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Tuesday Talk: How to move beyond “Drill, baby, drill”?

October 30, 2012 By Joe Sheeran, Communications Director

Be wary of candidates perpetuating the myth that the United States can drill its way to energy independence and lower gas prices. The reality is much more complex. Even accounting for Canadian production, the U.S. would only fill two-thirds of its demand by 2035, according to figures from U.S. and Canadian Energy policymakers, as reported by The Atlantic. Furthermore, greater home production doesn’t directly correlate to lower prices. What’s extracted from U.S. soil helps feed global demand in a time of rapid Chinese and Indian growth, subjecting U.S. production to worldwide pricing.

How do we move beyond oil? How can we get policy leaders to focus on consumption cutting strategies?    

Thanks for participating! Commenting on this conversation is now closed.


  • Will Nissen says:

    October 30, 2012 at 8:42 am

    A great step in the right direction recently was the increased Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards that will double the fuel economy of our cars by 2025 to 54.5 miles per gallon. This, combined with steady growth in the use of electric vehicles, will significantly reduce our consumption of oil. It amuses when I hear conservatives (or anyone for that matter) ridicule these standards while pushing for energy independence in the U.S. To get anywhere close to energy or oil independence we need a more efficient fleet.

  • Robert Moffitt says:

    October 30, 2012 at 9:13 am

    There are a number of ways we can reduce our consumption of traditional petroleum fuels. As Will points out, conservation is a good first step. So are increasing mass transportation options, reducing urban sprawl, and continuing to support alternative fuels and vehicle technologies.

    Alternatives are out there, if you know where to look. I routinely see alternative fuel vehicles on the road here in Minnesota. Hopefully, we will keep moving away from oil and toward the future.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    October 30, 2012 at 9:35 am

    If Romney is elected and has a Republican Congress, all is lost.  We can look forward to repeats of Katrina and Sandy, groundwater and air pollution, and no reduction in the use of coal, oil and nuclear.

    If Obama wins and has a Democratic Congress, there is at least hope.  I do believe he understands the issue, but get darn angry when he approves even the southern leg of the Keystone pipeline.

    Now, with this disaster fresh in Americans’ minds, is the time to link the Koch Brothers/energy industry, the National Chamber of Commerce, and the think tanks that help make up the American Legislative Exchange Council to the damage they have done to the earth and its people by pushing the dig and drill philosophy for the sake of corporate profit. 

    And the think tank whose specific job it is to debunk climate change needs to be attacked forcefully, as do the members of Congress and state legislatures who help spread that lie.

    There need to be front-page articles telling the truth to the victims in New York, New Jersey and all the East Coast.

  • Mike Downing says:

    October 30, 2012 at 10:50 am

    What is the real question behind this question? Is it “What can government do to reduce GW? or Should we impose a carbon tax to reduce GW?”?

    The EU has imposed a carbon tax yet their carbon emissions, i.e. affect on GW, has actually increased. The U.S. has not imposed a carbon tax yet our carbon emissions, i.e. affect on GW, has actually decreased.

    This has happened simply due to microeconomics, i.e. the supply/demand affect on price. Nat Gas prices have plummeted in the U.S. due to drilling. Nat Gas price is 1/3 to 1/4 the price it was just a few years ago. Utility companies are switching from coal to Nat Gas for economic reasons to minimize the cost of energy to their customers. Free markets are great at increasing efficiencies and reducing costs. Government can only screw things up by investing in bankrupt companies such as Solyndra. Government has a very poor track record of picking winners & losers.

    Yes, Government can help conserve through CAFÉ standards and should continue to do so. Government can invest in basic research and should continue do so. But government should invest in ways to minimize energy costs for their citizens as well as to companies in order for companies to be competitive, grow and add jobs so that our economy can improve.

