently about .04%), which is essential to life on Earth as we know it. And many other factors – such as fluctuations in solar activity – have been causing climate changes on this planet since long before the human race came to be. Granted that rising CO2 levels have a warming effect, where’s the proof that this factor dominates all the others, e.g., variations in solar activity?
For further discussion, see this mini-lecture by Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace who later broke with the organization. The causes of climate change aren’t fully understood, according to Mr. Moore, and no one really knows whether global temperatures 100 years from now will be higher or lower than they are currently. What they haven’t told you about climate change, prager.com, video (4:54), 7/26/15.
In short, the MMGWT is not “settled science,” as global warming alarmists claim. And even if it were, there is no reason to believe that REPSA or similar programs at a state, regional or even national level would materially affect global temperatures over the foreseeable future. See the chart below, which shows that (1) manmade CO2 emissions have soared over the past 200 years, and (2) growth since 1980 has mainly come from China, India, etc. versus Europe and the US.
While the alleged environmental benefits of REPSA are nebulous, the same isn’t true of the costs. For Delmarva Power customers, the monthly “renewable compliance charge” is shown on page 2 of the bill. The two components are “wind and solar” and “qualified fuel cells” (Bloom Energy tariff, see next article), which currently total some $10 per month for the average customer.
Wind and solar charges under REPSA apply for all electric power distributors in Delaware, not just Delmarva Power, and they too are billed to customers. For Delmarva customers, wind and solar charges are currently about equal to the fuel cell tariff, but in future years – as the renewable energy percentage under REPSA increases – they will represent a growing portion of the total amount. Moreover, several pending proposals could inflate costs of the REPSA program considerably.
#Last August, the governor appointed a task force to consider Delaware involvement in offshore wind projects. It was evident that subsidies would be involved, and the task force members apparently decided they didn’t want to recommend a project that might – like the Bloom Energy deal – prove costlier than expected. The offshore wind study is ongoing, however, and there can be no certainty as to the final outcome.
#REPSA amendments are being considered that would increase the renewable energy goal to 50% by 2032. Electric power costs would predictably soar, and reliability of the electric power grid could be seriously impaired. It is unclear whether members of the General Assembly have a realistic understanding of these consequences.
#Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control has plans to reduce the supply of renewable energy credits available for purchase, thereby increasing the price (and resulting subsidy for renewable energy producers). A legal challenge to an earlier action along these lines is pending.
If you feel the current REPSA charges will help to save the planet and are willing to pay more in the future, that’s fine. Otherwise, you may want to call some state legislators (e.g., your representative and senator) and ask: (1) Why should I have to pay these charges? (2) What good is being accomplished, and how do you know this?
Costly fuel cells, John E. Greer, Jr., P.E. (ret) – “Bloom Energy ... delivers clean power" and will "save you money" read a product data sheet from 2012. These claims have not been supported, however, by the operating results of two Bloom Energy fuel cell installations in Delaware.
#CLEAN POWER – For those who consider CO2 a pollutant, it should be noted that the Bloom Energy fuel cells are powered by the chemical oxidation of natural gas. Given the relatively low efficiency of this process (natural gas consumption has run about 15% higher than was projected initially), they emit more CO2 per KWH than a combined cycle natural gas plant. The fuel cells also generate hazardous wastes, e.g., hydrogen sulfide and benzene from natural gas via a desulfurization process, which must be transported, stored, and treated or disposed of in some fashion.
#RELIABILITY - The capacity factor for the fuel cells has averaged 86% vs. a forecast of nearly 97% due to more downtime for parts replacements, system cleaning, etc.
#COST - Annual reports to Delaware’s Public Service Commission for the first five years of operation show average power generation costs of 20.8¢/KWH versus 4.2¢/KWH realized from selling the power to the PJM electric grid at market value. The 16.6¢/KWH cost difference was passed on to Delmarva Power ratepayers (and customers of alternate suppliers in the Delmarva Power service area) via the “qualified fuel cell” tariff authorized by the PSC. Delawareans have paid more than $145 million in above-market costs for fuel cell power to date, and they are continuing to pay at a rate of more than $35 million per year. These charges will continue until 2033.
