ALEXANDER: Offshore Windmill Bill Is A Terrible Idea

Editor’s Note: a guest post by Chris Alexander, an attorney and conservative activist in Baton Rouge and the brother of regular Hayride contributor Royal Alexander.

House Bill 165 is currently pending in the Louisiana legislature. The bill is co-authored by Houma and Lafourche Representatives Joseph Orgeron and Jerome Zeringue. It appears the bill has already passed the House and has been referred to the Senate, where it will first be considered by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources. If it survives there, will move to a full vote in the Senate.

HB 165 is a monstrosity.

It would allocate up to 25,000 acres of Louisiana offshore waters to be leased from the State by private, green energy companies to manufacture and build windmill turbines as an alternative to coal and natural gas production. The first red flag in the bill is that it removes all legislative oversight and places plenary authority in the State Mineral and Energy Board to award any lease if it deems, in its sole discretion, that the lease is in Louisiana’s best interest. Why would the bill vest this enormous power in any board while removing traditional legislative oversight and accountability? Any objective observer would necessarily be suspicious of such a provision.

The bill also removes the traditional requirement that a minimum dollar amount and minimum percentage of revenue to be produced be advertised by the board as a minimum requirement for granting the lease. No legislative oversight, and no requirement of minimal revenue creation. What could possibly go wrong here?

Another fatal flaw with HB 165 is that neither Zeringue nor Orgeron has apparently studied the history of similar misguided efforts to supply energy needs through the use of offshore wind turbines. If they had, they would know that offshore wind power is not even remotely viable in reliably providing even a small percentage of our energy needs in a consistent, cost effective and environmentally sustainable manner.

Several years ago, Rhode Island constructed and installed five wind turbines off the coast of Block Island, at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. Block Island has been a failure both in terms of structural durability and energy production. Block Island demonstrates that wind energy, even during periods of optimum output, and notwithstanding its enormous cost, lacks the sustained capacity to meet a significant portion of our energy needs.

Despite the hundreds of billions of dollars that have already been invested in such green energy projects over several decades, solar and wind combined supply only 7% of the nation’s electricity and cannot boast even that share unless the turbines are working properly, and the wind is relatively constant, neither of which is certain.

Germany is another glaring illustration of the fool’s errand that is HB 165. Despite investing enormous sums in the development of wind and solar energy sources over decades, Germany still relies for the vast majority of its energy on coal and natural gas. Germany’s effort to supplement its coal- based energy supply with wind energy has been a squanderous mess, a failure even Germany has now admitted, notwithstanding boasting some of the most brilliant scientists and engineers in the world.

Another inconvenient fact ignored by the proponents of HB 165 is that wind turbines lose an average of 4.5% operational efficiency every year, and must be replaced every 15 years, 20 at the most. So, not only is there the enormous, recurrent cost of periodically dismantling and replacing the turbines which may or may not work reliably to begin with, and which are incapable of producing enough energy to provide a sustained and substantial energy source, there is also the issue of the devastating effect this will have on off-shore animal habitat, including but not limited to endangered bird species, not to mention the aesthetic eye-sore of having giant, 600 foot turbines punctuating up to 25,000 acres of our offshore waters.  And this is likely just a start. Nothing that the government does ever gets smaller, more manageable, or more efficient. If we have learned anything, we have learned that. SB 165 is a tar baby in the making, an imminent catastrophe whose current proponents will be disowning as soon as its unwisdom becomes fully apparent.

And then there is this. Apart from the fatal substantive problems with HB 165, it is noteworthy that Rep. Orgeron is a managing member of 2nd Wind Marine, LLC. Two years ago, 2nd Wind was featured in the publication Offshore Engineer for building two industrial SuperFeeder vessels for the express purpose of “transporting next generation offshore wind turbines from the US Marshalling ports out to awaiting wind turbine installation vessels.”   2nd Wind is quoted in the article that the SuperFeeders would offer the “quickest, and a proven, path to US offshore wind development.”  One does not need 20/20 vision to discern Orgeron’s direct conflict of interest in authoring legislation from which his company stands to profit to the tune of millions of dollars. Has Rep. Orgeron disclosed this conflict of interest to his constituents, or to his colleagues in the legislature whose support he has sought on a bill that reflects upon their ethical sensibilities as well?  Whether disclosed or not, Rep. Orgeron’s personal interest in the legislation is a textbook example of why Louisianans no longer trust their political leaders, and view them largely as self-enriching, opportunistic men consumed with personal ambition rather than with a desire to faithfully serve the people who elected them and who pay their salaries.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not make known another fact that the proponents of HB 165 would surely rather you not know:  Roughly 70% of the rare earth elements that are essential to the construction of wind turbines will be produced and harvested in China. How many Louisiana voters believe that we should become even more dependent on a foreign country for our energy needs, particularly a sworn adversary? This in itself should be enough to kill the bill.

HB 165 must be defeated, for every good reason, and the elected officials who vote for it should be remembered, by name, come re-election time. They can run but must not be allowed to hide.

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