  • Mike T. says:

    October 30, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    Bernice, are you trying to tell me it is Bush’s & the Koch’s fault for Sandy hitting the U.S.?  Are you telling me that The Chosen One, President Obama, can fix global warming if just given the chance?  The liberal mindset is a wonderful thing.  For all global warming believers, I suggest to you some literature:  “Cool it” by Bjorn Lomborg.  He is a true believer (in global warming) that breaks down the economics regarding your theory.  Results that you seek (to return to the ice age?) won’t be noticeable for a century, regardless of the money that is put into it.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    October 30, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    Yes I am, Mike.  With massive amounts of disinformation from their tame think think tank, the Heartland Institute, and with tame members of Congress and - sadly - the scientific community who are climate change deniers.

    SourceWatch notes of Lomborg that he “is not a climate scientist or economist and has published little or no peer-reviewed research on environmental or climate policy.  His extensive and extensively documented errors and misrepresentations, which are aimed at a lay audience, ‘follow a general pattern’ of minimizing the need to cut carbon emissions.”

    Google the term “lomborg errors” and see how many websites are devoted to identifying and debunking those errors.

  • Ginny says:

    October 30, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    Yes, it is the fault of Bush and the Kochs and a whole lot of others, especially in the oil and gas industries who are responsible for Sandy. Fox news and some of its – employees like Limbaugh and others, but also mainstream media who rarely mention it at all, and our politicians like Romney and Obama who haven’t mentioned it in this election season. 
    No, she isn’t trying to say the “chosen one”—sarcasm is so old here—President Obama can fix global warming. Of course not, as you would know had you read her piece. We have a better chance with President Obama to take steps that will reduce global warming, and virtually none with Romney. President Obama has already tried to take steps to reduce pollution but has met with an intransigent party whose only aim is to keep him from winning another term.
    We have been warned and warned for years about global warming, and Sandy is just one of the many things the computer models and science predicted—that New York and other cities on the eastern seaboard would be under water. I read it was the “storm of the generation”—and thought, don’t we wish. This is just the beginning.
    Yes, the oil and gas companies are to blame for the vast amounts of money they put into the propaganda to try to claim global warming is a hoax, and all the corporations that did not want to change any of their practices, and all the ignorant and “owned” elected leaders who keep lying about it, are to blame. All those citizens who refused to believe the science, all those people who kept buying Hummers and monster trucks (apparently in order to climb mountains just like the ads show) and to give little or no thought to the consequences of our daily “parking lots” on the freeway, are to blame. All those people who made fun of Al Gore, who was on target on all of this. All the elected officials who would not support public transportation, claiming it was not “cost effective” and that building more highways didn’t cost as much as light rail and were used a lot more than light rail, and anyway were probably socialist, and everyone who made no attempt at all to halt carbon monoxide poisoning and made a joke of it.
    Almost all of us are to blame, including you and me.

  • Ginny says:

    October 30, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    In 2011 Romney said FEMA was “immoral”—I didn’t try to ferret out his “reasoning.” He recently said disaster aid should be left to the states, as if individual states could do the huge job of coordinating and providing what needs to be done. And he added—why am I not surprised?—that disaster recovery should be privatized. PRIVATIZED? Incredible. Maybe to BP with their extensive experience.
    These republicans are wandering around in their own fantasy world.

  • Mike T. says:

    October 30, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    If it’s on the internet it must be true.  Check out the citations.  I don’t think Lomborg’s wealth has skyrocketed, but Gore’s did since he started pimping his book, film, and carbon credits.  Who’s really motivated to perpetuate Global warming here?
    If you think that the U.S and Europe burning fewer fossil fuels while China and India are burning more is going to solve these “Rich Guy Caused Disasters”, then good luck to you.  To me it just sounds like your hatred/dislike of the wealthy.
    I wish you a good evening.  The Pursuit of Happiness.

  • Mike Downing says:

    October 30, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    What is you academic training that qualifies you to understand scientific concept of global warming and whether or not humans have any impact on it?

    Are you aware that there has not been any global warming in 10 years?

    Are you aware that Antarctica just set an all time record for ice? In fact, are you aware that there is a southern hemisphere?

