Time for Florida to Pull the Plug on Electric Vehicles?

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report in 2012 that has received scant media attention. The report titled “Effects of Federal Tax Credits for the Purchase of Electric Vehicles” takes a critical look at government subsidies for electric vehicles (EV).

Proponents argued for tax subsidies on the promise that EVs would reduce gasoline use and emissions.

The CBO report states, “[T]he [tax] credits will result in little or no reduction in the total gasoline use and greenhouse gas emissions of the nation’s vehicle fleet over the next several years.”

The CBO notes, “At current vehicle and energy prices, the lifetime costs to consumers of an electric vehicle are generally higher than those of a conventional vehicle or traditional hybrid vehicle of similar size and performance, even with the tax credits, which can be as much as $7,500 per vehicle. That conclusion takes into account both the higher purchase price of an electric vehicle and the lower fuel costs over the vehicle’s life.”

The following chart provides an overview of the CBO findings:

According to the US Department of Energy – Alternative Fuels Data Center, Florida has 351 charging stations. These EV charging stations are concentrated in the cities of Orlando, Tampa and Miami/Dade. Nearly all of the state charging stations are part of the California based ChargePoint Network. According to its website, “ChargePoint customers include large corporations such as Google and SAP; utilities such as Orlando Utilities Commission…” NovaCharge, LLC is the distributor of charging stations in the Southeast United States and is headquartered in Tampa, Florida. According to the NovaCharge website it is, “[D]edicated to enabling a better environment for future generations by supporting zero-emissions transportation infrastructure.”

Florida is home to several early adopters of EVs. Among them is the Fahs family – Fran and Ron.  Fran is also owner of  Tallahassee based Green Energy Marketing and Consulting, LLC. Fran created the Electric Vehicle Initiative (EVI) website and has become an activist for expanding the use of EVs in Florida and across America.  The EVI website states, “For years we have wanted to do something substantial to help the environment. Empowering people to take control of their transportation costs while taking a big chunk out of global warming is our desired contribution.”

In a personal email Fran Fahs stated to WDW, “With the recent attack on the Algerian oil field, the mega-storms and mega fires of the past years, I think that many more people understand that the time has definitely come to reduce our dependency on oil. It is evident from the environmental degradation that we see in our world that these environmental costs that will be passed on to the taxpayers, represents a subsidy to oil producers, since we, and not they, are paying for these high environmental costs of mining that oil from the ground.”

The common thread in all of these EV initiatives is to “help the environment” and “reduce transportation costs”. The CBO report appears to fly in the face of both of these goals. Continued subsidizing of EVs has no measurable effects other than using taxpayer money to fund credits for those who would have bought their EV anyway. Taxpayers are also subsidizing the costs of the charging stations.

It is commendable to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil. That has been the stated goal of the Department of Energy since its inception. That goal has been elusive. However, another report by the US National Intelligence Council projects energy independence for America as achievable within 20 years. The path to energy independence is due to two new technologies – fracking and horizontal drilling.

WDW has asked for comments on the CBO report from Florida proponents. When they are received this column will be updated.

Federal Judge Shoots Down EPA Global Warming Rule

On Jan. 11, 2013, Judge Ralph Beistline of the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska issued a decision striking down the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) final rule designating more than 187,000 square miles of critical habitat for the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The designated area is larger than the state of California.

According to Becky Bohrer from the Huffington Post, “The federal government declared the polar bear threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2008, citing melting sea ice. The move made the polar bear the first species to be designated as threatened under the act because of global warming.”

The designation was challenged by the oil and gas industry, the state of Alaska and by several native Alaskan groups. Although the judge upheld the rule against 10 claims by the plaintiffs, the court found that the agency failed to explain why inclusion of such a large area of critical habitat was justified. The court explained that FWS:

“…cannot designate a large swath of land in northern Alaska as “critical habitat” based entirely on one essential feature that is located in approximately one percent of the area set aside. The Service has not shown and the record does not contain evidence that Unit 2 contains all of the required physical or biological features of terrestrial denning habitat [primary constituent element], and thus the final rule violates the APA’s arbitrary and capricious standard.”

The court also found that FWS failed to follow applicable procedures under the ESA by not providing the state of Alaska with adequate justification for not incorporating the state’s comments into the final rule. As a result of the decision, the critical habitat rule was remanded to the agency for further consideration.

Bohrer reports, “U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said [Judge] Beistline made the right decision, calling the bear populations ‘abundant and healthy’.”

“The only real impact of the designation would have been to make life more difficult for the residents of North Slope communities, and make any kind of economic development more difficult or even impossible,” Murkowsky said in a statement.

US Government: Fracking is the Future

The US National Intelligence Council has released its latest report Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds.

