Surprise: Subsidized “green” energy source, isn’t actually all that green

posted at 10:41 am on July 25, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

Yes, I know what you’re thinking — headlines of this nature really aren’t revelations at all anymore; in fact, they’re getting kind of old and tired, at least by my count. But as long as environmentalists continue to use their political clout to prematurely force their quixotic renewable endeavors upon the masses, at the masses’ expense and for the masses’ “own good,” fear not, for I shall continue to post about it.

According to a report by the WSJ, electricity plants that burn biomass as their energy source (organic materials that qualify as biomass can range from wood chips to animal waste) have received at least $700 million in federal and state subsidies since just 2009, even though they often fail to meet the environmental standards imposed upon their traditional fossil-fuel counterparts.

Yet of 107 U.S. biomass plants that the Journal could confirm were operating at the start of this year, the Journal analysis shows that 85 have been cited by state or federal regulators for violating air-pollution or water-pollution standards at some time during the past five years, including minor infractions. …

Biomass is growing as a source of electricity, its production up about 14% in the past 10 years, according to the Department of Energy. Alternative electricity-production sources as a whole generate about 13% of power in the U.S., and biomass is about 11% of the alternative production.

As federal and state governments promote such sources—largely to cut emissions believed to affect the climate but also for related goals such as providing cleaner air to breathe, preventing acid-rain harm to lakes and reducing reliance on energy imports—biomass plants generally qualify along with wind and solar. …

Nearly all U.S. biomass plants receive government support from subsidies, grants or state-approved power contracts. The federal economic-stimulus act of 2009 provided more than $11 billion for renewable power, of which about $270 million went to biomass plants, in grants administered by the Treasury Department. Other federal agencies involved in such subsidies include the departments of energy and agriculture.

Biomass qualifies as renewable energy because organic waste is easily and infinitely replenished, and gets to fly under the flag of ‘carbon-neutral’ because such materials would slowly decay over time and emit the same amount of carbon as instantaneous burning, albeit at a much more gradual pace — but with the frequent sulfur, carbon monoxide, and various other air-pollutant violations, is the juice really worth the squeeze?

The doling-out of green-energy subsidies isn’t usually linked to environmental compliance, by the way. And, even better, more than thirty states require utilities companies to use some portion of renewable energy as part of their supplies — even though the renewable sources, including biomass, are unfailingly more expensive than traditional fuels. Federal and state subsidies, or ‘necessarily skyrocketing’ energy prices: Either way, it’s all your money!


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Green energy… the big “okeydoke”…

Almost qualifies for “bamboozle”…

Khun Joe on July 25, 2012 at 10:45 AM

The energy needed to produce, and dispose of batteries, make things like electric cars laughable. Let alone the power needed to charge the cars.
The fact is, so far, no one has come up with perpetual energy…

right2bright on July 25, 2012 at 10:45 AM

even though they often fail to meet the environmental standards imposed upon their traditional fossil-fuel counterparts.

A sin against Gaia????? Lash the whole lot of them, better yet, stone them and be done with it.
/The Proletariat

ted c on July 25, 2012 at 10:46 AM

And those solar panels which will save the Earth, jam-packed with chemicals and substances which are so poisonous that hazmat procedures are necessary if they spill.

I have an idea, let’s burn more corn, wasting our food when we are swimming in oil is the way to go.

Bishop on July 25, 2012 at 10:47 AM

but with the frequent sulfur, carbon monoxide, and various other air-pollutant violations, is the juice really worth the squeeze?

there you go again, Erika, using that common sense thing. Remember, these are liberals that we’re dealing with here…./

ted c on July 25, 2012 at 10:48 AM

I have an idea, let’s burn more corn, wasting our food when we are swimming in oil is the way to go.

Bishop on July 25, 2012 at 10:47 AM

may I cut off my nose to spite my face first?/

ted c on July 25, 2012 at 10:49 AM

Biomass is 11% of alternative energy, which in turn is 13% of all production? So Biomass is about 1.5% of total electricity production. And we’re subsidizing it to the tune of $270 million? Holy smokes, what a boondoggle!