    Are you aware that satellite (IR detectors) based temperature readings are not showing any global warming? Land based temperature stations are affected by the urban heat island and therefore give artificially high readings…....

  • Ginny says:

    October 31, 2012 at 8:04 am

    Shameful, your “arguments.”

  • Ginny says:

    October 31, 2012 at 8:07 am

    If money is your main god, then every discussion smacks of it.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    October 31, 2012 at 8:20 am

    Mike T:  Al Gore won the popular vote in 2001, but the Supreme Court gave the presidency to George Bush.  We have been on a downward slide ever since because of the great power the energy industry has over public policy.

    Al Gore made his fortune by teaching governments and organizations all over the world about global warming and how to avoid it.  Unfortunately, the largest polluters in the world were not listening.

    Mike D: I’ve never seen so much disinformation in such a small space before.  Are you a reader of Heartland Institute and a fan of the right-wing senator (I forget which one) who has written a book in which he asserts global warming is a hoax?

    The ice is melting and the melt-water is raising the level of our oceans. Polar bears are drowning because the ice that used to support them is vanishing.  Huge glaciers in Alaska are melting away. We are having more extreme weather events like Katrina and Sandy than has ever been normal and they will continue.

    And I’m sure you’ve noticed that our regular winter temps of minus-zero with windchills in the minus twenties and thirties are gone.  We are the new banana belt. 

  • Mike Downing says:

    October 31, 2012 at 10:57 am

    Bernice: Please GOOGLE each of my points and read the citations. You cannot disprove one of my points since they are facts based solely on real data.

    The IPCC Reports are political reports and not scientific reports. They will not allow satellite temperature data since they know satellite IR data soundly refutes their conclusions so they continue to rely on heat island biased land based temperature stations.

    You and Ginny just wish the “inconvenient truths” of today to not be true. I realize you and Ginny think with your heart and not your brain.

    BTW, I can read and understand scientific journals with my B.S. & M.S. in Chemical Engineering and 32 years with 3M Health Care. Also, my highest statistics class was Stat 401 and we used Six Sigma designed experiments, response surface methodology, etc. at 3M.

  • Jeff K. says:

    October 31, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Your “bits” of information are mostly correct. Unfortunately, they lack context and/or the full explanation. While Antarctic ice is growing, arctic ice is shrinking. The reason for Antarctic ice growth is explained by another (competing issue). It is not properly used as a means to “disprove” global warming.

  • Tony says:

    October 31, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    Did you ever notice Mike only attacks the ladies?  Mike, 10 of the 11 warmest years have occured since 1998. I talked to Will Steger(family friend) & he said that the entire ice shelf that he crossed in his transit of Antarctica is gone. The ice is not growing, it is shrinking, but it is getting thicker due to addl. snowfall due to climate change(more water in the air). This is from Dr. Hansen of NASA. As to your degrees, good for you, but designing band-aids for 3M(the states largest polluter)(maybe you can explain the white liquid that comes out of the pipe from 3M(they have their name on the pipe into the Mississippi) doesnt qualify you as a climate scientist. Especially if you just read the Koch Bros. approved literature. Use your vast experience & read all the reports. The Koch Bros. hired a scientist to read all the reports & then de-bunk climate change & he said that he found from it all that climate change is real.

  • Mike Downing says:

    October 31, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    Jeff K, my “bits of information” was not intended to dissuade anyone who believes humans are the cause of climate change. It was merely to help people like Ginny & Bernice to think with their brain and not with their heart. Thinking with the heart creates mindless sheep.

    The issue of global warming is wholly dependent on the time frame that is selected to study. It is easy to show global warming if one selects a short time frame such as 30-50 years. However, it is virtually impossible to demonstrate global warming if one selects 1000 or 5000 years. Sea surface temperature was approximately 1 °C warmer than today 1000 years ago (the Medieval Warm Period). [Keigwin, L. D. (1996). “The Little Ice Age and Medieval Warm Period in the Sargasso Sea”. Science 274 (5292): 1503. doi:10.1126/science.274.5292.150].

