Dirty Wind-power War

Screwed-Ontarians-2-447x525-780858Terence Corcoran  National Post

In the PR war over subsidies, the wind industry appears to be waging a dirty war.

When industries look for government subsidies for money-losing propositions, a common business model these days, one of the most important strategic elements is to make sure you have a well-oiled public relations machine to keep the facts from getting in the way. Voters don’t like to back money-losers, which means keeping them steadily misinformed or at least confused.

Renewable energy industries — wind, solar, biomass, human treadmills — have a particularly tough job.  In North America, where so-called green energy companies and electric utilities are on the brink of receiving uncountable billions in direct subsidies and zillions in indirect subsidies via higher electricity prices, the PR effort is in full swing.

Ontario, Alberta and other provinces along with Ottawa are busy working on wind and solar development schemes, even though they are documented money-losers. U.S. President Obama this week was hailed as “the man who’s done more to advance the cause of renewable energy than anyone in the nation’s history.” Or so said the head of Florida Light and Power after Mr. Obama announced $3.7-billion in economic stimulus spending on smart meters that would make it possible for utilities to manipulate prices and force people to pay more for renewable energy. In Congress this week, debate is raging over a clean energy bill that would direct windfall carbon taxes on fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy.

To what degree do voters in Canada and the U.S. know they are to be come feeder funds for subsidy-seeking industrial firms?  If the industry has its way, not too much.  What the voters don’t know they shouldn’t be told.

All of which is to introduce a little public relations story related to a commentary we ran on this page last week by the authors of a new German study on Germany’s disastrously wasteful rush into alternative energy. The study, “Economic impacts from the promotion of renewable energies: The German experience,” showed how German electricity consumers and the German economy paid dearly for the country’s plunge into wind and solar energy. The program was massively expensive, and the authors of the study warned that other jurisdictions would be well advised avoiding the German model.

The study was written for the prestigious Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut in Essen, Germany, by Manuel Frondel, Nolan Ritter, and Colin Vance. After FP Comment published the commentary from the study, the following news release landed:

To: ‘tcorcoran@nationalpost.com’

Subject: heads up: this week’s attack by IER on the wind industry. this time it’s Germany.

Good afternoon:

I’m checking in with you again today about IER’s latest attack on the wind industry.

 On October 19, the Institute for Energy Research (IER), an anti-clean energy group that produces bogus research aimed at derailing U.S. policy away from clean, renewable sources of energy, struck again. This time the target was Germany, a global leader in wind energy; an earlier IER attack trained its falsehoods and flawed methodology on Denmark.

The latest IER attack is focused on Germany’s “feed-in tariff,” a system used in other countries to encourage the development of renewable energy. Their report is called ‘Economic impacts from the promotion of renewable energies: The German Experience.’

IER’s strategy is to discredit renewable energy in other countries at a time when the U.S. industry is growing and policies still being developed. This report goes so far as to include a state-by-state U.S. map showing how much a German-style feed-in tariff would increase electricity costs in each state.  The U.S. Congress is considering a national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) which is a very different policy from the feed-in tariff so this comparison simply does not apply…

Previous IER reports have been discredited by prominent international organizations and think tanks. But the facts so far have not deterred their disinformation campaign, and we expect them to take on other countries that have successfully integrated wind into their energy mix.  Stay tuned…

An AWEA representative is available to discuss: What are IER’s motives? Why the IER’s math does not compute. How the study is just the latest in a concerted effort by wind opponents.  

Sincerely, Shawna Seldon, The Rosen Group, New York

Note, among other things, that the news release — put out by the American Wind Energy Association through the New York public relations firm — does not mention the German institute (Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut) that did the study. Instead it refers to another group (IER) that paid for the study.  By association, it implies the  German report to be “bogus”  and riddled with errors.

It seemed like a charge worth following up, so I sent a note off to the German institute and asked for its response to the wind industry’s claims that the report might be bogus or otherwise tainted. One of the authors of the report sent me this:

Dear Mr. Corcoran,

 Thank you for your interest in our report on Germany’s experience with renewable energies, for which I served as the lead coordinator and co-author for RWI, an economics research institute in Germany. With regard to your questions, let me first confirm that the report was written jointly by my RWI colleagues Manuel Frondel, Nolan Ritter, and myself. The report was commissioned by IER, but I can assure you that beyond the broad definition of the topic – Germany’s experience with renewable energy – IER had no role in determining the report’s content. Indeed, some of what we advocate in the report, such as the use of cap and trade to achieve emissions reductions, is not a position supported by IER. These positions were also advocated in publications released long before our association with IER, which I would be happy to send you.

 Concerning the American Wind Energy Association’s claim that the research cannot be trusted, it is important to emphasize that every figure cited in that report is clearly documented and drawn from reputable sources, many of which are from the German government itself.

 In this regard, the rebuttal in the E&E story [a U.S. news agency article on the study] suggests that we ignore job creation figures put out by the German government. This accusation is patently false. On page 22 of the report, we present a colored chart, assembled from a government-commissioned study, that shows gross employment in the renewables sector of 278,000. This is closely in-line with the 280,000 figure cited by E&E.

 Finally, I would note that RWI’s criticism of government programs is not limited to the renewables sector. The institute has a long history of criticizing government subsidies for the coal industry, which hasn’t won it a lot of friends in its home town of Essen, the heartland of Germany’s coal extraction.

If you have any particular questions about the report or the topic more generally, please do not hesitate to contact me.  I welcome any opportunity to discuss our findings and to hear feed-back.

With best regards,
Colin Vance, Senior Researcher, RWI; Professor of Quantitative Methods, Jacobs University Bremen

In the PR war over subsidies, the wind industry appears to be waging a dirty war.

4 thoughts on “Dirty Wind-power War

  1. The sad truth is that people in general are more occupied with the life and death “scare tactics” being unleashed on them across all media outlets about SWINE FLU and cannot focus on two major issues at one time. The Wind lobbies will take advantage of this and thrust their corrupt agendas even though they face reports such as the above showing them up as “Industrial Panhandlers”

    “Devious” is the word that comes to mind here and once the dust from Swine Flu clears we will be left with the same old same old song and dance from CANWEA, AWEA and BWEA regardless of any studies and research papers that show these lobby weasels for what they really are: “money hungry corrupt carpetbaggers with long sticky fingers that grope continuously into taxpayers pockets”!

  2. From Wikipedia: Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) is a tactic of rhetoric and fallacy used in sales, marketing, public relations, politics and propaganda. FUD is generally a strategic attempt to influence public perception by disseminating negative information designed to undermine the credibility of their beliefs.

    Doesn’t this sound like the McGuintly clan?

  3. Key words associated with the windie propaganda machine: “keeping [voters] steadily misinformed”.

    Con artists and carpetbaggers!!

  4. Despicable! How long do they think they can get away with such tactics? Good for Terrance Corcoran for calling their bluff.

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