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LETTER: Energy analysis must include fossil-fuel subsidies

In response to Robert Bryce and Porter Bennett's recent Viewpoint titled, "Fracking's foes want to sap energy abundance" (Page A4, June 12), here is "some energy realism," according to our analysis: natural-gas-fired electricity gets a subsidy of $7.

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In response to Robert Bryce and Porter Bennett's recent Viewpoint titled, "Fracking's foes want to sap energy abundance" (Page A4, June 12), here is "some energy realism," according to our analysis: natural-gas-fired electricity gets a subsidy of $7.60 per million Btu, which is more than 12 percent higher than the subsidy the authors' figure for electricity from wind energy (over equivalent project life cycles).

While energy is apolitical, the politics of energy are not. Unfortunately, all energy is subsidized. Beginning with land grants for timber and coal in the 1800s, tax benefits for oil and gas, investment in hydroelectric power, funding research for nuclear energy and fracking and tax incentives for alternative energy sources, the government's myriad of subsidies for energy contributed to America's growth and prosperity.

To focus almost exclusively on government support for wind and solar energy, while making only a cursory reference, in relative terms, to the subsidies for gas and nuclear energy, is intellectually dishonest.

Furthermore, the authors highlight the recent extension of wind energy's temporary production tax credit, but leave out the inconvenient fact that oil and gas' tax benefits are permanent.

Two prominent tax incentives that natural gas enjoys include both the government subsidized financing structure known as the "master limited partnership" and the "percentage depletion allowance." Applying the same British thermal unit (Btu) metric as the authors to our analysis at Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, the MLP and depletion subsidies alone provide natural gas fired electricity with a subsidy that is 12 percent higher than the authors' stated subsidy for electricity from wind energy.

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Wind and solar energy provide significant value to consumers over the long-term. While consumer savings are tremendous in an environment of low prices for natural gas, unexpected market swings and rising prices can make those savings evaporate.

Unlike fossil-based technologies that use both fuel and water to generate electricity, wind and solar generate electricity without using water, and the "fuel"-the wind or the sun-is free.

Regardless of one's political views of energy, intellectual honesty is paramount to allow for a robust policy discussion that focuses on the best long-term value for consumers.

Andrew Fales

Oakton, Va.

Fales, an accountant, is a senior fellow at Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, a Virginia-based nonprofit.

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