Any economic historians in the audience who can spot check this energy development claim?

Michael Giberson

Please let me know ASAP if you can find any economic historians, energy policy specialists, economists or persons with at least a high school diploma who actually believes the following claim:

For over a century, every major energy source – petroleum, coal, nuclear, natural gas and renewables – has been developed due in large part to favorable federal policy that includes incentives. Without federal assistance of these fuel sources, it is unlikely that our nation would have grown to the economic superpower that it is today.

While the National Journal‘s collection of pro and con Production Tax Credit opinions includes a lot of bullshit, this pair of claims rises to the top. Fully 100 percent USDA prime bullshit, in my opinion.

But prove me wrong, please: find me an interested party with a plausible argument and a grasp on one or two facts that justifies the above claims.

MORE: By the way, the loose thinking and sloppy work isn’t only on the pro-PTC side. Guys arguing that wind power turbines are killing way too many birds slip in the claim that the PTC pays $2,200 per MWh. Um, no, only about $22 per MWh. And, of course, they are focused like a laser beam on the seen dead birds near wind turbines and ignore the unseen dead birds killed by other power production methods.

But thanks for joining us here on the “Let’s Pretend We’re Actually Serious People Doing Serious Thinking” show.

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7 thoughts on “Any economic historians in the audience who can spot check this energy development claim?

  1. Historically for the oil business the exact opposite is true.

    The Texas state railroad commission set production quotas limiting the amount of oil that could be produced. This came about because the volume of oil produced by the east texas field was so large that it was crashing oil prices.

    http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/mdr01

    “”In the early 1930s unrestrained production from the huge East Texas oilfield caused the price of crude to plummet worldwide and created consternation in the industry. To stabilize oil prices and to help conserve the valuable resource, a coalition consisting of parts of the industry, scientists, and public officials attempted to have output regulated.

    After an involved, protracted, and occasionally violent political struggle, the Railroad Commission won the authority to prorate, that is, to set the rate at which every oil well in Texas might produce. By limiting production in East Texas and elsewhere, commissioners succeeded both in supporting oil prices and in conserving the state’s resources. “”

  2. To what extent are the bird deaths caused by other means of energy production unseen and ignored?

    The oil companies seem to be getting fined somewhere in the neighbourhood of $2000-$7000 per bird whose deaths they’re responsible for in a lot of instances. It’s only recently I’ve seen the same level of attention paid to wind farm related deaths.

  3. Dave, the oil companies getting fined are getting fined mostly for dead birds showing up on oil company property, so still in the “seen” category. The linked article from the journal Energy Policy concludes that coal fired plants lead to an estimated 14 million bird deaths a year (though most of this from climate change impacts, so seems somewhat exaggerated) and nuclear power leads to 324,000 bird deaths, compared to a little over 7,000 for wind. Even on a per GWh basis, so adjusting for the relative scales of the different power sources, coal = 5+ bird deaths per GWh, nuclear for 0.4 bird deaths per GWh, and wind for 0.26 bird deaths per GWh. (Note, however, that taking out climate change related deaths, which is an average across the estimated effect up through 2050, the coal plant yields only 0.2 bird deaths per GWh).

  4. Mike,

    What “climate change effects”? Nobody KNOWS how the climate will change over the next 40 years. Computers can certainly produce insignificant digits faster than people with pencils. 🙂

  5. The Federal sponsorship of nuclear energy is clear enough. The Manhattan project turned what was then cutting edge theoretical physics in to working machinery, and, a few years later, the Navy turned a weapon into an energy source for nuclear submarines. It is not a subsidy story.

    Electricity did not get subsidies in its early history. Your co-blogger reviews a book that discusses this history a couple of weeks ago:
    https://knowledgeproblem.com/2012/07/20/rob-bradleys-edison-to-enron/

    The real problem is the attempt of Wind supporters to claim that wind power is an “infant industry”. The fact is that wind power is ancient and was well developed by the time the Dutch used it to drain the Netherlands. Both infants and old men may lack hair and teeth. Only a subsidy happy congress-critter could confuse the two.

  6. “nuclear power leads to 324,000 bird deaths”

    I can’t access that article, but, what non-laughable basis could the come up with for that claim?

    Don’t bogart that joint my friend.

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