Sunday, February 24, 2013

Clean Line Energy, Vulture Capital, and Venture Politics

A mere forty years ago, beach volleyball was just a beginning.  No bureaucrat would have invented it, and that's what freedom is all about.  - Newt Gingrich

Like Newt Gingrich explained, "Policy Driven Innovations" from the government do not accomplish much other than make a very few people very wealthy.  How much more must we sacrifice for "clean" energy?
1.   The Wind Industry said they need PURPA so real electric companies would be forced to buy their energy. We gave them Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act.
2.   The Wind Industry said they need a subsidy, so we gave them the Production Tax Credit at $22/MWh and the Investment Tax Credit that paid for a third of the cost to build a new windfarm.
3.   The Wind Industry said they need PUCHA abolished to get more investors in powerlines for “clean” energy.   We scrapped President Roosevelt’s Public Utility Holding Company Act and venture capital could invest in powerlines for wind energy.
4.   The Wind Industry said they need Renewable Portfolio Standards as a policy to mandate 25% renewable energy by 2025. We Illinois gave them the RPS.
5.   The Wind Industry said they need 20 Year Power Purchasing Contracts. We gave them 20 year Power Purchasing Contracts at 184% the current market value for energy.  Illinois Governor chose "winners" and "losers" as his Illinois Power Agency agreed to buy and resell to ComEd  "clean" wind energy at $55.18/MWh while today's market price for energy in Illinois is closer to $30/MWh. 
6.  The Wind Industry said they needed a Rapid Response Transmission Siting Team for projects running through federal land, and this administration created such an animal.  Now we have created a situation where federal employees are told to approve projects passing through federal parks or be fired.
Now the Wind Industry says they need superhighway powerlines (Rock Island Clean Line, Grain Belt Express, Illinois Rivers project) to get the energy to the east coast.
Now the Wind Industry says they need federal "siting authority" or eminent domain for powerlines.  At the very least they claim a need for “State Siting Compacts” to make approval automatic for large transmission project traversing pass-through states.
When is it enough? 
Do captive ratepayers really need to pay for these grandiose powerline dreams for "Merchant Transmission Lines" also?
How much more of this "success" of government endorsed "public policy innovation" must we pay to the wind energy companies to ensure their success?
How much more do I need to sacrifice to the owners of these windmills?
What is the depth of the greed of the wind energy lobby?
Show me a wind company that is going out of business. Show me a wind company that isn’t making money. How do you think Michael Zilhka, the financer of Clean Line Energy made his billions from his millions? Wind Energy.
If the Renewable Portfolio Standard is not frozen, by 2025 Illinois residents are going to have 25% of our energy as unregulated “renewable” and “clean” energy.  These “clean” energy companies are exempt from all the regulations natural gas, nuclear, coal, hydro, and all other energy generators must work and abide by.  There is no restrictions or limits on profit wind companies can make.  By 2025 the largest player in the energy business (wind energy) will be left unchecked and all other energy manufactures will be scrapping for income and survival around this out of control monster.
Now is not the time to build Clean Line Energy's superhighway mega-powerlines across the nation for the sake of wind energy.  We have paid enough of our money to these “clean” energy companies.  It’s time to regulate "clean" energy's greed before it’s too late and we create the next Enron situation.  Michael Skelly, President of Clean Line Energy and his merry band, do a good job attempting to sell their product as value added, but in the end he's like the Wizard of Oz, just a man hiding behind a green curtain telling us to pay no attention to the abundance of supply and the bubble economy the government is creating.  As wise consumers and residents of Illinois we need to look at what the market is telling us and be aware of the rising bubble economic the government is creating by giving the wind energy industry everything it says it "needs" to survive and be competitive  in the marketplace.
Let's look at past governmental "Policy Driven Innovations" in the energy industry.  President Nixon, Ford, and Carter all had public policies declaring America's energy independence was through coal.  America built coal plants.  America built powerlines based on coal generated energy.  Today, we have a President who boasts about bankrupting the coal industry.  The farmers and ranchers of the Midwest now have an literal Aerial Sewers of these transmission lines through our farms ... virtual powerlines to nowhere.
20 years from now what will American's think of the "Public Policy Innovation" of wind energy?  Either we will be foolish enough to subsidize the industry for another 20 years or America will laugh at the folly of wind energy.  The Midwest farmers will have more of these aerial sewer through America's farmland.