Mohonri on July 25, 2012 at 10:49 AM

Feeding the green dragon creates massive pollution. Our community has had 14 electric rate increases for 35% in the past 2 years. Now this particular mess is subsidize via the tax systems and not even thru the electric meters.

seven on July 25, 2012 at 10:50 AM

So burning bull sh!t is really all bullsh!t?

Trafalgar on July 25, 2012 at 10:51 AM

I think most of us already knew this.

A safe rule of thumb is, if it has to be mandated and subsidized, it doesn’t work.

JellyToast on July 25, 2012 at 10:52 AM

O/T
Can we get that bogus poll and dumb$hit picture of Odoodoo off the front page? Tired of my dog growling when he walks by the computer, dog eater and all.

msupertas on July 25, 2012 at 10:53 AM

Exactly how much water do these biomass fuel use in the growing, harvesting and processing into a usable fuel? In an age of growing hunger and diminishing fresh water supplies, this seems incredible short-sighted and a downright idiotic path to follow.

Tyrs Fury on July 25, 2012 at 10:54 AM

Let’s not even think about all of the ‘pollution’ created in getting the biofuels to market:
Diesel fuel to plant
Diesel fuel to spray that crop for weeds at least once
Diesel fuel to harvest the crop
Diesel fuel to truck the crop to the grain elevator
Diesel fuel for the train to take the crop where it needs to go
And probably more diesel fuel to get the crop off the train to truck it somewhere.

What a f$%^ing game.

Badger40 on July 25, 2012 at 10:55 AM

Green = Communist

It’s about controlling your behavior, spending habits, and lifestyle, and wallet. It has nothing to do witht he environment.

Oil Can on July 25, 2012 at 10:55 AM

I have an idea, let’s burn more corn, wasting our food when we are swimming in oil is the way to go.

Bishop on July 25, 2012 at 10:47 AM

…and…what’s left over when they make ethanol from corn…is environmentally worse than pouring a barrel of oil directly into the ground above your well water.

KOOLAID2 on July 25, 2012 at 10:57 AM

The Richardton ND ethanol plant just north of me can’t exist without its subsidies.

That was a 2008 article.
I wonder what they’re getting lately?

Badger40 on July 25, 2012 at 11:00 AM

…and…what’s left over when they make ethanol from corn…is environmentally worse than pouring a barrel of oil directly into the ground above your well water.

KOOLAID2 on July 25, 2012 at 10:57 AM

It takes 25 gallons of fresh water to produce a single gallon of ethanol.

Saving the Earth by creating deserts, man do these ecofreaks have it figure out or what?

Bishop on July 25, 2012 at 11:01 AM

and…what’s left over when they make ethanol from corn…is environmentally worse than pouring a barrel of oil directly into the ground above your well water.

KOOLAID2 on July 25, 2012 at 10:57 AM

Well the leftover bulk of stuff is used for feed for cattle.
So it’s not like it’s wasted or bad.
Distiller’s grain makes good feed for cattle.

Badger40 on July 25, 2012 at 11:02 AM

It takes 25 gallons of fresh water to produce a single gallon of ethanol.

Saving the Earth by creating deserts, man do these ecofreaks have it figure out or what?

Bishop on July 25, 2012 at 11:01 AM

Now THIS is the problem. Here in ND there is a LOT of water. We have a very high water table.
But it’s also being used in fracking.

Badger40 on July 25, 2012 at 11:04 AM

I suspect that the only “green” things Obama and his Solyndraesque envirocronies really care about is currency.

jwolf on July 25, 2012 at 11:04 AM

and…what’s left over when they make ethanol from corn…is environmentally worse than pouring a barrel of oil directly into the ground above your well water.

KOOLAID2 on July 25, 2012 at 10:57 AM

I don’t wanna pick. But that just simply is not true.
The oil would be worse.

Badger40 on July 25, 2012 at 11:05 AM

is the juice really worth the squeeze?

