The August 31, 2011 Letters to the Editor poised two authors side-by-side addressing three concepts that I see linking together: energy, housing, and government subsidies. Walt Allen voices concern about industrial sized windmills being erected on West Virginia’s ridges, specifically in Mineral County. Beth Thomason advocates for legislation (HR 25) co-sponsored by our congressional representatives that would assure that mortgage deductions would not be altered.
Mr. Allen’s reservations are two fold. One issue is the change in our view of the mountains. The other issue is his assertion that wind energy may not be viable except without government subsidies. He would prefer to rely on responsible coal mining, clean natural gas, hydro-electric, and nuclear sources. I will leave the viewscape issue and question about whether these other sources of electricity are done responsibility for another discussion. The question I wish to raise is whether any of these non-renewable sources of energy would exist in their current forms without government subsidies over the past 100 years.
Subsidies come in two general forms: direct and indirect. Coal, oil, natural gas, hydro-power, and nuclear reactors have all benefited from direct government influence through research, development, and exploration funding, tax incentives, right-offs and depreciation, and Bureau of Land Management leases at below market value cost. Indirectly, government projects such as our national highway system, urban development, etc. provide the need and infrastructure to use that energy. The loop continues as more development requires more energy and more energy encourages more development.
We might like to blame Presidents Clinton and Obama for socializing the USA, but you better go back a few generations to the Clinch River Breed Reactor project, the Glen Canyon and Hoover Dams, and the Tennessee Valley Authority rural electrification projects to see those trends start. Hmmm. Did not our own power lines and now fiber optic project come from government grants? Solar and wind projects, meanwhile, have mostly survived around the homes of hippy-dippy, homesteader folks.
Dare I even suggest that another indirect government subsidy would be our military interventions for national security, which includes economic security, which includes energy security? I would not go so far as to chant, “No blood for oil”, but certainly our military presence in the middle east is more than out of humanitarian concern. The latest calculation I read on the expense (beyond the usual military budget) for our recent war in Iraq is $751 billion. But, our attempts to secure middle east oil goes back to at least the Shaw of Iran events, when I was in high school.
Meanwhile, Ms. Thomason wants to assure that the government helps to underwrite homeowners by keeping the mortgage interest deductions intact. How can we balance the budget if ever pet subsidy is off limits for consideration?
Two final thoughts: Allen confesses to being conservative, and our congressional representative is Republican, yet they seem to agree that subsidies are okay as long as they are the ones they want. Maybe this is why we do not have a balanced budget. And, the other problem is that government subsidies look for big solutions. I would rather see lots of small windmills and solar panels scattered around homes, cabins, and farms, so that we do not need so many big ones.
Moorefield Examiner, September 14, 2011