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Fact check: Bryce bypasses facts, bashes clean energy

Fact check: Bryce bypasses facts, bashes clean energy
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The irrepressible Robert Bryce, of the fossil-fuel-funded Manhattan Institute, has a recent opinion article in the National Review attacking President Obama's energy policy. As usual, Mr. Bryce overlooks some key facts in his rush to condemn clean energy:

The cost of wind power is falling.  Wind power's cost has dropped by more than 90 percent since the early wind farms of the 1980s, and a recent report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) found that trend is continuing. LBNL said wind turbine prices have dropped sharply in recent years, due largely to the scaling up of turbine size to reduce cost of energy (COE) and the growth of a domestic supply chain as the U.S. dollar has declined against other major currencies.

That phrase "growth of a domestic supply chain" is key.  During the past four years, the wind industry has grown at an annual rate of 37 percent. Today, over 400 facilities across 43 states manufacture for the wind energy industry, and 60 percent of a wind turbine’s value is now produced here in America, compared to 25% prior to 2005. American manufacturing jobs are coming back, with tens of thousands of new jobs from wind power. Also, more than $60 billion of investment has been made since 2005.  With wind today, we are seeing a virtuous circle–developing more wind farms is leading to more demand for turbines and turbine parts, spurring the development of a new manufacturing industry, creating new jobs, and fostering increased competition, which results in lower costs.

Wind power supports many more jobs than those involved in operating a wind farm.  While Mr. Bryce likes to look through the wrong end of the telescope and diminish wind power jobs, a less biased view would take account of the workers who build wind farms, those who manufacture the 8,000 components (from bolts to blades and everything in between) that make up a modern wind turbine, those who drive the trucks carrying towers, blades and other heavy equipment to a wind farm site (wind power is a huge business for trucking companies), and many, many more.

No energy source can do it all.  That's why most thoughtful energy experts call for a mix of energy sources to supply our country's energy needs, and why utilities typically seek to diversify their "portfolios" of electricity sources. Different sources have different strengths and weaknesses. One of wind power's strengths in this context is that it uses no fuel, and therefore can provide energy at a stable, predictable price that is immune to the sometimes wild price swings in global energy markets.  History has seen many periods of volatility in energy markets, and it would be extremely foolish to base energy policy on a few months, or even a few years, of low prices for a single fuel.

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