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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Wood fuel is short in Europe

Uploaded: May 21, 2013
The headline in a recent edition of the Economist says it all, "Environmental Lunacy." The article concerns renewable energy and the European Union's rush to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and expand renewable sources of energy.
Of course, the challenges of wind (it doesn't always blow) and solar (the sun doesn't always shine) require additional sources of power to maintain steady power flow to the grid. The article reports there's no way the countries will meet the goal of a 20 percent reduction by 2020 with just wind and solar.
So a leading renewable source has become wood—that's right—wood pellets. The companies actually are importing wood pellets to fuel power plants that are being converted from coal. The only way this works economically is with a subsidy so large that one power company expects to receive 550 million Euros a year in subsidy after 2016—that is more than its entire pretax profit of 190 million euros last year.
It sounds remarkably similar to corn-based ethanol in the United States and other renewable energy projects that survive economically only with government subsidies and the requirements that power companies buy the power regardless of the cost. Electricity in California already is very expensive and will get increasingly so as utilities try to meet the 30 percent renewable source requirement by 2020.
Of course, this done without any regard for the economic impact on businesses or families.
And, throw in the crony capitalism that the Obama administration has practiced unblinkingly with the fiascos with Solyndra and similar so-called green innovators. The problem is simply that the government is both lousy and has no business choosing winners and losers instead of the market place.
For another example, Wall Street Journal columnist Allysia Finley wrote about President Obama's selection for transportation secretary, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx. His chief qualification seems to be lobbying successfully for a light rail system in Charlotte that costs more than an existing bus system serving the same route.
Her column also points out that former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in addition to landing a half-billion dollars for the Doyle Drive rebuild serving Marin County from the Golden Gate Bridge, also pushed through a $1.6 billion subway serving Chinatown from the downtown area. It picked up a $1 billion federal grant despite serving just 5,000 additional riders. That makes the BART to Livermore numbers look very good by contrast.
It's notable, Finley reports, that outgoing transportation Secretary Ray LaHood rewrote the rules for cost-benefit analysis to give additional weight to "liveability, social equity and environmental considerations."
Those weren't factors in the $500 million new tunnel under Devil's Slide in San Mateo County—that was pure politics by the late Tom Lantos and Pelosi—shifting what should have been local and county expenditures to the federal taxpayers.
Why would you expect a level or even rational playing field in a political cesspool like Washington D.C.
What is it worth to you?


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