Wind energy speculation jumps in Texas, but Exxon on sidelines
March 12, 2007
The WSJ reports that energy firms are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in some of the most remote -- and windy -- parts of Texas, but notes that the investments will only pay off with government subsidies.
"Generating power from wind isn't profitable without government tax breaks, which in the past have been offered and taken away," writes Jeffrey Ball, author of the article. "The big proposed projects in Texas, like those elsewhere in the country, are dependent on regulators approving transmission lines to connect remote and windy regions to major power markets. If the new lines aren't built, the projects are doomed. Such uncertainty has dashed hopes for fossil-fuel alternatives before, creating a boom-and-bust cycle not unlike the one that typifies the oil industry itself
Chart showing renewable energy production in the United States for 2006. In total, energy from renewable sources, including conventional hydroelectric, amounts to 9.74% of U.S. electricity generation. Excluding hydroelectric, the amount falls to 2.57%. Figures from the Department of Energy's (DOE) Energy Information Administration (EIA). Chart created by Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com.
The resulting wind rush could prove to be a bonanza for ranchers owning land is breezy areas, like the Texas Panhandle, says Ball.
"Local landowners who grew up cursing the wind can't believe their new luck," he writes.
While citing figures from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory which show that capital spending on new wind projects in the U.S. rose from $420 million in 2004 to $3.65 billion in 2006, Ball notes that wind power provides less than 1 percent of U.S. energy needs.
Among conventional energy firms, Royal Dutch Shell Group and BP have shown a lot of interest in wind power, while Exxon has not, reportedly saying "it doesn't want to get into a business that depends on subsidies," seemingly forgetting that the oil and gas industry is heavily subsidized itself.
CITATION: "The Texas Wind Powers A Big Energy Gamble" by Jeffrey Ball. Appeared in The Wall Street Journal on March 13, 2007.
Chart showing total energy production in the United States for 2006. Reneable energy sources are in green. Figures from the Department of Energy's (DOE) Energy Information Administration (EIA). Chart created by Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com.
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