Our Wrong-Headed Approach to Utilizing Alternative Energy Sources

I just had an interesting correspondence with the editor of an energy publication. Here’s a story that should put it into perspective. Tell me if I’m crazy.

Let’s say some investors and developers step forward with a reportedly new type of commercial grade electrical power. They named it “Zephyr Integrated Power” (ZIP). Since these people are clever types, they spent a lot of time and money on the marketing aspect of ZIP. (They knew that this was necessary to be able to break into the system -- and they want on the grid in a big way.)

So they tell us that ZIP is “free, clean, and green.” Sounds good!

Oh yes, for good measure they also add that implementing ZIP will create oodles of jobs.

So the basic question is this: exactly what do we do before we allow these people and their new product on the electric grid?

We wouldn’t be so gullible to just take their word for ZIP’s purported benefits, would we?

At the current time, the disturbing answer is yes, that is exactly what we do!

And there is more: our politicians are so enamored with ZIP that they tell these promoters that we will not only allow them on the grid, they will force utilities to use ZIP. (Hmmm. Wouldn’t utilities want to use ZIP if it was so great?)

How are utilities going to be forced to use ZIP? Lobbyists have sold our politicians a clever tool called RPS to do just that.

Despite the supposed benefits (which a free market would obviously jump on) they offer the ZIP people the promise that something like a trillion dollars of taxpayer and ratepayer money will be spent to support their product!

Even the ZIP lobbyists have a hard time believing how easy this has become. The incentives offered amount to ZIP investors earning an annual 25%, government guaranteed.

Remember, all this is without independent proof that ZIP has any real benefits.

This astounding state of affairs is how our current lobbyist driven system operates.

My Pollyanna vision is that such complex technical matters should instead be solved by science. It would go something like this: