McKibben’s Falsehood

May 15, 2020

By John McClaughry

In an Earth Day opinion piece, published in the  Los Angeles Times on April 21, Middlebury College’s activist in residence  Bill McKibben claimed, In the last 10 years, engineers have driven the price of sun and wind power down below coal.” 

This is a falsehood that climate activists frequently tell to persuade us to abandon fossil fuel energy, but here is the truth. What McKibben doesn’t disclose is that he’s only counting the price of wind and solar on days when they are operating at peak capacity, while ignoring their capital costs

Also, he is calculating the costs of operating traditional electric power plants when they are operating at less than peak efficiency, due to their need to regulate wind and solar’s ever-fluctuating power supply.

Thanks to the wind production tax credit, wind farm owners can and do actually pay the utilities to take their wind power when the utilities don’t need it. That is, its price is actually negative. You have to know that when a gigantic wind turbine array is able to pay somebody to take their power and still stay in business, there is a powerful subsidy somewhere built into that calculation.

Wind and solar are both critically dependent on fossil fuel and nuclear power. Get rid of those energy sources, and you’d have wind and solar erratically generating, backed up by hydro inefficiently, unless there’s a drought and hydro runs out of water.  There’s a place for renewable energy, certainly, but let’s be clear: its price is not cheaper than coal, and its owners are riding on the backs of all other ratepayers and taxpayers.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Thomas Rood May 16, 2020 at 12:19 am

Mr. MciClaughry, this is a most interesting piece. Now I know I’m not alone in thinking that McKibben has been blowing smoke up our skirts for quite some time.

I certainly would hope that this information could get the widest dissemination possible.

The Carbon tax / Green New Deal pushers need to be exposed and lose as much wind from their sails as possible – as soon as possible.

Thank you!
Tom Rood


Mike May 16, 2020 at 12:44 pm

Not to worry John by 2095, they’ll work out the kinks.


Milton Eaton May 16, 2020 at 3:36 pm

Almost hate to do it but must recommend film “Planet of the People” by Michel Moore. He is still as crazy against capitalism as ever, but raises beautifully faults with his green friends and their stories. It is available on u-tube.


Jim Peden June 2, 2020 at 2:56 pm

Bill McKibben is a total science illiterate, armed only with a meaningless diploma in journalism (whatever that is).

He has absolutely no training in atmospheric physics.

His opinions are about as meaningful as that of a three-year-old trying to describe tectonic plate movement.


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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.

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