Gotta love this one. Erika rocks.

koaiko on July 25, 2012 at 11:10 AM

“Green” refers to the money changing hands via government-backed gifts

tomg51 on July 25, 2012 at 11:14 AM

INSANE it is, these billions and billions of $ in subsidies for these green boondoggles just to get us closer to bankruptcy, crowd out conventional energy, and raise the price of energy for everyone. Pointless idiocy.
And keep it close in mind: they do it all for global warming, er climate change, whatever they call it. What gets me about these Prophets of Doom is their never ending and obviously false predictions of disaster. ALL their computer models, and ALL their doomsday pronouncements, have not come true. These predictions are laughable in their absurdity. Yet these clowns continue doing the same thing, year after year, decade after decade. A seriously broken record.

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed — and hence clamorous to be led to safety — by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” -H. L. Mencken
“In ten years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish.” -Paul Ehrlich, Earth Day 1970
“by the turn of the century [2000], an ecological catastrophe [will happen] which will witness devastation as complete, as irreversible as any nuclear holocaust.” — Mustafa Tolba (1982), former Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program
“Entire nations could be wiped off the face of the Earth by rising sea levels if the global warming trend is not reversed by the year 2000.” -Noel Brown (1989), ex UNEP Director

anotherJoe on July 25, 2012 at 11:17 AM

“Entire nations could be wiped off the face of the Earth by rising sea levels if the global warming trend is not reversed by the year 2000.” -Noel Brown (1989), ex UNEP Director

anotherJoe on July 25, 2012 at 11:17 AM

I like this one.
Actually, entire nations/cultures HAVE been inundated by the sea.
The end of the ice age caused it.
Another thing that causes this, & AGW folks have never figured it into their flooding predictions is ISOSTATIC ADJUSTMENT.
I find that interesting.
Isostatic adjustment is something that can really affect some localities.
And it obviously has NOTHING to do with the climate.

Badger40 on July 25, 2012 at 11:22 AM

Ethanol from corn – during a drought year the Nation can’t afford to be growing corn for fuel. And the rest of the world will see skyrocketing prices for everything that uses corn, as well.

That year will be this year.

If you think the economy looks bad now, just wait until your food prices necessarily skyrocket because of this sort of policy. The fun hasn’t even started yet.

ajacksonian on July 25, 2012 at 11:24 AM

Green Industrial Complex

The “green” movement is comprised of statists who want money redistributed to their companies, communists/socialists who want to control society and the idiots who actually think that we’re on the verge of a global environmental apocalypse and are going to create unicorn power.

gwelf on July 25, 2012 at 11:31 AM

As federal and state governments promote such sources—largely to cut emissions believed to affect the climate but also for related goals such as providing cleaner air to breathe, preventing acid-rain harm to lakes and reducing reliance on energy imports—biomass plants generally qualify along with wind and solar.

but with the frequent sulfur, carbon monoxide, and various other air-pollutant violations, is the juice really worth the squeeze?

Acid rain is caused by sulfur dioxide emissions which react with rain water to form dilute sulfuric acid. Total sulfur dioxide emissions have DECREASED over the past 40 years (due to controls) while fossil-fuel use has INCREASED. So these subsidized biofuels are now INCREASING acid rain?

Alternative electricity-production sources as a whole generate about 13% of power in the U.S., and biomass is about 11% of the alternative production.

So that biomass generates 0.13 x 0.11 = 1.43% of the power in the United States, and requires $270 million in subsidies. If all electric power was equally subsidized, it would cost the Federal Government $18.9 billion, or about $63 for every man, woman, and child in America.

Coal and natural gas generate about 64% of our power needs, and never get a dime of subsidies…

Steve Z on July 25, 2012 at 11:33 AM

And, even better, more than thirty states require utilities companies to use some portion of renewable energy as part of their supplies — even though the renewable sources, including biomass, are unfailingly more expensive than traditional fuels. Federal and state subsidies, or ‘necessarily skyrocketing’ energy prices: Either way, it’s all your money!

Statist policies hurt the poor!?! Say it aint so!

As with everything on the left – it’s the intent that matters and not the result.

gwelf on July 25, 2012 at 11:33 AM

Is this a good time for a reminder that reality has a liberal bias?

gwelf on July 25, 2012 at 11:34 AM

have an idea, let’s burn more corn, wasting our food when we are swimming in oil is the way to go.

I suspect when our economy has been destroyed by our statists ands their allies, government will take over our domestic energy sources and the oil will flow like the old days.

