I read Mike Harmon’s recent column about Luddites and wind power with some interest.

Harmon says he is in favor of alternative power-generating methods “as long as they meet the tests imposed on any other new technology by the free marke,t” i.e. that windmills and solar panels need to generate sufficient revenues to cover their costs to be acceptable.

Harmon, however, fails to consider all costs over time, which with any new technology will decline with experience and practice. Modern computing and the Internet often are cited as examples; air travel is another.

Yes, there are costs and risks associated with wind and solar. Early turbines were noisier and less efficient than the current generation; some solar companies (Solyndra) have failed when more efficient ideas making their technology obsolete. It is costly to reconfigure the power grid to transfer electricity from new places of production.

Petroleum, as pointed out, has costs of extraction and transportation but left unconsidered are the hidden and considerable environmental costs of contributing to climate change.

Natural gas (methane) is often touted as the cleanest of fuels. When burned, methane does produce fewer greenhouse pollutants than coal or oil. When methane (unburned) is released into the air, however, the effect as a contributor to global warming is several hundred times more than the carbon dioxide produced when methane is burned.

When methane and the chemicals used to extract it from shale get into groundwater, any nearby wells become unusable and people are forced to abandon their homes.

Twenty percent of new fractured wells leak methane through the well casing, and the leaking has been shown to increase over time. This critical problem has yet to be solved by the energy companies.

Looked at this way, carbon fuels are actually the most costly.

Bill Williamson, Jefferson

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