The report states:

“Experts are virtually certain that demand for energy will rise dramatically—about 50 percent—over the next 15-20 years largely in response to rapid economic growth in the developing world. The US Energy Information Agency anticipates steadily rising global production through 2035, driven primarily by a combination of OPEC production increases and larger unconventional sources. The main or references scenario of the International Energy Agency also posits growing global production of key fossil fuels through 2030 (about 1 percent annually for oil). Much of this increased production—and recent optimism—derives from unconventional oil and gas being developed in North America. The scale-up of two technologies, horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, is driving this new energy boom. Producers have long known shale “source rock”—rock from which oil and natural gas slowly migrated into traditional reservoirs over millions of years. Lacking the means economically to unlock the massive amounts of hydrocarbon in the source rock, producers devoted their attention to the conventional reservoirs.” [My emphasis]

“Once the industry discovered how to combine hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, the vast gas resources trapped in shale deposits became accessible. The economic and even political implications of this technological revolution, which won’t be completely understood for some time, are already significant,” stated the report.

In a tectonic shift, energy independence is not unrealisticfor the US in as short a period as 10-20 years. Increased oil production and the shale gas revolution could yield such independence. US production of shale gas has exploded with a nearly 50 percent annual increase between 2007 and 2011, and natural gas prices in the US have collapsed.”

US has sufficient natural gas to meet domestic needs for decades to come, and potentially substantial global exports.

Service companies are developing new “super fracking” technologies that could dramatically increase recovery rates still further.

The report concludes, “The prospect of significantly lower energy prices will have significant positive ripple effect for the US economy, encouraging companies to taking advantage of lower energy prices to locate or relocate to the US. Preliminary analysis of the impact on the US economy suggests that these developments could deliver a 1.7-2.2 percent increase in GDP and 2.4-3.0 million additional jobs by 2030.

Read the entire report:

Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds by

The Integrity of the Florida Public Service Commission in the “Toilet”?

Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC) website states, “The Florida Public Service Commission is committed to making sure that Florida’s consumers receive some of their most essential services — electric, natural gas, telephone, water, and wastewater — in a safe, reasonable, and reliable manner. In doing so, the PSC exercises regulatory authority over utilities in one or more of three key areas: rate base/economic regulation; competitive market oversight; and monitoring of safety, reliability, and service.”

The FPSC was considering a rate increase for Florida Power and Light (FPL) late last year. However, the process according to those attending the public hearings on the rate increase was usurped by FPL and commission staff at the expense of Florida citizens. Larry Nelson, a citizen present during the 2012 hearings in Sarasota and Miami, outlined in a letter how FPL was given preferential treatment by the Commission and staff.

Nelson wrote, “My first stop on my adventure was the public service hearing held in Sarasota on May 31, 2012. Here I first saw the most shocking thing about the public hearing process. In the lobby of the hearing site (Sarasota City Hall) were numerous FPL customer service representatives wearing FPL shirts who are greeting members of the public arriving to speak to the rate increase proposal. And FPL seems to have their own dedicated room. Which made no sense at all. It’s like a court hearing but one of the parties to the case gets to have their own room in the courthouse and a staff to lobby everyone, judges, jurors and the public as they walk by as to why their side is right. FPL also gets to have a table handing out literature. Nobody else gets to have a room or a table or representatives right outside the hearing room. There is no Audubon Society, no Environmental Defense Fund, no Florida Public Interest Research Group in the lobby lobbying (I guess that is where the term comes from!) against the rate increase or against the proposals or actions of FPL.”

The result of the rate increase hearings was FPSC issuing an Order on January 14th, 2013 granting Florida Power and Light FPL the ability to self-regulate over the next 4-years and to increase rates without citizen representation by the Office of Public Counsel. Thomas Saporito, from Saprodani Associates, believes that the process by which the FPSC came to issue this order was at best flawed and at worse illegal violating  multiple Florida statutes.

Saporito states, “The recent decision by the Florida Public Service Commission has placed public trust and confidence and the integrity of the agency in the “toilet”. No longer can the citizens of Florida have any measure of trust or confidence in the agency to be an advocate for the Public Interest regarding electric rates established for the Florida Power & Light Company (FPL). ”

According to Saporito, “The settlement is “illegal” as a matter of law because the Commission does not have requisite jurisdiction and authority to consider the settlement for several reasons:

(1) the Office of Public Counsel (OPC) opposed the settlement and OPC represents all FPL ratepayers – and is a vital and required signatory to any FPL settlement;

(2) the settlement violates the “due-process” rights of citizens who would otherwise intervene where FPL seeks recovery for power plants which have not yet been built or are not yet operational;

(3) the Commission placed the settlement hearing on a rush basis and denied intervenors from fully participating in the discovery process; and

(4) the settlement allows FPL to create a “slush-fund” and access depreciation and dismantlement funds without proper oversight for the sole purpose of raising FPL’s return on equity (profits for its shareholders).”

Thomas Saporito filed a motion for reconsideration on January 14th, 2013 asking the Commission to reconsider its decision.

According to Saporito: “I am gravely concerned about the Commission’s approval of the revised settlement with FPL where the citizens had no representation by the Office of Public Counsel. I have raised serious mis-conduct issues about the entire Commission with Steven J. Stolting, Inspector General – Office of Inspector General and I have asked his office to conduct an investigation.”

Depending on the Commission’s decision on his motion to reconsider – Saporito, “Fully intends to challenge the Commission’s Order – in filing an appeal with the Florida Supreme Court – and to file with agencies of the federal government – and perhaps a civil legal action.”