In his own words, Suzie Dickson - Scalia Speaks: Reflections on Law, Faith, and Life Well Lived is a wide-ranging collection of speeches given by the late Justice Antonin Scalia over a span of 32 years (1984–2016). The book was edited by his youngest son, Christopher J. Scalia and Edward Whelan, a former law clerk. There are four prominent themes: patriotism; devotion to the Roman Catholic Church; pride in his Italian-American heritage; and fidelity to the law.
Justice Scalia loved this country. He was concerned about the lack of civics classes and how so few Americans, in particular the younger generations. had a clear understanding of the Founding Fathers (George Washington was one of his favorites), the principles upon which this country was founded (including a conviction that belief in God was essential to a successful republic), and the government mechanisms that have protected our freedoms. Thus, as he remarked in several speeches, few students in the classes that he had taught at University of Chicago Law School had read The Federalist Papers.
Justice Scalia was proud to be a Catholic – he was a traditionalist and attended the Tridentine (traditional Latin) Mass. He held St. Thomas More, (Patron Saint of Statesmen, Politicians, Judges and Lawyers) in esteem after seeing a performance of the play, A Man for All Seasons, in 1960, and would later speak to many St. Thomas More Societies, e.g., the STMS of the Diocese of Wilmington at its annual dinner in 2001. And his Jesuit education at Xavier High School and the Regiment, known at the time as the “Catholic Military School,” was never forgotten.
The habit of courage is not acquired by study; it is forged by practice. And there is no better practice than the Regiment. By demanding obedience to duty, manly honor and discipline, frank and forthright acknowledgment of error, respect for ranks above and solicitude for ranks below, assumption of responsibility including the responsibility of command, willingness to sacrifice for the good of the corps--by demanding all those difficult things the Regiment develops moral courage, (emphasis in original) which, in the Last Accounting we must give, is the kind that matters.
Justice Scalia savored his Italian-American heritage and the variety of ethnic groups he encountered as a boy growing up in Queens, New York. In October 1986, shortly after being sworn in as the first Italian-American Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, he was awarded the National Italian American Foundation’s award for public service. In that address, he observed that Italian-Americans possessed “four characteristics in a particularly high degree.” First, the capacity for hard work; second, love of family; third, love of the church; fourth, the product of hard work – good music, good art, good food, and good wine. To this, one more item should be added - his love of the law.
A proponent of Originalism (constitutional text should be given the meaning that it had at the time it was written), Justice Scalia replaced the term “original intent” with “original meaning.” This change reflected informal writings of James Madison and Alexander Hamilton and also his sense that “original meaning” would provide a more forceful counter to the “living constitution” doctrine.
This book is a wonderful read, peppered with wit and humor. If one had the opportunity to hear the late Justice Scalia speak (in addition to the STMS dinner in 2001, he spoke at the Conservative Caucus of Delaware annual banquet in 2013), it’s almost as if you can hear his voice speaking to you from the page. We are blessed that Justice Scalia served on the Court for 30 years and that he left for posterity all of his opinions, his dissents, his writings, and his speeches. Truly, his was a life well lived.
Simply put - Want to know how to balance the budget? Back in the day, Ronald Reagan revealed the answer on the Johnny Carson Show. Video, youtube.com, 1975.
SAFE Board of Directors
Andrew Betley, (302) 239-9679
Dan Kerrick, treasurer, (302) 521-4272
Steve McClain, (302) 998-3910
Jerry Martin, (302) 478-5064
John Nichols, (302) 378-0683
rycK Stout, (302) 478-9495
Bill Whipple, president, (302) 464-2688
For e-mail addresses: https://bit.ly/2xArV1q
About SAFE - SAFE is a non-partisan, all-volunteer organization that was founded in 1996. We advocate smaller, more focused, lower cost government, to be achieved by cutting spending, restructuring “entitlements,” simplifying taxes, and rationalizing regulations.
The SAFE agenda is promoted through: (1) Our website, including issue statements, a weekly blog, and a “Delaware Chatter” microblog; (2) Letters to the editor, public events, legislative contacts, etc., which are also posted and/or recapped on the website; (3) This quarterly newsletter, available in print (since 1996) and now electronic editions; and (4) Posts on Twitter and/or Facebook (click icons on the website to access).
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