For years, politicians, environmental groups, and the renewable energy lobby have been claiming that widespread use of wind energy would result in substantial reductions in carbon-dioxide emissions.
This report—which relies on data published by the Energy Information Administration and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory— finds that if wind energy were to reduce carbon dioxide, the savings would be so small as to be insignificant and so expensive as to be impractical.
Achieving the oft-stated goal of getting 20 percent of U.S. electricity needs from wind by 2030 would require a total expenditure of more than $850 billion. Yet the likely carbon-dioxide savings from that expenditure would be just 2 percent of global emissions in 2030.
If the "20 by '30" target were achieved, it would impose a tax on U.S. electricity consumers of $45 to $54 for each ton of carbon dioxide that was removed. The tax would take the form of an increase of as much as 48 percent over the current price of residential electricity in coal-dependent regions of the country.
A carbon tax at that level would be 23 to 28 times higher than the carbon-taxation regime now being used in the eastern United States. It would greatly exceed the carbon tax recently imposed in Australia and be more than three times as costly, on a per-ton basis, as the European Union's Emission Trading Scheme.