Root Cause of Middle East Riots – Hunger

In the NPR column “Can Riots Be Predicted? Experts Watch Food Prices” Maria Godoy reports, “When French peasants stormed the Bastille on July 14, 1789, they weren’t just revolting against the monarchy’s policies. They were also hungry.” [Emphasis Mine]

Washington Post’s Foreign Service corespondent Ariana Eunjung Cha in April 2008 reported, “The price of grains — corn, wheat, and rice — has been rising since 2005 under pressure from farmers who would rather plant crops for bio-fuels than for food, the lack of technological breakthroughs in crop yields, and drought and disease. The sharpest increase has been this year, with the price of Thai rice, a world benchmark, nearly doubling since January, to $760 per metric ton. Some analysts expect that price to reach $1,000 in the next three months.” [Emphasis Mine]

“Despite efforts by governments to increase public-sector wages and introduce food subsidies, price increases and shortages have led to violent clashes along supply lines, in food distribution centers and at supermarkets,” reports Cha. [Emphasis Mine]

Obama administration was warned about the nexus between hunger and riots just prior to the Arab Spring.

According to Godoy Yaneer Bar-Yam of the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, “…and his colleagues say they submitted their analysis warning of the risks of social unrest to the U.S. government on Dec. 13, 2010. Four days later, Tunisian fruit and vegetable vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire – an event widely seen as the catalyst for the Arab Spring.”

“From the French Revolution to the Arab Spring, high food prices have been cited as a factor behind mass protest movements. But can food prices actually help predict when social unrest is likely to break out?”, asks Godoy. The answer is yes.

According to Bar-Yam the NECSI model offers the potential to forecast future social unrest by identifying “a very well-defined threshold [for food prices] above which food riots break out”. Godoy reports:

The researchers define the riot danger zone in relation to the U.N.’s FAO Food Price Index, which tracks the monthly change in international prices for a basket of cereals, dairy, meat, sugars and oil/fats. Riots become more likely, their model showed, when the index goes above 210. The index has been hovering above that “disruption threshold” since July, pushed upward by the drought in the U.S., the world’s biggest exporter of corn and wheat.

Wheat is now at $9 per bushel — higher than the high of $8.94 hit in February 2011, when the Arab Spring was in full swing. Corn is at $7.56 a bushel, close to the $7.65 highs of 2007-2008 — though it spiked well above $8 a bushel this summer. The Mideast is particularly sensitive to wheat prices; it imports most of its wheat, which is a major staple for the region.

David W. Kreutzer, Ph.D. writes, “The ethanol mandate in the federal Renewable Fuel Standard increases corn prices and food prices. This harms consumers and distorts the domestic and international commodity market. While waiving the mandate would be an improvement, eliminating it is the best choice.”

Florida’s legislature unsuccessfully tried to introduce legislation to take the state off of the federal ethanol standard. The legislation died in December 2011 in the Florida Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee committee chaired by Senator Nancy Detert. The 2008 law that would be repealed by the bill, backed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist, requires gasoline to include 9 to 10 percent ethanol.

According to the Florida Times-Union Jacksonville, “The sponsor of a measure that would repeal a law requiring ethanol in Florida gasoline agreed to postpone its consideration Wednesday in the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, with several members of the panel saying they’re uncomfortable with a full repeal, though there’s support for making sure non-ethanol gasoline is available.” Detert said, “I just don’t want to hurt the businesses that are in place to offer us renewable energy ideas.”

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that “Geologists believe there may be large oil and gas deposits in the Federal Outer Continental Shelf in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, off of Florida’s western coast.”

Perhaps Senator Detert and the Florida legislature should look at how using food for fuel is causing riots in the Middle East and elsewhere? Perhaps it is time for Florida to tap into the oil and natural gas deposits off of Florida’s shore line?

SOME FACTS:

According to  UNICEF and the World Health Organization every year six million children die from malnutrition before their fifth birthday. This equates to 16,438 children a day.

The World Health Organization estimates that one-third of the world is well-fed, one-third is under-fed one-third is starving.

Since you’ve entered this site at least 200 people have died of starvation.

Every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger.

Hasner Asks: How many dimes do you have in your pocket right now?

Congressional Candidate Adam Hasner has taken a new approach to politics. He presents the math. Hasner asks in a recent email,”How many dimes do you have in your pocket right now? Ten cents won’t buy a pack of gum at the grocery store anymore, but at the gas pump, that little silver coin can make a big difference to America’s economy.”

“Did you know every time gas prices go up by just 10 cents, the buying power of American consumers shrinks by $11 billion over the course of a year?, states Hasner.

Zunaira Zaki from ABC News writes:

As the national weekly average for regular gas continues to climb — now $3.59 a gallon, up 7 cents from last week, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration — here’s how soaring prices are affecting American consumers:

      • The average American household spends $3,348 of its after tax income on gasoline and diesel.
      • A 10 cent rise in prices means that the average household spends $93.25 more on gas and diesel per year.
      • Lower-income households are most sensitive to fluctuations in energy prices. Households in the lowest income quintile spend about 11 percent of their income on energy (which includes gasoline, natural gas and electricity), whereas households in the highest quintile spend 6.8 percent of their income on energy, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Hasner notes, “For decades, Washington’s energy policies have failed to make real progress toward true energy security. As a result, gas prices are on a perpetual roller-coaster, seemingly breaking record highs on a regular basis.”