    The key to global warming is in fact dependent on the time period one is studying. Yes, there has been global warming and global cooling periods throughout history. One can easily demonstrate this fact. The question is whether or not mankind has any effect on either global warming or global cooling.

  • Ginny says:

    October 31, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    It didn’t take long for Mike to prove you right, Tony. Attack the “ladies.” Suggesting we don’t think with our brain. Just attack. This makes up most of his “arguments.”
    I believe 98% of the scientists, including the one who set out to disprove climate change and discovered in his research that it is not, rather than some guy with a chemistry degree who works at 3M. Don’t try to bull us with your erudition and degrees. Many of equal and surpass you plus we are not lost in conservative haze and fantasy. We’re not buying.
    And if you knew anything about how the brain works and makes decisions, you would know how ignorant are your comments about emotions. Something else you can read up on.

  • Sue B says:

    October 31, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    Bernice and Ginny, I applaud you and agree with your comments.  To the Mikes, you are living proof that their intelligence, willingness to learn and listen, and common sense trump your smug arrogance.  Are you not paying attention?  You seem to have your head(s) in the sand.

    Have you not noticed that the polar ice is rapidly disappearing, and glaciers and the snow on mountain-tops melting?  Where do you think all that water is going?  (Since matter doesn’t disappear, but only changes form, maybe the oceans and the atmosphere?)  Higher water levels will continue to erode and flood coastlines around the world.  You know that warmer air holds more moisture, and warmer oceans feed more energy into storms.  Have you not noticed more and more superstorms in recent years; more powerful hurricanes like Katrina, more killer tornados such as those in Joplin, MO, and along the gulf coast)?  Have you not noticed extreme drought in some areas and extreme flooding in others?  Have you not noticed 100-year floods coming every few years?  Have you not noticed average high temperatures increasing every month for several years?  Have you not noticed the corn belt moving north, and former corn growers switching to wheat, because it’s more drought-resistant?  Have you not noticed the range of many animals, birds, trees and other vegetation rapidly changing? 

    Have you not noticed the world’s population increasing exponentially?  When I was in high school, the US population was about 180 million.  Now it’s about twice that.  The world population was then about 3 billion, and now it’s over 7 billion.  Do you not think all these people have no environmental effect?  Think of a lady with one cat in her house, and one dog in her yard…no problem.  Maybe 5-10 of each puts some strain on the environment…but it’s still managable, but when the numbers reach 50 or 100, or 500, the conditions become unbearable.  We are having a similar effect on our planet, and it’s unsustainable.  The climate has been changing far more than the usual fluctuations, and in my opinion we have probably already passed the tipping point where it is reversible because too many people refuse to see what is right in front of their eyes.  I really hope I’m wrong, but I doubt it. 

  • Mike Downing says:

    November 1, 2012 at 9:13 am

    Sue B., have you noticed the all time record ice levels in the Antarctica? Have you noticed the variability in hurricanes in Florida, e.g. four Category 4 in 2003 and how many since? Have you noticed the sink holes in Florida due to the lack of tropical storms & hurricanes? Have you noticed the lack of global warming over the last 10 years? Have you read about the medieval warm period and Greenland during that period?

    You have a 30-50 year time horizon rather that the necessary 1000 or 5000 time horizon.

  • Jeff K. says:

    November 1, 2012 at 10:50 am

    I’m not even sure what the point of ths debate is (or where it’s going). We’re talking about Global warming yet a specific example is given here… another given there. Thats not global. At best it’s regional (and probably should be boiled down even more). You can’t bring up Florida’s sink holes, or the glaciers for that matter, and use it to support or refute GLOBAL warming. While the conservatives fought the notion for many years, most have accepted the fact that we are, in fact, warming right now as a planet. The argument has shifted away from “are we?” to “why are we”. Natural cycles or man-made? Clearly we’ve had a pattern of natural warming/cooling throughout history. The “time period” being referred to may well support (not refute) the idea of man having a hand in this. It’s certainly logical to assume that man is speeding the process up. Either way, what difference does it make? There are far more efficient/beneficial energy sources out there. Why not move beyond “drill baby, drill”?

