I long ago swore off the Wall Street Journal's editorial page -- the last straw for me was their cruel swipe at departed "dope fiend" Jerry Garcia back in 1995. But on Monday a friend forwarded me a WSJ editorial whaling away at renewable power's production tax credit:
Solar energy is subsidized to the tune of $24.34 per megawatt hour, wind $23.37 and ... nuclear power $1.59. Wind and solar have been on the subsidy take for years ...
Now, they insinuate, it's time to kick wind and solar out of the nest to fly (or not) on their own, just like Uncle Nuke did, decades ago.
What's up?, my pal asked, knowing that I not only have a thing for wind power but used to be a walking encyclopedia of nuclear power costs. After a quick trip down memory lane, pencil in hand, here's my brief on federal subsidies for windmills and nukes.The score (in 2007 dollars):
- Reactor subsidies, 1950-1990: $154 billion, or $3.75 billion a year.
- Wind power subsidies, 1983-2007: $3.75 billion 25-year total.
With gas at $3.50 a gallon in April, the U.S. mainstream media is replete with stories of drivers abandoning SUVs, hopping on mass transit, and otherwise cutting back on gasoline. Yet a year or two ago, when pump prices were approaching and even passing the $3.00 "barrier," the media mantra was that demand for gasoline was so inelastic that high prices were barely making a dent in usage.
Which story is correct? I lean toward the more "elastic" view, and here I'd like to share some of the data that inform my belief.
I've been tracking official monthly data on U.S. gasoline consumption for the past five years and compiling the numbers in this spreadsheet. You'll find that it parses the data in several different ways: year-on-year monthly comparisons (e.g., March 2008 vs. March 2007), three-month moving averages that smooth out most of the random variations in reporting, and full-year comparisons that allow a bird's-eye view.
Here's what I see in the data:
The margin was narrow -- 4 percentage points. And 5 percent of those polled didn't choose sides. But a CBS News/NY Times poll released Sunday just might signal the moment when Americans began to grasp the intertwined realities of climate, energy and national security.
The poll [PDF] found that 49 percent of Americans think suspending the gasoline tax this summer is a bad idea, while 45 percent approve of the plan (see Question 49).
If memory serves, this is the first time in at least a generation that the American public expressed a willingness to be taxed more rather than less for energy.
Calling all greens: Barack Obama, battling to remain the front-runner in the Democratic presidential primary, this weekend took on the most sacred cow in American politics: cheap gas.
Campaigning in Indiana, Obama distanced himself from the gas tax "holiday" proposed by Sen. John McCain, saying it may not bring down prices and would require raising other taxes to pay for highway maintenance.
"The only way we're going to lower gas prices over the long term is if we start using less oil," Obama said in Anderson.
McCain pounced, saying through a campaign spokesman that "Americans need strong leadership that can deliver lower gas prices and a healthier economy, not Barack Obama's inexperience and indecision." Obama's Democratic rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, did likewise, unveiling a new ad calling for suspension of the gasoline tax -- a proposal first advanced by McCain on April 15.
As U.S. political campaigns go, the contrast between McCain-Clinton's playing the gas-tax card and Obama's brave clarity couldn't be clearer.