Its all a matter of who controls ownership, power and profit.

hawkeye54 on July 25, 2012 at 11:38 AM

Biomass qualifies as renewable energy because organic waste is easily and infinitely replenished, and gets to fly under the flag of ‘carbon-neutral’ because such materials would slowly decay over time and emit the same amount of carbon as instantaneous burning, albeit at a much more gradual pace — but with the frequent sulfur, carbon monoxide, and various other air-pollutant violations, is the juice really worth the squeeze?

Interesting……

This sounds like a political decision, not a scientific fact

I know, I can hear it…..they’re all political decisions.

itsspideyman on July 25, 2012 at 11:42 AM

Statist policies hurt the poor!?! Say it aint so!

Hurt the poor? Merely a temporary inconvenience in suffering and an acceptable but necessary treatment in creating our Statist Utopia to come, where all but those on the highest rung of Utopian society will be equal in poverty.

hawkeye54 on July 25, 2012 at 11:43 AM

and…what’s left over when they make ethanol from corn…is environmentally worse than pouring a barrel of oil directly into the ground above your well water.

KOOLAID2 on July 25, 2012 at 10:57 AM

I don’t wanna pick. But that just simply is not true.
The oil would be worse.

Badger40 on July 25, 2012 at 11:05 AM

Yep, I’m not a supporter of ethanol-from-corn, but the concept is bad enough that we don’t have to propagate myths either, and there are plenty.

slickwillie2001 on July 25, 2012 at 11:52 AM

We didn’t build Solyndra, everybody helped.

Herb on July 25, 2012 at 11:54 AM

Acid rain is caused by sulfur dioxide emissions which react with rain water to form dilute sulfuric acid. Total sulfur dioxide emissions have DECREASED over the past 40 years (due to controls) while fossil-fuel use has INCREASED. So these subsidized biofuels are now INCREASING acid rain?

Steve Z on July 25, 2012 at 11:33 AM

Let us also not forget than acid rain is also caused by natural reasons. Like CO2 from volcanic emissions.
Of course carbonic acid is not as destructive as sulfuric.
But ALL rainwater is naturally acidic.

Badger40 on July 25, 2012 at 11:56 AM

Why doesn’t anyone just go ask Tony Stark to let us use the arc reactor??

GEES. I mean, this technology has been around for like 50 years.

KMC1 on July 25, 2012 at 12:02 PM

We didn’t build Solyndra, everybody helped.

Herb on July 25, 2012 at 11:54 AM

Threadwinner!

Badger40 on July 25, 2012 at 12:08 PM

And those solar panels which will save the Earth, jam-packed with chemicals and substances which are so poisonous that hazmat procedures are necessary if they spill.

I have an idea, let’s burn more corn, wasting our food when we are swimming in oil is the way to go.

Bishop on July 25, 2012 at 10:47 AM

Not trying to call you out, but could you provide a link for that statement. I was under the understanding that the solar panels are solid. Now the manufacturing process may be poisinous as he**, but the panels I thought were dry.

As a sideline, when I was in school, for my senior level college economics course, I did a paper on solar power. One of the issues (granted it was back in the late 70′s) my research brought up was that solar farms added to the thermal “pollution” wherever they wre set up, but since most are set up in hot sunny places….

seymour01 on July 25, 2012 at 12:17 PM

I don’t wanna pick. But that just simply is not true.
The oil would be worse.

Badger40 on July 25, 2012 at 11:05 AM

Actually Badger, it is true. Ethanol is much more miscible with water, oil is not and is much easier to separate from water should contamination occur.

Should a water source be contaminated with ethanol it will take much more time, effort and money to remediate. It’s much like many years back when the enviro-nazis forced refineries to place an additive into gasoline to make it burn cleaner. The refineries wanted more time to study what additive would be the best to use but the enviro-nazi’s accused them of stalling, took them to court and essentially forced them to make a quick decision instead of being allowed to conduct studies on what would be the best additive.

So the refineries chose MTBE (Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether) which turned out to be extremely miscible with water (much more so than ethanol) and low and behold now we have lots of ground water contaminated with MTBE that is extremely difficult to remediate due to MTBE’s miscibility with water!