  • Ginny says:

    November 1, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    It does make a difference because if we are going to survive as a planet, we have to hurry. And I’m not sure if we can stop global warming. We can’t just try to switch to renewable resources in time; we also have to try to halt practices that are escalating the whole climate change thing.
    Don’t know how anyone can look at weather events in the last few years and not see that it is global warming. I’ll take the 98% of scientists word for it.

  • Bernice Vetscj says:

    November 1, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    I agree with your final statement, Jeff. We need, right now, to develop alternative, nonpolluting sources of energy.  But I don’t think that it is regional rather than global or that conservatives now accept that it is happening (but maybe the ones you know have).  Thanks.

    Sue B:  Thanks for your kind words.

    Mike D: If we think of global warming as something that happens over thousands of year, we will DO nothing about the continuing extreme and unusual weather, whether drought or hurricanes or tsunamis. Only weaning ourselves from coal and oil will we be able to save ourselves.

    I also agree with Jeff that we are repeating ourselves.  Hasta la vista.

  • Mike Downing says:

    November 2, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    See the following letter in yesterday’s MN Daily from a UofM guest lecturer on energy topics. If wind & solar aren’t viable energy replacements what are viavle energy replacements to Bernice, Ginny, Tony & others on MN2020?

    “Wind, solar power can’t be used as energy replacements

    Rolf Westgard,
    guest lecturer on energy topics, University’s Lifelong Learning program
    November 01, 2012’t-be-used-energy-replacements

    Environment groups are pressing Xcel Energy to close base load power plants, such as the Sherco coal plant and Monticello nuclear. Wind and solar power are suggested as replacements. Variable, low-density solar and wind have not replaced a single fossil-fuel power plant anywhere on Earth. Imagine a muggy summer night when there isn’t a breath of air, no sun and all air conditioners are running. At least they would be running if Sherco and Monticello nuclear were sending their reliable power. In 2011, U.S. wind power had a capacity factor of 27 percent and solar at much less.

    That means most of the time they weren’t producing anything. They are too variable and too low density to be more than an expensive energy supplement. Take away the direct subsidies and both sink into well-deserved oblivion. There is potential to improve solar with research in areas like nanotechnology, a focus here at the University of Minnesota. But $2 billion projects like Cape Wind off Cape Cod and Ivanpah Solar in Nevada are premature ratepayer-funded fiascos.

    Current numbers from the Energy Information Administration report energy fuel subsidies on a barrel of oil equivalent energy produced basis. Subsidies are $0.28 cents for oil and gas; $1.79 for nuclear; $20.37 for biofuels; $32.59 for wind and $63 for solar. Xcel Energy does use the highest percent of wind of any U.S. utility. But its natural gas plants have to run in start-stop mode to back up intermittent wind farms. This wastes fuel, stresses machinery and increases greenhouse gas emissions.”

  • Will Nissen says:

    November 2, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    In response to Rolf’s article.

    First: Yesterday the PUC voted 5-0 to have Xcel produce a cost comparison study of the cost effectiveness of retrofitting the Sherco 1 and 2 coal-fired power plants with necessary upgrades to meet modern, health-based standards, versus retiring the plants in favor of cleaner energy sources (including efficiency, wind, solar and/or natural gas). This study is intended to find the least cost solution regarding the Sherco units to protect ratepayers first and foremost. This is a pragmatic step on a path to gradually phasing out our old, inefficiency, dirty and increasingly expensive coal plants in Minnesota, something that many Minnesotans (not just environmental groups) want to see.