Hasner supports an, “All of the above energy approach that relies on innovative, cost-effective renewable energy technologies, new domestic oil and natural gas exploration, safe and reliable nuclear power, and market-driven solutions to keep energy costs affordable for Florida families.”

“Affordable energy costs are critical to getting our economy moving again and bringing jobs back to our country. Now more than ever, we need made-in-America energy solutions to fuel growth and ensure our national security today and for future generations,” states Hasner.

Hasner concludes, “This election isn’t about Republicans or Democrats; this election is about math. And now is the time to tell Washington we expect real energy results, because while 10 cents may not seem like a lot to them, those dimes add up for the rest of us.”

Florida Nuclear Plant Nearly Melts Down

Marimer Matos from Courthouse News Service reports, “Florida Power & Light fired a safety officer for shutting down a dangerously leaking nuclear reactor, because it cost $6 million to repair, the man claims in court.”

“Mark W. Hicks sued Florida Power & Light Co. in Port St. Lucie County Court, alleging whistleblower violations, intentional infliction of emotional distress, libel and fraud,” according to Matos.

“It was clear to Hicks that there was great potential peril, as a reactor which loses too much nuclear reactor coolant has a potential of causing core damage, which could ultimately lead to a nuclear meltdown at the power plant, putting the entire civilian population, which would be in proximity to the reactor, in danger,” the complaint states.

Matos reports, “In fact, the same type of coolant leak that Hicks observed at the St. Lucie power plant [pictured above] was what caused the partial nuclear core meltdown on March 28, 1979, known as the Three Mile Island Accident, in Middletown, Pennsylvania, which was the worst nuclear accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant history …”

“At the time of the incident, Hicks was following the plant safety procedures outlined in FPL’s Technical Specification § 6.8, and from his own general safety knowledge regarding the procedures required to reduce the safety concern.”

Hicks adds: “Following protocol, Hicks reported to the head of the Nuclear Power Division of FPL and the Executive Vice President of FPL Manoochehr Nazar, who then shockingly and recklessly insisted that Hicks start up the reactor.”

“Despite Hicks’ evaluation of the situation, the obvious safety concerns, and the clear legal requirements which dictated that Hicks and FPL shut down the reactor, Nazar ordered Hicks to sign off on starting up the reactor without repairing the valves,” reports Matos.

“Nazar took the position he did, to startup the reactor, strictly from a position of greed. The bottom line is that he was willing to risk the health, well being, and even the lives of the citizens of Florida to avoid the loss of revenue, while the reactor was being repaired,” states Hicks.

The Port St. Lucie  plant, pictured above, was built in 1976 and contains two nuclear reactors in separate containment buildings. St. Lucie Plant, Units 1 and 2 are located near Jensen Beach, FL (10 MI SE of Ft. Pierce, FL) in NRC Region II; Operator: Florida Power & Light Co.; More information on the NRC facility page link here and at this link.

Read more at Courthouse News Service.

RELATED COLUMNS:

St. Lucie Nuclear Plant not in danger of Japan-like meltdown, experts say

Man sues St. Lucie nuclear plant over job loss, claiming he was whistle-blower

Are Smart Meters a Dumb Idea?

Citizens are gathering in Tallahassee next week to address placing smart meters in homes and rental properties across Florida. There is growing citizen concern about smart meters. Some have called smart meters “the 21st Century version of lead paint” and liken the radio waves emmitting from them as dangerous secondary smoke.

The Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC) is holding a workshop on Smart Meters on September 20, 2012 from 9:30am – 5pm in the Betty Easley Conference Center, Commission Hearing Room 148, 4075 Esplanade Way, Tallahassee, FL.

Pat Wayman from Sarasota, FL states, “I have personally been contacted by people who are becoming ill after a smart meter(s) was installed on their home. You can be assured we will pay for these both monetarily and physically. And meter readers will lose their jobs. For those who live in multiple units, you will receive continuous pulsed radiation from multiple smart meters – unless you can get them to stop installing these devices.”

The Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC), an industry group, has released the below video titled “Separating the Facts from the Fiction about Smart Meter”.  PG&E, SCE, SDG&E, BC Hydro, PEPCO, BGE, FPL, as well as other utility companies and Smart Meter manufacturers like Landis and Gyr, Itron, Silver Springs Networks, GE, Aclara, are SGCC members.  Affiliate members are utility regulators like Public Utility Commissions from California, Colorado, Texas, and environmental groups like EDF and NRDC.

According to the Stop Smart Meters website:

This video attempts to counter legitimate Smart Meter complaints and serious problems. They start by saying there’s misinformation about Smart Meters floating about the internet (displaying a panic button) and they plan to set the record straight. “Let’s get down to business” is a key introductory phrase.

