Fact Checking Fossil Fuel Industry's Attacks on Wind Energy
It was only a matter of time before wind energy supporters fired back at the fossil fuel-funded Institute for Energy Research (IER) for releasing a report this week that was peppered with falsehoods.
It didn’t help that its sister organization, the American Energy Alliance, equated the federal wind production tax credit (PTC) as “welfare” in its promotion of the IER study.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)’s Elizabeth Salerno took a look at the study and found a few inaccuracies with IER’s claims. Comparing IER's addiction to "spreading misinformation" to a chain smoker, here are four points about wind energy Salerno believes were left out of the "Estimating the State-Level Impact of Federal Wind Energy Subsidies" report:
Using tax policy to spur growth in energy sectors is nothing new
It’s important to understand that there is no comprehensive energy policy in the U.S. The reality is that much of what the U.S. has relied on to spur domestic energy growth is a collection federal, state, and local public policy techniques, including the tax code.
A new report out earlier this year, “Energy tax policy: Issues in the 113th congress” by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) makes this point clear.
“Energy tax policy involves the use of one of the government’s main fiscal instruments, taxes (both as an incentive and as a disincentive) to alter the allocation or configuration of energy resources and their use," the report reads. "In theory, energy taxes and subsidies, like tax policy instruments in general, are intended either to correct a problem or distortion in the energy markets or to achieve some economic (efficiency, equity, or macroeconomic) objective.”
The truth is, tax incentives for the energy sector began in 1913, when intangible drilling costs were given to the oil industry and dozens have been added since then, most of which support fossil fuels. In fact, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s own tally concludes that federal subsidies to fossil and nuclear energy sources totaled more than $650 billion from 1950 to 2010. Despite their remarkably long life spans, such incentives are mostly ignored in the current energy debate.
And while other industries continue to receive tax incentives carrying an expensive price tag, the PTC more than pays for itself in local, state, and federal taxes over the life of wind power projects, according to a NextEra Energy analysis.
All 50 states benefit from wind power equipped with the PTC
IER’s report strategically ignores the NextEra analysis demonstrating that the PTC more than pays for itself, in addition to the sizable economic benefits wind power has produced in all 50 states.
Wind power generated $25 billion in private investment, paying millions to landowners and local communities. Every state in the union, including 70 percent of all U.S. congressional districts, has an operating wind project, manufacturing plant or wind-related jobs.
All Online Wind Energy-Related Manufacturing Facilities & Wind Energy Projects by Congressional District, 2012
Wind energy is one of the most broadly dispersed energy industries, with manufacturing currently in 44 states and turbines installed in 39 states plus Puerto Rico.
U.S. Wind Energy Capacity Installed, as of Q3, 2013
In fact, “Made in the USA” is now a label American wind power can proudly display on a majority (over 70 percent) of its parts and supplies.
U.S. Wind Energy-related Manufacturing Facilities, 2012
American wind power supports 80,000 full-time jobs and according to a Department of Energy analysis, with the right policies in place, wind power could support 500,000 full-time domestic jobs by 2030.
Wind energy brings taxes and other revenues to rural communities, benefiting county and local services, schools, and health care and public safety facilities. Plus, land lease payments to rural landowners, farmers, and ranchers hosting America’s new drought-resistant cash crop often total millions of dollars in states across the country.
Wind energy is reducing electricity prices across the country
More than a dozen studies by grid operators and state governments have confirmed that wind energy reduces electricity prices by displacing more expensive sources of energy. That includes a recent report by Synapse Energy Economics that found that doubling the use of wind energy in the Mid-Atlantic and Great Lake states would save consumers $6.9 billion per year on net, after accounting for both wind and transmission costs.
Because the electric power system is a highly integrated network, many of these electricity price reduction benefits accrue to states that have little to no wind energy. For example, the Synapse study found that the $6.9 billion in benefits of wind energy would be broadly spread across the 13 Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes states, even to states without wind energy, as wind plants allow fossil-fired power plants in other states to reduce their output and fuel use.
These interstate consumer benefits of wind energy are even more clear when utilities buy wind energy from other states. For example, Southern Company’s Georgia and Alabama utilities have made three large purchases of wind energy from Oklahoma and Kansas, explaining that those purchases reduce its customers’ electric bills.
Environmental benefits from wind power are also spread across all 50 states
Another goal of the PTC was to establish better U.S. energy security and address concerns about the environment. As the 2013 CRS report notes:
“The U.S energy tax policy as it presently stands aims to address concerns regarding the environment as well as those surrounding national security. Incentives promoting renewable energy production, energy efficiency and conservation, and alternative technology vehicles address both environmental and national security concerns. Tax incentives for the domestic production of fossil fuels also promote energy security by attempting to reduce the nation’s reliance on imported energy sources.”