    Second: Shutting down all coal-fired power plants tomorrow and expecting wind and solar to pick up the slack is illogical, unfeasible, and misguided. However, increasing efficiency efforts and implementing more wind, solar and natural gas generation while we gradually phase out coal-fired power plants in practical, reliable and cost effective ways (like the PUC ruling) is logical, feasible and beneficial to our economy, health, environment and state’s well-being.

    Third: While it is true that wind and solar are variable energy sources, our electricity transmission grid is becoming a more flexible and regionally managed system. So while the wind may not be blowing in southwest Minnesota, low-cost wind from southeast North Dakota is becoming available to a broader range of electricity customers throughout the Midwest. The Midwest Independent System Operator (charged with providing least cost electricity at all times on the grid) is making significant efforts to open up trapped wind resources, as they often provide the cheapest electricity when the wind is blowing.

    Fourth: I’ll reiterate that last sentence. Once installed, wind is often the least cost electricity resource on the grid because it does not carry any variable fuel costs. Xcel Energy reported that during the 2008/2009 timeframe, “energy prices were about 0.7% lower with the wind resources that were part of our system than prices would have been without them.” Investment in wind and solar is a hedge against future fuel price uncertainties that come with the volatile cost inherent in fossil fuel and nuclear generation.

    Fifth: Utilities are highly regulated entities in Minnesota and all utilities everywhere are overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC) to ensure that we have a strong and reliable electricity grid. FERC will not permit actions that jeopardize that reliability. That said, wind power has grown from less than 2% of total electricity generation in Minnesota in 2001 to 12.7% in 2011. North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa have all seen similar gains, with South Dakota generating over 22% of its electricity from wind last year. Similarly, states like California, Colorado, Hawaii, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have seen huge gains in solar installations with no disruption to the reliability of their electricity grids. Rolf says that these resources aren’t reliable, but there has yet to be any indication that grids or grid operators can’t handle the increases of these sources in our generation portfolio.

    Sixth: Rolf cites that on a $ per barrel of oil equivalent basis, wind and solar receive significantly more subsidies than oil, gas or nuclear. Fair enough. While I don’t have numbers, I would be willing to bet that oil and gas produce significantly more barrels of oil than wind and solar, making the absolute numbers for those subsidies much more even, or even less for wind and solar. Furthermore, oil and gas generation have already reached the optimum economies of scale for generation as these industries are decades old, whereas the cost to build wind and solar resources is still dropping and has not reached optimal economies of scale. 

    In short, I just think Rolf’s views are myopic and unimaginative. Fuel costs for coal and nuclear are going up and are predicted to continue on that trend. The coal and nuclear power plants we have in Minnesota are old and getting older. At some point they’ll need to be replaced with something, why not lay the groundwork now for a diverse, flexible, reliable and sustainable electricity generation system for the future.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    November 2, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    Thanks for your informative comment, Mr. Nissen. 

    I believe those who worry that wind and solar are “more expensive” do not take into account the health problems caused by inhaling emissions from coal-fired power plants. 

    There is also always the possibility of a nuclear accident, especially as plants age.  Since the cost of insurance to cover such an event would break any operator, the federal government has accepted liability for all expenses following such an accident to help keep the cost of electricity low.

    There is no such thing as “clean” coal or as perfectly safe nuclear power.  Wind, solar and geothermal may turn out to be almost free in comparison to the real costs of coal’s effects on human health and the potential costs of nuclear. 

  • Mike Downing says:

    November 2, 2012 at 6:36 pm


    Please reread Rolf Westgard’s letter in order to correct your incorrect assumption on subsidies. Rolf’s listing of subsidies was on a basis of “energy fuel subsidies on a barrel of oil equivalent energy produced basis”. So it is normalized based on energy produced.

    Solar & wind are simply driving energy costs up for the poor, for the middle class, for retired seniors and for companies which requires higher prices that also increases the cost of living for the poor, for the middle class and for retired seniors.

  • Mike Downing says:

    November 2, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    Bernice, What health problems are you referring to? The air and water are cleaner today than when I was growing up in the ‘50s & ‘60s. I also have asthma and I don’t have any problems with inhaling outside air.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    November 5, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Mike D:  It’s almost like you don’t want any evidence of dangerous pollution to be known.