Promoting Smart Meters IS their business.

Industry fiction: Smart Meters don’t know how you’re using power

FACT: Smart Meters “…can be used to pinpoint the use of most major household appliances. Such detailed information about the in-home activities of electricity customers can thus be used to piece together a fairly detailed picture of an individual’s daily life or routine.” SmartGridPrivacy See also: Privacy-Problems-Inherent-in-the-Smart-Grid

Industry fiction: “Most of the time your meter is idle”

FACT: One PG&E Smart Meter can transmit up to 190,000 pulses a day. PG&E’s Big Confession

Industry fiction: “Your power company has kept your data private for decades.”

FACT: PG&E released names, email addresses and private online conversations they gathered by deception to the media. They redacted PG&E and third party names, and emails and left open customer data, at the same time claiming privacy was a great value to them. PG&E’s spying may cost them

Industry fiction:”Smart Meters allow you to make choices that limit your bills.”

FACT: Over-billing complaints have been reported widely after Smart Meters are installed. Customers in Bakersfield CA were so outraged about overcharging they filed a class action lawsuit against PG&E. See complaints. See also:PG&E admits billing errors, offers scanty refund

Industry fiction: Science doesn’t support the claim that RF causes cancer

FACT: The World Health Organization classified RF radiation as a 2b Carcinogen, same as DDT and lead.

Industry fiction: A household radio transmits RF

FACT: A household radio receives RF, it is not an RF transmitter.

Industry fiction: Smart Meters create less exposure to RF radiation than a microwave, cell phone, wi-fi.

FACT: Daniel Hirsch, a UC researcher, has calculated that smart meters expose you to more than 100 times the full body, cumulative exposure as a cell phone. Daniel Hirsch report

Industry fiction: “Even if you cozied up to a Smart Meter all day, it would require you to snuggle up to one for 375 years before it would equal the exposure of having a daily 15 minute cell phone call over the course of one year.”

FACT: Smart Meters can exceed FCC safety guidelines (Sage reports)

FACT: Smart Meters can violate FCC conditions for installment

Industry fiction: Read the Hobbit instead of worrying that the” Smart Meter is the fourth horseman of the apocalypse that will wreak havoc on your life”

FACT: Lawsuits are being filed against Smart Meters in several states, California, Maine, Hawaii, Texas, Illinois and more. Utility Regulators in Maryland, Illinois and Pennsylvania are investigating Smart Meter related fires.

Smart Meters are designed to work in a mesh network, transmitting radio frequency (RF) radiation pulses from home to home. If too many customers refuse, the mesh system can fail. Having to provide customers a choice has become a serious problem for the industry. The industry, with support from regulators, are penalizing customers for non-compliance by charging them to opt out. The Smart Grid program which was initiated by the federal government, was designed to be offered, but not forced on customers.

Click here to read a Stop Smart Meters flyer.

RELATED COLUMN: FPL busts myths at SKA meeting

 

The Case Against Energy Subsidies in Florida

State Rep. Scott Plankton

State Representative Scott Plankton and Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam have been pushing for government subsidies to grow Florida’s economy. According to James M. Taylor, J.D., from Florida Political Press, reports, “Digital Domain Media Group Inc. closed its taxpayer-subsidized film studio Tuesday and filed for bankruptcy protection, just a few short months after State Rep. Scott Plakon (R-Longwood) told skeptical Tea Party leaders that the Florida film industry provides a sterling example of why government officials should hand over taxpayer dollars to politically connected renewable energy companies.”

According to Taylor, “Between 2009 and 2012, Florida’s Republican-dominated legislature and various local governments handed over $135 million in taxpayer subsidies to Digital Domain. Those subsidies included prime real estate and a lavish headquarters building in addition to direct cash payments.

“$135 Million Wasted,” notes Taylor.

“In an April conversation with Tea Party leaders unhappy about legislation giving renewable energy companies $100 million in taxpayer subsidies, Plakon said state subsidies for film companies such as Digital Domain demonstrate why it is good for government to generously subsidize politically connected companies and industries,” writes Taylor.

Another effort to use government money to subsidize energy in Florida is the Energy Economic Zone (EEZ). There are two EEZ pilot projects currently underway, one in Sarasota County and another in the City of Miami, Florida.

Why an Energy Economic Zone, why now and for what purpose?

Dennis Cauchon, writer for USA Today, in his column “Household electricity bills skyrocket” points out, “Electricity is consuming a greater share of Americans’ after-tax income than at any time since 1996 — about $1.50 of every $100 in income at a time when income growth has stagnated, a USA TODAY analysis of Bureau of Economic Analysis data found. Greater electricity use at home and higher prices per kilowatt hour are both driving the higher costs, in roughly equal measure. . .”

It makes sense for households, businesses and government to find ways to save on their electric bills. But is the creation of a government subsidized EEZ the way to do that?