Adding wind power displaces the most expensive, least efficient power source on the utility system—usually an older fossil fuel plant. The total wind power installed today now allows us to avoid the equivalent of 100 million metric tons of CO2 annually—the equivalent of taking over 17 million cars off the road.
Wind power uses no water to generate electricity, while most other types of power plants use substantial quantities. Installing over 60 gigawatts of wind power has resulted in saving the equivalent of 37 billion gallons of water annually. That’s 130 gallons of water per person.
Wind energy does not emit particulate matter, which is associated with heart and lung disease, and it also does not emit mercury or other heavy metals, which collect in the food chain and are harmful to human and animal health.
In fact, according to a report completed for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), wind power has the lowest impact on wildlife and the environment of any of several technologies studied – including coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, and hydropower.
The bipartisan support that the PTC has historically received has been a reflection of Congress understanding that the majority of American people want more wind energy. With all these economic and environmental benefits, it’s easy to understand why that overwhelming support exists.
IER’s best (worst) efforts will not change these facts.
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By Ana Maldonado-Contreras
- Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria that are vital for keeping you healthy.
- Some of these microbes help to regulate the immune system.
- New research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, shows the presence of certain bacteria in the gut may reveal which people are more vulnerable to a more severe case of COVID-19.
You may not know it, but you have an army of microbes living inside of you that are essential for fighting off threats, including the virus that causes COVID-19.
How Do Resident Bacteria Keep You Healthy?<p>Our immune defense is part of a complex biological response against harmful pathogens, such as viruses or bacteria. However, because our bodies are inhabited by trillions of mostly beneficial bacteria, virus and fungi, activation of our immune response is tightly regulated to distinguish between harmful and helpful microbes.</p><p>Our bacteria are spectacular companions diligently helping prime our immune system defenses to combat infections. A seminal study found that mice treated with antibiotics that eliminate bacteria in the gut exhibited an impaired immune response. These animals had low counts of virus-fighting white blood cells, weak antibody responses and poor production of a protein that is vital for <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1019378108" target="_blank">combating viral infection and modulating the immune response</a>.</p><p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0184976" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In another study</a>, mice were fed <em>Lactobacillus</em> bacteria, commonly used as probiotic in fermented food. These microbes reduced the severity of influenza infection. The <em>Lactobacillus</em>-treated mice did not lose weight and had only mild lung damage compared with untreated mice. Similarly, others have found that treatment of mice with <em>Lactobacillus</em> protects against different <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/srep04638" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">subtypes of</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-17487-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">influenza</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008072" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">virus</a> and human respiratory syncytial virus – the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-39602-7" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">major cause of viral bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children</a>.</p>
Chronic Disease and Microbes<p>Patients with chronic illnesses including Type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease exhibit a hyperactive immune system that fails to recognize a harmless stimulus and is linked to an altered gut microbiome.</p><p>In these chronic diseases, the gut microbiome lacks bacteria that activate <a href="https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1198469" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">immune cells</a> that block the response against harmless bacteria in our guts. Such alteration of the gut microbiome is also observed in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1002601107" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">babies delivered by cesarean section</a>, individuals consuming a poor <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nature12820" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">diet</a> and the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nature11053" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">elderly</a>.</p><p>In the U.S., 117 million individuals – about half the adult population – <a href="https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">suffer from Type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease or a combination of them</a>. That suggests that half of American adults carry a faulty microbiome army.</p><p>Research in my laboratory focuses on identifying gut bacteria that are critical for creating a balanced immune system, which fights life-threatening bacterial and viral infections, while tolerating the beneficial bacteria in and on us.</p><p>Given that diet affects the diversity of bacteria in the gut, <a href="https://www.umassmed.edu/nutrition/melody-trial-info/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">my lab studies show how diet can be used</a> as a therapy for chronic diseases. Using different foods, people can shift their gut microbiome to one that boosts a healthy immune response.</p><p>A fraction of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, develop severe complications that require hospitalization in intensive care units. What do many of those patients have in common? <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6912e2.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Old age</a> and chronic diet-related diseases like obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.</p><p><a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2008.12.019" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Black and Latinx people are disproportionately affected by obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease</a>, all of which are linked to poor nutrition. Thus, it is not a coincidence that <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6933e1.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these groups have suffered more deaths from COVID-19</a> compared with whites. This is the case not only in the U.S. but also <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/blacks-in-britain-are-four-times-as-likely-to-die-of-coronavirus-as-whites-data-show/2020/05/07/2dc76710-9067-11ea-9322-a29e75effc93_story.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">in Britain</a>.</p>
