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Almost as if on cue, Al Gore chimed in the day after I sent my last letter with what seems to be a perfect example of unintended consequences. He wants the U.S. to replace all our electricity generating capacity with renewable “green” generation such as wind and solar in the next 10 years.
The cost of this plan is dramatically higher than any of the standard fossil-fuel generators used now. Add to that the cost of throwing away the fossil-fueled equipment and it has a staggering cost. At today’s costs a clean coal generating plant costs about $1,434 per kilowatt capacity and natural gas $680. The costs for wind and solar are $1,340-$5,380, depending on type and where it is built. We’ve already seen the catastrophic unintended consequences on the food supply wreaked by ethanol. Nuclear is not feasible at present thanks to Harry Reid’s road-blocking the use of the well-suited site for storing nuclear waste in Nevada. The costs, from the Edison Electric Institute, don’t take into account the need to deal with the intermittent nature of wind and solar and need for even more capacity and a means to store energy for the nighttime and when the wind doesn’t blow.
Using an average cost for current coal and natural gas capacity of $1,100/ kw (actually on the high side) and for “green” an average of $3,600/ kw (a little on the low side). To replace the current fossil fueled capacity of more than 800,000 megawatts the construction rate will be about 80,000 megawatts per year and the increased cost will be $256 billion or $853 per person for each of the next 10 years. This includes discounting for the current average building of about 20,000 megawatts capacity per year.
For a family of four, this will cost more than $3,400 per year or nearly $300 per month. If you’re Mr. Gore and can make a huge income traveling and lecturing other people on how to reduce their carbon footprint while burning thousands of gallons of jet fuel, the extra cost is a drop in the bucket. If you are a coal miner in West Virginia, where the average household income is only $34,000 per year, then just get used to nights as cold and dark as the coal all around you that you won’t be able to burn anymore. But Gore is a smart man –maybe he understands the consequences and just hopes you and I aren’t smart enough to figure it out.