The Institute for Energy Research (IER) is one of those many DC think tanks that pushes a political agenda gussied up with a veneer of objective research. By an amazing coincidence, the supposed facts in the reports and briefings that these ivory towers publish always conform to their ideological predispositions.
IER has a predisposition towards fossil energy. Its president is Thomas J. Pyle, a former oil industry lobbyist. Its federal affairs director is Kevin Kennedy, whose resume includes stints as Congressman Don Young's legislative assistant and as a staffer for the lobbying group Arctic Power, which pines for the day when the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge's wild coastal plain becomes an oilfield.
So, it came as no surprise when the IER recently released a couple of studies intended to impeach the viability of wind energy.
One of the reports concluded that wind development has destroyed jobs in Spain. Another said that wind energy's share of Denmark's electricity supply has been overstated.
The wind industry, of course, took exception to the studies and published materials intended to debunk them. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a Department of Energy research entity, put out a report concluding that the Spanish jobs study was a methodological problem child.
At a wind industry press conference last week, Peter Brun, head of Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas, called the Denmark study a "stupid report."
"Politics is politics and facts are facts," Brun said.
There isn't anything surprising about this mini-drama in energy land.
But here's the key question. Wind energy is growing rapidly, but its share of the U.S. energy pie is still a blip compared to the ginormous share held by oil. Why would an oil-centric think tank bother to stomp on wind?
European Wind Energy Association CEO Christian Kjaer, who is at some distance from U.S. energy politics, said at the press conference that wind is a "disruptive technology."
Disruptive technologies start very small but can expand exponentially, given the right set of circumstances. Ten years ago, Google was a small business, only a few months removed from a Menlo Park garage. The iPod was an idea, but not yet a product. No one talked about twittering, except perhaps ornithologists.
The more recalcitrant champions of fossil energy know this. Wind and other disruptive energy technologies might be tiddlers today, but could be titans tomorrow.
The smarter energy companies also know this. That's a reason why Pacific Gas & Electric pulled out of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Instead of fighting a new energy paradigm, PG&E would rather figure out how to make money from it.
It's better to ride a wave than to lie down in front of it.
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