Fact check: WSJ editorial laden with errors on wind
Today's online edition of the Wall Street Journal carries an editorial criticizing the federal wind energy Production Tax Credit (PTC), but with enough errors of fact to make an astute reader wonder whether the publication has any fact-checkers at all. So, let's set the record straight on a few key blunders:
Item: The wind energy Production Tax Credit does not apply to solar power. Shocking, I know, but there you have it: solar is solar, and wind is wind, and the two are not the same. The two technologies have not had the same incentives since at least the 1980s, if ever. And America's largest newspaper doesn't know this? Clearly, the widely lamented hollowing-out of mainstream journalism has gone much farther and deeper than I had imagined.
Item: The PTC is 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced, not "2.2 percent" (of what?). Another basic fact misstated. Surely, opinions (and editorials) are worth more if they are based on facts?
Item: Legislation sponsored by U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kans.) does not end all energy subsidies. It unfairly singles out wind power, the most promising source of new American manufacturing jobs, while protecting billions of dollars in incentives for other energy sources and all non-energy sectors. Honest reform of tax incentives must start with a level playing field.
Item: Wind power generated nearly 3 percent (2.9) of U.S. electricity in 2011, as much electricity as could be generated by burning 60 million tons of coal or 225 million barrels of oil--or enough to more than meet the total electricity needs of the state of Michigan. After a decade of double-digit growth, wind power is starting to put up some real numbers, even in the country that is by far the world's largest energy user. By any rational measure, U.S. wind power has become a serious energy source, and our investment in this clean, affordable, homegrown energy technology is paying off.
Item: Wind power remains ahead of schedule to provide 20 percent of U.S. electricity by 2030. The estimate of 3.9 percent by 2035 in the editorial is an old one, envisioning no policy support.
In summary, there's an old maxim about the results of shoddy computer programming that applies here: GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out). Enough said.
Update 3/8/12, 10:23 a.m. Eastern
Some additional errors deserve mention (hat tip to Richard Caperton and Stephen Lacey at ThinkProgress):
Item: Natural gas prices are described in million BTUs (mmBTU) or thousand cubic feet (mcf), not "million cubic feet." But hey, what's a minor error of three orders of magnitude (1,000x)?
Item: National and state renewable energy standards (which require utilities to obtain a specified minimum percentage of their electricity from renewable energy sources) always include a "circuit-breaker" clause to protect consumers from high prices. That's also true of the Clean Energy Standard (CES) recently introduced by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.). To claim otherwise is indefensible.