One of the driving forces behind the creation of an EEZ in Sarasota County is the building of a methane power plant at the county landfill. According to Gary Bennett from Sarasota County, “County staff will be recommending that a private developer be allowed to design/build/operate a landfill gas to energy facility at the Central County Landfill in Nokomis. Staff believes the project is feasible. The estimated cost would be roughly $5-6 million dollars for a 3.2 megawatt facility based on cost estimates we have seen. Permitting is extensive. Includes both state and local. [The] Developer would pay the cost. Power would be fed to the power grid so no back up needed. This project once approved takes roughly 18 months to permit and complete.”

County staff was asked if a feasibility study was conducted.

According to Gary Bennett, “We did look at costs if the County would build a facility but it was looked at in a very simplistic manner. It was not feasible for the County when the price of renewable energy that would be paid the County dropped from about 7 cents a kilowatt hour to around 5 cents a kilowatt hour. Since this would be a developer driven project with all the financial risk on the developer, they will determine whether the project is feasible. The County would be looking for the developer to pay the County revenue for the landfill gas supplied to their facility.” Floridians currently pay 11.44 cents per kilowatt hour.

The two developers involved in the pilot EEZ are Hugh Culverhouse and Henry Rodriguez.

There is a key problem. EPA studies show a landfill must have trash rates over 1 million cubic feet/year minimum to produce enough methane for a plant. Sarasota County falls well below this level of trash rate per year. What will determine whether a generation unit can be successful are the percent of methane (usually 35-50 %) and the cubic feet per minute for each well. As the methane is collected it is sent thru scrubbers to clean and purify the gas prior to burning it to produce steam for a turbine or used in modified vehicles like buses or trash trucks as fuel. If not enough is available at a high enough concentration or pressure it is unlikely that Sarasota County landfill is a good candidate. Additionally, being a public/private utility it could be tax exempt and thus its inclusion in the EEZ is not needed.

The EEZ pilot projects are the first step in a process to create energy subsidies in all 67 of Florida’s counties and many cities for an questionable return on the taxpayers investment. After all saving energy is in everyone’s best interest. Do Floridians really need government stepping in to help?

Will the EEZ become Florida’s version of Solyndra?

Danger: Energy Economic Zone Ahead

Government is famous for wasting time and money all at the expense of taxpayers. The greatest waste has been attributed to the “green movement” and its efforts to save the planet by controlling human activities, such as emissions of CO2. This political and uniquely unscientific movement has led the Florida legislature to create comprehensive planning legislation, implement caps on carbon emissions and most recently create an Energy Economic Zone (EEZ) pilot project.

Sarasota County has established by ordinance an Energy Economic Zone. The first public hearings on the EEZ pilot project in Sarasota County are being held in September. Citizens and business will learn what the EEZ is all about. But what is end purpose of an EEZ? What will be accomplished by establishing an EEZ in Sarasota County?

My answer: The greatest expansion of local government power over your and my pursuit of happiness.

Here are ten reasons why I believe the Sarasota County EEZ will fail:

1. Any governmental expansion of power always meets with stiff public resistance and the EEZ is meeting stiff resistance. The EEZ has been denounced with bi-partisan support in Sarasota County. Neighborhood associations, anti-growth proponents and Democrats are standing shoulder to shoulder with TEA Party groups, 912 Project members and the Republican Party of Sarasota Executive Committee to denounce this project and its attempt to control the lives of citizens.

2. Economic zones do not work. County Commissioner Nora Patterson in an e-mail to an opponent of the EEZ states, “Our existing enterprise zone [in Newtown] is truly a depressed area and I can tell you in advance that the overall situation has not improved, in fact quite the opposite given the economic downturn.” So Commissioners know that enterprise zones do not work from the Newtown failure. Why throw good money after bad? Because it feels good to do so. The EEZ is being driven by ideology, not by any proven method to create jobs or expand the economy in Florida.

3. One of the purposes of the EEZ is to create energy efficiencies and thereby reduce energy usage. This is a FALSE premise as greater efficiency leads inextricably to greater energy usage. This phenomenon is called the “rebound effect”. Increasing the efficiency of lighting encourages us to illuminate more. This means that we need more energy, not less to meet future demand, expected to increase by 30% over the next decade. The EEZ concept is a fallacy, even if the five sitting County Commissioners believe in this fallacy, it is still a fallacy.

4. The incentives provided in the ordinance as currently written are not defined. This makes the ordinance open to broad interpretation by staff in its implementation. We have experienced what happens when bureaucrats are given the leeway to implement policy in Florida. This has happened with numeric water standards being imposed on the state by the Environmental Protection Agency. Placing Draconian standards on water quality to save us from ourselves. Standards that cannot be met!

5. The incentives are front loaded without regard to clearly defined end results. Under the current proposed ordinance businesses would be awarded incentive grants in addition to tax abatements for job creation. The business would promise to create new “green jobs”. This is a failed model, see reason #2 above. You and I do not pay a business until the job is done. In this case County government is so trusting that they will pay upfront for a promise of future job creation. The County has tried this recently with Sanborn studios. Sanborn Studios closed its Lakewood Ranch facility in December 2011 after just one year in operation. The company that promised to produce Hollywood movies, TV shows and create more than 100 jobs in Sarasota got a $650,000 grant from Sarasota County. It is good to learn from experience right?