While growing up on a farm with my formative years of school in the 1980's, there are two things this generation of farmers learned, what happens when "Public Policy Inovation changes and the effect of a large suppply when there is little demand for a product.  In the late 1970's President Jimmy Carter changed a "public policy innovation" and dropped a grain embargo on Russia.  Grain markets crashed.  Farmers suffered a severe recession while the rest of the nation enjoyed a significant economic recovery.  With supplies large, farmers went out of business as the export economic engine of the farm economy suffered.  Growing up, this was a hard lesson learned.
One thing I have learned about the energy industry is today there's a surplus energy.  The pre-2008 business model is gone.  People are not consumer as before.  The manufacturing industry is not consuming as it once was.  Look at the unemployment numbers as an example.  We once had 4.3% unemployment.  Today 8.0% unemployment is the standard.  People are not working and manufacturing, which uses tremendous amounts of energy, is hit hardest.  Cheap energy is great for the consumers, but at $30/MWh energy, the market is telling the industry there is too much supply and the industry needs to shed some generation.  Yes, in the next several years, we will likely see a reduction in the supply of energy. 
Even with a surplus of energy, FERC is encouraging more transmission and more wind energy.  FERC has created Order No. 1000 in an attempt to give incentives to tranmission for a "need" for more wind generation.  The federal government has extended the wind energy’s Production Tax Credit through 2013.  In the eyes of many in the government, there is a shortage of supply and a denial of the truth.  We have a surplus of energy in this new economy.  In its zeal and over estimation of the economy Illinois' government has purchased a surplus of wind energy at prices far higher than the current market price through 20 year power purchase agreements.  This is indeed a strange contrast in a time of surplus. 
Government’s endorsement through “Public Policy Innovation” of more wind energy is creating more risk than reduces it.  Look at what government’s endorsement did in the housing market.  The bubble collapsed.  Yes, wind energy can replace other forms of generation, but we still will have a surplus of generation.  The market is still telling the industry to lose generation as prices remain low.  It is very possible few wind companies will take advantage of the extension of the Production Tax Credit.
This is an interesting time for a start-up like Clean Line Energy.  The market was there when the business model was conceived.  Their business model was probably sound a few years ago, but that market is long gone.    All they can do know is hope and pray.  Hope the demand in the market comes back, and they can find wind farms to fill their powerlines.  Pray that the investment capital funding continues to fund their dream, doesn’t cut the flow of money, and walk away.
It’s time politics quit tampering with industry through "Public Policy Innovation".  Have we learned nothing from the housing bubble market, Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter's endorsement of coal energy.  It was and always will be a failed for the President, FERC, Governors, and other bureaucrats to tell the consumer what they :need".  Let the market be allowed to find the least cost energy resources. 
Yes, beach volleyball would never been invented by government bureaucrats.  These same people who are here to "help" the public manage our energy needs are promoting market inefficiencies and creating risk of a collapse of a false economic bubble.  Look at the list of regulatory concessions, subsidies, and general lack of oversite given to the wind industry. 
What is going to happen if we permit an unregulated wind industry to couple with a less regulated transmission industry?  America is exposing itself to see more energy manipulation and profit from energy trading with more power transmission and wind energy controlling the market,.  We will see the next Enron created once unregulated wind energy dominates the energy markets with their own transmission.  Perhaps this is the motive of vulture capital in the "clean" energy transmission business. 
It's time for some bureaucrats to take a step back.  In the name of removing barriers for wind energy, the government has created barriers for fair competition in the energy market with the Renewable Portfolio Standards and Power Purchasing Agreements.  It’s time to let Adam Smith's "Invisible Hand of Capitalism" help determine the most economical form of energy from the competing sources.  Wind Energy can compete in the marketplace, but the incentives handed out by the government is only making a bloated inefficient industry that is not the best option for consumers.

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