    Please google “How many Americans die each year from coal fired power plant pollution?”  You’ll see a May 25, 2011 Huffington Post article called ” Toxic Air: The Case for Cleaning Up Coal Fired Power Plants.”

    The article notes the results of a recent American Lung Association study.  The pertinent finding is “Particle pollution from power plants is estimated to kill 13,000 people per year.” 

    They also note that. even though scrubbers and other technology has reduced emissions, coal fired plants still “produce more hazardous air pollution than any other industrial power source.”  Acid gas emissions stay local; arsenic and lead travel with the wind.

    The article also cites a recent Annals of the NY Academy of Sciences study which found that coal costs the U.S. $500 billion per year, much of which is due to health problems caused by this pollution.

  • Will Nissen says:

    November 5, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Fair enough. But regardless of how I interpreted the statistic from Rolf, Mike, it doesn’t undermine the fact that costs to produce, erect and maintain wind and solar resources continue to fall, while costs to do the same for coal and nuclear continue to rise.

    As one example, see this recent article from Bloomberg News stating that the cost to run and maintain a wind farm has fallen 38% in the last four years (

    Again, wind and solar are nascent industries compared to coal and nuclear that warrant public investment. That doesn’t mean continual investment forever. I’ve argued for a 10-year gradually declining wind Production Tax Credit with a clear expiration horizon, giving businesses long-term certainty to grow while increasing competition in the industry to squeeze costs and reach optimal economies of scale. Public investment in nuclear power in the 40s and 50s, natural gas extraction in the 70s that has lead to the fracking boom we see today, and the internet in the 70s and 80s, have powered those industries and is nothing new.

    Solar energy can reduce on-site electricity costs for individuals in their homes or business in their buildings and warehouses. Wind energy continues to be the least cost electricity when available on the grid, and Xcel has cited that electricity prices were lower with wind resources than without.

    In fact, on Friday of last week Xcel Energy asked for a significant increase in the rate it can charge residents and businesses for electricity ( Number one reason cited was the increased cost of operating its two nuclear power plants in Minnesota, the second being the decline in electricity demand growth. Where is wind and solar in this equation Mike???

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    November 5, 2012 at 10:56 am

    There’s also this desperate race by oil-using and producing countries to get that oil now, no matter what the cost. They call fracking (never mind the water pollution and earthquakes) and—even worse—the Canadian tar sands production part of achieving “energy independence.”

    Since tar sands oil destroys forests while poisoning the water used to separate the oil from sand that is six feet below ground, it actually costs more to extract than it is worth. In addition, all pipelines leak sooner or later, adding more poison and more cost.

    These oil extraction and coal pollution costs we can and must do without.  What we cannot neglect is replacing them with truly clean renewable energy sources.  That will be true energy independence and will, like cell phones and computers and other technology, cost less and less as time goes on.

  • Ginny says:

    November 5, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    I always appreciate your knowledgeable and evidence-based comments, given without any drama.

  • Mike Downing says:

    November 5, 2012 at 1:35 pm


    Wind energy costs 3X that of coal and nuclear. Solar energy costs 4X that of coal and nuclear. The 25% alternative energy mandate is increasing our energy costs which was a political decision and not an economic decision.

    Xcel Energy must in turn increase their rates and request the rate increase to a political regulatory body (MN PUC) and not an economic commission. The MN PUC is comprised of politically motivated individuals who are against low cost energy from coal & nuclear.

    I’d present the rate increase as due to nuclear costs as well under these circumstances.

  • Bernice Vetsch says:

    November 5, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    Thanks, Ginny, for your kind words.

  • Mike Downing says:

    November 5, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    We will never achieve zero air pollution; we cannot afford it. You appear oblivious to the convept of economic trade offs of economic growth, job growth,  etc. vs regulatory constraints. Again our water and air are cleaner today. We need nalance not zero.