6. The EEZ is “crony capitalism” writ large. Crony capitalism is a term describing an economy in which success in business depends on close relationships between business people and government officials. It may be exhibited by favoritism in the distribution of legal permits, government grants, special tax breaks, and so forth. The proposed ordinance establishing an EEZ is the ultimate example of crony capitalism. Government picks the winners and losers, not the free markets. This always leads to corruption and political favoritism.

7. Government does not create jobs! The great myth is that government can via incentives create something from nothing. Jobs are created only when a business cannot meet the market demand for its products or services. That is an economic fact. What can government do to help create a market for a product or service? Nothing, absolutely nothing. What government can do best is to do the least. That is to say government is best that governs least. Protecting property rights is the role of government.

8. All of the County Commissioners are Republicans dedicated to limited government and the U.S. Constitution. The Republican Party of Sarasota Executive Committee passed a resolution condemning “local ‘sustainable development’ policies such as Smart Growth, Wildlands Project, Resilient Cities, Regional Visioning Projects, and other ‘Green’ or ‘Alternative’ projects.” The EEZ falls squarely into all of these categories! A copy of the full resolution was presented to each Commissioner.

9. The County’s attempt to establish an EEZ has led to at least one law suit. According to Kathy Attunes, “The EEZ and attached Enterprise Zone incentives are separate statutes. It can be argued that the Enterprise Zone statutes exist independently of the EEZ statute (377.809), and these state Enterprise Zone statutes apply independent of any local eligibility requirements and a $300,000 cap. The EEZ green standards and $300,000 cap are not outlined in the Enterprise Zone statutes; the statutes do not mirror each other. We are concerned that the EEZ statute and linked Enterprise Zone incentives are in conflict, which potentially sets the County up for litigation brought by businesses who have met Enterprise Zone criteria but not County EEZ standards. We do not want the BCC to proceed with a program that opens the door to a flood of untargeted Enterprise Zone tax breaks, and the possibility of having local control negated by state statute.” I agree more litigation will follow.

10. Finally, this is just bad public policy and a waste of taxpayer money.

There are many other reasons why the EEZ is bad policy for Sarasota County but in the interest of brevity I have listed only my top ten.

I do not need nor want government telling me how to save energy. I am perfectly able doing that on my own. If I wish to waste energy then I will pay an economic price for that behavior. That is how personal freedom and free markets work. Government forcing choices upon me is morally wrong. The EEZ is morally wrong!

Higher Gas Prices Add to Economic Slump

Courtesy of the Heritage Foundation:

Unemployment is at 8.3 percent. The economy is sputtering at 1.5 percent growth. Food prices are rising due to drought conditions across the country. And gas prices are up again, pinching Americans’ summer budgets. It is past time for the President and Congress to pursue smart policies that would put us on a path to relief.

According to AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report, the current national average for regular is $3.66 per gallon. That’s up 28 cents per gallon from a month ago, and July had its biggest price jump since AAA started tracking prices in 2000. To see the average for Florida click here.

There are many factors affecting prices that we cannot control—worldwide tensions, especially in the Middle East, can drive up oil prices. Global demand, especially from China and India’s rapidly growing economies, continues upward.

But after three years of adding regulatory hurdles and blocking exploratory access and development, President Obama’s policies are helping keep prices higher than necessary.

If the President truly wanted to lower gas prices, he would work to increase supply. But when given the opportunity, he has done the opposite. He turned down the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada. His Administration has made it even harder for companies to explore and extract domestic energy resources by canceling, delaying, or withdrawing a number of lease sales for exploration and development. Meanwhile, huge swaths of federal lands have been put off limits for energy exploration.

Domestic refinery outages have had a recent impact on gas prices. Two of the factors holding back domestic energy production are regulatory red tape and litigation—and these, we can do something about. As Heritage’s Nicolas Loris notes:

Environmental activists delay new energy projects by filing endless administrative appeals and lawsuits. Creating a manageable time frame for permitting and for groups or individuals to contest energy plans would keep potentially cost-effective ventures from being tied up for years in litigation while allowing the public and interested parties to voice opposition or support for these projects.

We don’t have to stand still. Congress could alleviate the energy crunch in 10 different ways by taking action on things we can control, like restrictions on oil shale development and offshore drilling.

One of the most common objections is that increasing domestic oil production takes too long and would not impact the market for at least a decade. The longer people make this argument, however, the longer it will take. The sooner we make investments in domestic energy, the sooner those benefits will be realized. And with some serious reforms, some of this oil can reach the market in much less than a decade.

Gas prices aren’t under the control of any one President. But Americans shouldn’t settle for policies that restrict oil exploration, refining, and production and artificially drive prices higher.

MORE FROM THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION:

High Gas Prices: Obama’s Half-Truths vs. Reality

President Obama’s 10 Worst Energy Policies

Republicans and Democrats Alike Want Higher Food, Fuel and Energy Prices

Gallup Politics recently did an Environmental poll (see the below chart). The results shows that a majority of Republicans and super majority of Democrats favor actions that will lead to higher food, fuel and energy prices. While there are more Republicans that favor opening public lands to exploration and drilling the end results of their support for policies like increasing regulations to reduce “emissions and pollution standards for businesses” means higher costs for all consumers.

