Fox’s Varney seizes last chance to belittle wind energy

A little over a month ago, I posted an article on this blog entitled "Attention disinformers: Last chance to belittle wind." It expressed some amazement that Japan’s nuclear accident had led to a barrage of attacks on wind power, as nuclear and coal advocates sought to reassure themselves that wind energy was not a threat, and it noted that wind turbines is growing so rapidly that those who diminish its importance will soon no longer be able to pass the laugh test. How can you pretend, for example, that a technology that has installed 35% of all new electric generating capacity in the U.S. for the past four years–more than nuclear and coal combined–is too small to matter?

Evidently, Fox Business host Stuart Varney has taken up the challenge. According to the watchdog group Media Matters, Monday on the Fox talk show The O’Reilly Factor, Mr. Varney said the federal government has supported wind energy and solar power for the past 30 years and "virtually nothing … Nothing has come out of it, except the irrational pricing of energy."

As the numbers I posted a month ago indicate, with respect, Mr. Varney does not know what he is talking about. Here is a brief recap of some of them:

– In the last three years, enough new wind farm power was installed in the U.S. to generate as much electricity as five nuclear power plants.

– This year, U.S. wind turbines, virtually all of them installed since 2000, will generate as much electricity as 10 nuclear power plants.

– During the Bush Administration, the U.S. Department of Energy found that wind energy could supply 20% of U.S. electricity (roughly what nuclear supplies today) by 2030. To do that, wind would have to generate as much electricity as 75 nuclear plants.

– During the past decade, wind farm installations have surged around the world, going from 17,000 MW in 2000 to 197,000 MW–more than 10 times as much–by 2010.

Media Matters also takes Mr. Varney to task, using statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), the authoritative keeper of U.S. energy data:

"Energy Information Administration: ‘Wind Power Has Been The Fastest-Growing Source Of New Electric Power Generation For Several Years.’ According to data from the U.S. Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), ‘[w]ind power has been the fastest-growing source of new electric power generation for several years.’

"The EIA further stated: In 2009, generation from wind power increased 33.5 percent over 2008, bringing the share of total generation to 1.9 percent. This followed year-over-year generation gains of 60.7 percent in 2008, 29.6 percent in 2007, and 49.3 percent in 2006 (See the ‘Electric Power Annual’ Table ES.1). Wind farm capacity in 2009 totaled 34,296 megawatts (MW), as compared to 24,651 MW in 2008. [U.S. Energy Information Administration, January 2011]"

It’s important to note here that wind’s growth has continued, and that since the end of 2008, the last year when wind farms installed are reflected in the graphic, U.S. installed wind farm capacity has increased by another 60% (!).

For those who are open to the facts, it’s clear that wind power is well on its way to becoming a major source of U.S. electric power, while at the same time creating a new domestic manufacturing industry, helping to revitalize rural farming and ranching communities, and reducing air and water pollution by displacing fossil fuels.

By Tom Gray,