December 31, 2011

ROI Lies

I was blissfully unaware (because I don't care, except that it gives me something to make fun of them for) that there was a class action suit against Honda for its inflated fuel economy claims related to the Civic Hybrid.  The Blaze reported on a woman who points out that the class action settlement is just as much of a rip off as the fuel economy claims were.  While Honda advertised city/highway fuel economies as 49/51 mpg, owners averaged 31 mpg.  After battery saving software updates, the number went even lower.

Now, I feel for the owners getting duped into buying a car that didn't perform as advertised, especially since they don't get that warm fuzzy saving the environment glow, since their green cars aren't all that green.  Still, their money is their money (except for that bit that taxpayers fund by way of tax breaks for buying an energy efficient vehicle).  Therein lies the rub.

The government is the largest grant maker in the United States.  It isn't the 1% or corporations.  It is state and federal government.  That is wrong on every level and does much to undermine a free market system.  Taxpayers are continually funding things that are non-essential, wasteful and unjustified. If you have any doubts, read Senator Coburn's report on the National Science Foundation or The Blaze's highlights.

Two local stories this week focused on the installation of wind turbines.  One is on a public school campus and the other is on a public university campus.  Both are taxpayer funded.

In Keller, Texas, a Skystream wind turbine was installed on a middle school campus at a cost of $16,000.  The expected return on investment, when the district will realize $16,000 worth of energy savings is 26 years. And that assumes no annual maintenance costs, no repairs needed, no change to the wind conditions.  When questioned about the cost and ROI, note how quickly the powers that be turn it into an educational tool for the children:
As district spokesman Bryce Nieman said: "It's an instructional tool for students. Students can learn about energy conservation and other ways to generate electricity, alternate energy means."
He says the turbine helps trim the campus's energy bills. "It's better than nothing."
Really?  Because I would have thought that saving $16,000 and using, oh, educational resources like books, video, the internet and field trips might be a better way to teach about energy conservation.  Your best bet now is to use the windmill as an economics lesson - what not to do with taxpayer money.

Up the road at the University of North Texas, they recently installed three turbines with a $2 million grant from the State Energy Conservation Office.  They are estimated to result in an energy savings of $50,000 per year.  So, (and again ignoring maintenance, repair or changing energy costs) the ROI would be 40 years.   That's great considering the lifespan of these turbines before "major repairs" are needed is 25 years.

This picture doesn't show it as clearly as I would hope, but these three turbines are in a ditch.  If you notice the stadium lights in the background and compensate for the photo angle, you will see that the turbines aren't taller than the stadium.  Interstate I-35W runs right alongside the site, and is elevated through the area.  Driving by, you never look up at the turbines, they are pretty much at eye level.  Are they going to capture the energy from the wind turbulence caused by the Peterbilt's rolling off the assembly line across the highway? 

Picture from here
While they say the turbines are built for 'low wind' areas and claim that North Texas averages 12 mph wind speed - I don't think they'll get that at the height they have. I would also argue with their claim of our wind resources.  North Texas has a Class 2 rating, also known as 'poor' on the renewable energy wind maps.  Is it nuts that the DOE and State Energy Conservation Office generate maps and reports that show the lack of renewable energy resources in North Texas, yet shell out millions of dollars in those areas, for the very things that they say can't be captured?

All of this so that two school sites could be LEED certified.  A letter to the editor of the Star-Telegram sums up my feeling about the green movement:
That's why almost every application of alternative energy comes with an ample helping of someone else's money. Sadly, that someone else is the taxpayer, about whom no one seems to care.

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