Americans polled may not understand the difference between “emissions” and “pollution”.

Emissions/greenhouse gasses, e.g. CO2, primarily occur due to water evaporation from the earth’s oceans and seas. When 50% of Republicans want government to “impose mandatory controls on carbon dioxide emissions” many consumers wonder if they understand that we cannot control water evaporation from happening. The EPA recently issued a CO2 emissions ruling that impacts all of U.S. coal fired plants and will cause many to shut down because they cannot meet the new standards. This will drive up energy costs and thereby food costs.

Government spending on solar and wind power has been a disaster with many of the companies failing to produce a cost effective product, moving their operations to China or going bankrupt. All of these companies are a further drain on our economy because they are not producing cheap and reliable power, they are producing just the opposite, which drives up energy costs and thereby food costs.

While Republicans generally favor opening public lands to oil, natural gas and oil shale exploration and production, nearly half want stronger enforcement of environmental regulations and higher emission standards for automobiles. One negates the other.

The environmentalists are licking their lips at these numbers.

The pollster’s state:

Gallup has tracked seven of the eight proposals periodically since 2001. Support for all but nuclear energy has declined since last measured in 2007, with the largest drops seen for spending government money to develop alternative sources of fuel for automobiles, strengthening enforcement of environmental regulations, and setting higher auto emissions standards.

These declines could be due to Americans’ reduced priority in the last several years for preserving the environment at the expense of economic growth, an outgrowth of the economic downturn. However, they are also likely to stem from heightened public concern about government spending and regulations specifically, particularly among Republicans.

Some do not find these numbers low enough to keep Republicans, in an election year, from stopping the power grab by the EPA. If this is a campaign issue then the consumer loses. As food, fuel and energy prices rise so will inflation. The column “Our Bubble Government” notes that inflation will burst both the dollar and debt bubbles. The higher the cost of goods and borrowing the more likely the current recession will last or deepen.

From this Gallup Environment poll some see trouble brewing on the horizon and its name is – inflation.

RELATED COLUMNS:

Global Warnings Reckless Rhetoric

Overthrowing Environmentalism

Obama’s Eco Lies

The Fallacy of Energy Efficiency

Across the world there is a concerted effort to reduce the use of energy via efficiency. This has grown into a political ideology dedicated to saving the planet by reducing each of our carbon footprints. For example, governments mandate CAFÉ standards to increase fuel efficiency. But what have been the actual results of these efforts?

Today we build engines that propel our aircraft, ships, trains and cars using much less fuel. However, to the chagrin of many who want to save the planet, as efficiency has increased so has the demand for more energy, particularly fossil fuels.

For example in Florida the state legislature has gone so far as to create a pilot program to create two Energy Economic Zones, one in the City of Miami and the other in Sarasota County, Florida. But to what avail? History tells us as we create greater efficiencies we then consume even more. But why does this happen?

In 2003 the Norwegian Institute for Consumer Research did a study titled The Fallacies of Energy Efficiency: The Rebound Effect? The study reports, “It has been observed that energy efficiency measures result in less than expected energy savings. This is usually ascribed to the so-called rebound effect . . . If you buy an appliance that is twice as efficient as your old one, the effective price of fuel is reduced to a half. As long as the elasticity of energy demand with respect to energy price is not zero, as would be quite unreasonable, there will be a pressure on energy demand.”

Remember: The elasticity of energy demand will never be zero.

In his Wall Street Journal column It’s Too Easy Being Green, David Owen laments, “A favorite trick of people who consider themselves friends of the environment is reframing luxury consumption preferences as gifts to humanity . . . Our capacity for self-deception can be breathtaking.”

Owen, as an environmentalist, notes, “Even when we act with what we believe to be the best intentions, our efforts are often at cross-purposes with our goals. Increasing the efficiency of lighting encourages us to illuminate more.” David is describing the Rebound Effect.
Efficiency is good. Efficiency makes available more goods and services to more people. As more people can afford an automobile because of manufacturing efficiencies the better for us all. That is what David realizes as he concludes his column. David states, “Relieving traffic congestion reduces the appeal of public transportation and fuels the growth of suburban sprawl. A robust market for ethanol exacerbates global hunger by diverting cropland from the production of food.”

Energy efficiencies lead to greater energy demand. Concepts like Economic Energy Zones, locavorism (only eating food that is produced locally), sustainable communities, electric cars, high speed rail, public transportation, green buildings, CAFÉ standards and alternative fuels are “breathtaking self-deceptions”.

As mankind finds better and cheaper ways to make things and provide services the broader will be the market as consumers like saving a buck. That is what drives us all. Getting more for less and as we can do we do more for less.

Man works in his own self-interests. That is called individualism. That will never change.

As Ronald Reagan once said, “Only when the human spirit is allowed to invent and create, only when individuals are given a personal stake in deciding economic policies and benefiting from their success — only then can societies remain economically alive, dynamic, prosperous, progressive and free.”

Attached file:

Fallacy of Energy Efficiency