Discovering Microbes That Predict COVID-19 Severity<p>The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired me to shift my research and explore the role of the gut microbiome in the overly aggressive immune response against SARS-CoV-2 infection.</p><p>My colleagues and I have hypothesized that critically ill SARS-CoV-2 patients with conditions like obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease exhibit an altered gut microbiome that aggravates <a href="https://theconversation.com/exercise-may-help-reduce-risk-of-deadly-covid-19-complication-ards-136922" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">acute respiratory distress syndrome</a>.</p><p>Acute respiratory distress syndrome, a life-threatening lung injury, in SARS-CoV-2 patients is thought to develop from a <a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/j.cytogfr.2020.05.003" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">fatal overreaction of the immune response</a> called a <a href="https://theconversation.com/blocking-the-deadly-cytokine-storm-is-a-vital-weapon-for-treating-covid-19-137690" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cytokine storm</a> <a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(20)30216-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">that causes an uncontrolled flood</a> <a href="http://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(20)30216-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">of immune cells into the lungs</a>. In these patients, their own uncontrolled inflammatory immune response, rather than the virus itself, causes the <a href="http://doi.org/10.1007/s00134-020-05991-x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">severe lung injury and multiorgan failures</a> that lead to death.</p><p>Several studies <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trsl.2020.08.004" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">described in one recent review</a> have identified an altered gut microbiome in patients with COVID-19. However, identification of specific bacteria within the microbiome that could predict COVID-19 severity is lacking.</p><p>To address this question, my colleagues and I recruited COVID-19 hospitalized patients with severe and moderate symptoms. We collected stool and saliva samples to determine whether bacteria within the gut and oral microbiome could predict COVID-19 severity. The identification of microbiome markers that can predict the clinical outcomes of COVID-19 disease is key to help prioritize patients needing urgent treatment.</p><p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.01.05.20249061" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">We demonstrated</a>, in a paper which has not yet been peer reviewed, that the composition of the gut microbiome is the strongest predictor of COVID-19 severity compared to patient's clinical characteristics commonly used to do so. Specifically, we identified that the presence of a bacterium in the stool – called <em>Enterococcus faecalis</em>– was a robust predictor of COVID-19 severity. Not surprisingly, <em>Enterococcus faecalis</em> has been associated with <a href="https://doi.org/10.1053/j.gastro.2011.05.035" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">chronic</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S0002-9440(10)61172-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">inflammation</a>.</p><p><em>Enterococcus faecalis</em> collected from feces can be grown outside of the body in clinical laboratories. Thus, an <em>E. faecalis</em> test might be a cost-effective, rapid and relatively easy way to identify patients who are likely to require more supportive care and therapeutic interventions to improve their chances of survival.</p><p>But it is not yet clear from our research what is the contribution of the altered microbiome in the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection. A recent study has shown that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.12.11.416180" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">SARS-CoV-2 infection triggers an imbalance in immune cells</a> called <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/imr.12170" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">T regulatory cells that are critical to immune balance</a>.</p><p>Bacteria from the gut microbiome are responsible for the <a href="https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.30916.001" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">proper activation</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1198469" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">of those T-regulatory</a> <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nri.2016.36" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cells</a>. Thus, researchers like me need to take repeated patient stool, saliva and blood samples over a longer time frame to learn how the altered microbiome observed in COVID-19 patients can modulate COVID-19 disease severity, perhaps by altering the development of the T-regulatory cells.</p><p>As a Latina scientist investigating interactions between diet, microbiome and immunity, I must stress the importance of better policies to improve access to healthy foods, which lead to a healthier microbiome. It is also important to design culturally sensitive dietary interventions for Black and Latinx communities. While a good-quality diet might not prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection, it can treat the underlying conditions related to its severity.</p><p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ana-maldonado-contreras-1152969" target="_blank">Ana Maldonado-Contreras</a> is an assistant professor of Microbiology and Physiological Systems at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.</em></p><p><em>Disclosure statement: Ana Maldonado-Contreras receives funding from The Helmsley Charitable Trust and her work has been supported by the American Gastroenterological Association. She received The Charles A. King Trust Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. She is also member of the Diversity Committee of the American Gastroenterological Association.</em></p><p><em style="">Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/a-healthy-microbiome-builds-a-strong-immune-system-that-could-help-defeat-covid-19-145668" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer" style="">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
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