Subsidizing energy producers

To the Editor:

Relying on the passionately anti-nuclear Union of Concerned Scientists, Marion Mohri objects that nuclear energy benefits from federal subsidies, and therefore Big Wind deserves its own (perpetual) subsidies to "get off the ground."

I have read the report she cites. It identifies "massive subsidies" to Big Nuclear, but close inspection reveals that the UCS has included as subsidies a very long list of provisions that either aid capital investment for any form of energy, or are simply not quantifiable.

For instance, UCS objects that nuclear plants with a 40 year lifetime were allowed depreciation over a mere 15 years. But Big Wind put into service in 2013, with a 25 year lifetime, gets to write off its capital costs over five years - with half of that taken the first year (bonus depreciation).

In addition, Big Wind cashed in a Production Tax Credit worth 2.3 cents per kwhr, a direct handout not given to any of the country's 100 nuclear plants. When this provision expires, incidentally, the Big Wind machine grinds to a complete halt until its lobbyists can persuade Congress to renew it (possibly after the November election).

UCS says using cooling water for free is a subsidy, although the water (also used in any steam generating plant) is returned to its source usually cleaner than it was when taken in.

UCS says uranium mining gets depreciation allowances - but so does any earth substance that is used up, such as iron, aluminum, oil, gas, and coal.

UCS says the Price-Anderson nuclear liability insurance, enacted in 1954 when no one had any idea what risk civilian nuclear plants might involve, is a big subsidy. UCS does not mention that in 60 years there have been zero claims paid by the government backup insurance liability. (For the record, I favor repeal of that program.)

On another point, Mrs. Mohri says I must believe that the 86% of Vermonters are "idiots" for supporting the Shumlin "90% of all energy from renewables by 2050". First, I don't accuse people who disagree with me, including Mrs. Mohri, of being "idiots."

I have not been able to locate such a poll on the web, but I daresay it asked something like "to you think it would be nice if Vermont got 90% of its energy from renewables by 2050?"

But try this question: "In order to achieve Gov. Shumlin's goal of getting 90% of the state's energy from renewable sources by 2050, would you now support an additional fifty cents a gallon gas and diesel tax, a 50 cents per gallon tax on heating oil, and a 25% increase in your electric bill, to cover the cost of the subsidies needed to enable wind and solar electricity to replace energy now generated from fossil fuels?"

Personally, I doubt that 50 cents a gallon and 25% increase in electric bills would be enough to achieve the Shumlin goal, but I would bet that Northeast Kingdom voters, at least, would not favor that proposition.

John McClaughry

Kirby, Vt.

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