It's Alive!

Ronald Bailey's article on renewable energy ("It's Alive!," June) proves the adage that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. As Bailey points out, governmental interventions in energy markets have had a remarkably consistent pattern of failure, often attended by perverse consequences such as last year's corn-ethanol-induced run-up in food prices. There's every reason to think that the expanded Obama agenda will simply result in bigger, costlier failures with still more perverse consequences.

To be fair to Jimmy Carter, though, Obama's plan—with cap and tax at its heart—is vastly more ambitious (and disaster-prone) than anything Carter might have contemplated. It's one thing to blow a few billion on synfuel projects and the like. It's another to double electricity prices and strangle  conventional energy development until the lights go out.

Kenneth P. Green
Resident Scholar
American Enterprise Institute
Washington, DC

Ronald Bailey's analysis of contemporary energy alternatives does not address the subject of "capacity factor," which is the percentage of installed generating capacity that is actually delivered by the power plant in the long run. Nuclear power, for example, hasa capacity factor well in excess of 90 percent. One must install three to four megawatts of wind turbine capacity inorder to realize a long-term output of one megawatt. This is an inefficient use of resources.

Another problem is the tendency of wind farms to deliver "spiky" power to a distribution grid, which requires that the grid maintain reserve capacity ready to spin up to fill in the intermittent outages of wind power. For this reason, Denmark—the country that may have the greatest percentage reliance on wind power—has been unable to shut down even a single coal-fired power plant; it needs reserve capacity for wind power dropouts.

Michael J. Dunn
Federal Way, WA


Dangerous Toys, Strange Bedfellows

Katherine Mangu-Ward's delightful "Dangerous Toys, Strange Bedfellows" ( June) should have been titled "Hoist by Their Own Petards." If there is such a thing as cosmic justice, this is surely an example. The very folks who so skillfully use (and tweak, and write) laws to their own advantage suddenly find themselves getting boomeranged.

It's appropriate that Mangu-Ward used an example from Vermont. You can argue about the causes of Vermont's shift away from frugal, laconic Yankee dairy farmers to tie-dyed activists. But there's no debate about the fact that folks like the toy artisans in the article have shifted Vermont from deep red to equally deep blue and have taken over governance at every level from local school boards to the Golden Dome in Montpelier. Result: Vermont now has the highest taxes, the most restrictive building permit process, and the least attractive-to-business image in the nation.

Martin S. Harris Jr.
Brandon, VT

Call me un-Christian, but I'd be lying were I to deny that it's highly gratifying to see lefties occasionally ensnared in the hyperregulatory megastate they've spent decades creating. This is particularly true when they find themselves the victims of the unintended consequences of bad public policy. It matters a great deal to Whole Earth types whose ox is getting gored. When the corporate "other" is forced to comply with onerous, baffling, generally ineffectual regulations and absorb ever-increasing compliance costs, so much the better. Never mind the increases in prices these corporate entities must charge to consumers, or the decrease in wages they can pay to their employees, or the diminution in dividends and shareholder equity. To hippie capitalists, corporations are not simply collections of humans in varied roles as stockholders, managers, and employees. They are but pitiless, mechanical behemoths.

Sean M. Smith
Roseburg, OR