The fossil fuel lobby continues its misinformation campaign to muddy the waters about one of the indisputable benefits of wind energy–its success in reducing the use of fossil fuels and the harmful emissions associated with their use. The latest attack on clean energy comes from Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Exxon-Mobil-funded Manhattan Institute, who in a Forbes piece regurgitates a report written by Bentek, a natural gas consulting firm whose President and CEO happens to be the Chairman and Director of the Natural Gas Committee of the fossil fuel lobby group the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States, as well as a member of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.
Unsurprisingly, the Bentek report is directly contradicted by a large body of government data and numerous studies by independent grid operators conclusively showing that the emissions savings of adding wind energy to the grid are substantially larger than had been expected. Bentek’s report is filled with a number of salient errors, most notably that the authors used a method that takes very small snapshots of the power grid in both time and geographic space, and thus overlooks a large share of the emissions savings produced by wind energy. As an example, Bentek’s methodology gives wind energy deployed in California or in the Pacific Northwest no credit for the emissions reductions achieved by reducing coal electricity imported from other states, which is a main reason why the report so grossly understated the actual emissions benefit of wind in those regions. As another example, its methodology gives wind energy credit for only one hour of emissions savings when it forces a coal power plant to turn off for a much longer period of time, and gives no credit to wind energy when it allows the grid operator to store additional water behind a hydroelectric dam that is used to displace fossil generation later on, both of which are common events. The flaws in Bentek’s work are too numerous to discuss here, although the following fact sheet lists many of them as well as providing the detailed results of government data and grid operator studies that conclusively show that wind energy significantly reduces fossil fuel use and emissions: The Facts About Wind Energy and Emissions.
Related articles on disinformation from Robert Bryce:
Power hungry? Or just on a low-fact diet? (Michael Goggin's review of Robert Bryce's book Power Hungry), July 2, 2010