This type of mindset is very typical of the enviro-nazi; they approach environmental protection from emotion and not sound science. In addition as oil can points out; it’s not really about saving the planet:

Green = Communist

It’s about controlling your behavior, spending habits, and lifestyle, and wallet. It has nothing to do witht he environment.

Oil Can on July 25, 2012 at 10:55 AM

The fact the enviro-nazi’s aren’t up in arms about biomass electrical plants polluting the air and solar plants being placed in forests says a lot about what hypocrites they are…I mean what about the poor desert hare and the coyote…isn’t their habitat important enough to protect from the invasion of all those solar panels?

Liberty or Death on July 25, 2012 at 12:21 PM

I don’t wanna pick. But that just simply is not true.
The oil would be worse.

Badger40 on July 25, 2012 at 11:05 AM
Yep, I’m not a supporter of ethanol-from-corn, but the concept is bad enough that we don’t have to propagate myths either, and there are plenty.

slickwillie2001 on July 25, 2012 at 11:52 AM

…I have to get a hold of my sis-in-law who was a chemical and environmental engineer for Chrysler and was involved with ethanol see where she obtained her info…yeah maybe not as bad has pouring oil directly into the ground…but it’s not good!
Start out with (I’ll get her info when I can-I was rather shocked) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071010120538.htm

KOOLAID2 on July 25, 2012 at 12:38 PM

Actually Badger, it is true. Ethanol is much more miscible with water, oil is not and is much easier to separate from water should contamination occur.

Liberty or Death on July 25, 2012 at 12:21 PM

I guess I was not referring to the ethanol itself.
I was referring to the byproducts OF ethanol.

I fully understand the chemistry of ethanol & water.
It’s why small engines are plagued with problems bcs of ethanol fuel mixtures.

Badger40 on July 25, 2012 at 12:40 PM

KOOLAID2 on July 25, 2012 at 12:38 PM

I am referring to the byproducts.

Oil & ethanol, I doubt it really matters what gets poured into the ground.
Bcs there is really no way to evaluate all spills considering local conditions vary greatly.
Depends on your moisture, soil etc.
Actually, it would be interesting to see a research study on this.

Badger40 on July 25, 2012 at 12:42 PM

Let me be clear here, it is worse to spill oil than it is to spill distillers grains on the ground or in the water.
That was what I was referring to.

Badger40 on July 25, 2012 at 12:43 PM

This is what happens when you let the gov’t build things.

HumpBot Salvation on July 25, 2012 at 12:45 PM

Hey, let’s make electricity from burning wood! Got lots of forests out west for fuel!

Marcola on July 25, 2012 at 1:03 PM

Hey, let’s make electricity from burning wood! Got lots of forests out west for fuel!

Marcola on July 25, 2012 at 1:03 PM

Too late, the forests out west have already burned thanks to the “good intentions” of the enviro-nazi’s not allowing common sense management of said forests…

Liberty or Death on July 25, 2012 at 2:34 PM

Doesn’t matter the human toll, this is liberal good intentions.

tom daschle concerned on July 25, 2012 at 2:36 PM

“Biomass” —> BTU per tonnage consumed divided by 0.20 times Tax dollars set on fire minus environmental impact = U R effing nuts for burning food stuffs for fuel.

locomotivebreath1901 on July 25, 2012 at 3:02 PM

Of course carbonic acid is not as destructive as sulfuric.
But ALL rainwater is naturally acidic.

Badger40 on July 25, 2012 at 11:56 AM

My turn to pick a bit. The concentration of the hydrogen ion is the important part not the source.

chemman on July 25, 2012 at 3:44 PM

And, even better, more than thirty states require utilities companies to use some portion of renewable energy as part of their supplies — even though the renewable sources, including biomass, are unfailingly more expensive than traditional fuels.

That’s just one of the things that Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the Democrats signed into law for us here in Minnesota.

RJL on July 25, 2012 at 5:25 PM

My turn to pick a bit. The concentration of the hydrogen ion is the important part not the source.

chemman on July 25, 2012 at 3:44 PM

Heh, yep! Read this to the tune of It’a all About the Benjamins song: “it’s all about the hydronium ion…it’s all about the hydronium ion baby…”

Liberty or Death on July 25, 2012 at 6:03 PM