Charles Komanoff


Exposing an Anti-Wind Fraudster

Below is a letter I sent in 2008 to the publisher of Adirondack Explorer, a magazine plumbing the natural beauty and living culture of upstate New York's Adirondacks region, about anti-wind power charlatan John Droz Jr.
I'm posting it today to provide context to an exposé posted to Twitter of Mr. Droz's ongoing anti-wind propaganda campaign. -- C.K., Nov 2, 2022.

July 11, 2008

Richard Beamish
Adirondack Explorer
36 Church St.
Saranac Lake, NY 12983

Dear Richard --

In the past nine years that my family and I have visited the Adirondacks, first as renters and now as property-owners, we have made excellent use of the Adirondack Explorer. We have relied on the Explorer to plan mountain excursions from our home base in northern Warren County, and we have been unfailingly rewarded with challenging and satisfying hikes. Over our long winters in New York City the Explorer has kept us connected to the North Country -- to the mountains and the people who live in them and care for them.

We also value the Explorer for its sheer excellence. We savor the thoughtful commentary, the spectacular photography, the superb design, the vibrant portraits of individual Adirondackers. Every issue is a treat.

Doubtless many other subscribers feel as we do, and hopefully you hear these sentiments all the time. But they bear repeating -- and especially here, as I write to register my dismay with an article that ran in the July-August Explorer.

I'm referring to the Viewpoints piece by John Droz Jr, "Against the Wind." This article is so misleading, so manipulative, and so destructive that I'm shocked that it made its way into your pages. Its effect on me has been akin to what I might have felt if, as my two sons and I summitted Algonquin Peak last summer, we had been set upon by hordes of ATV'ers who had disgorged from a fleet of helicopters.

Mr. Droz's arguments are easily rebutted, and I do so below. But the damage from his being given the Explorer's prestigious pages to broadcast his propaganda will be harder to repair, though following my rebuttal I offer a suggestion to help you do so.

Droz outlines his argument as follows:

For a "renewable" source [such as wind turbines] to make a meaningful impact on our energy and climate problems, it must: (1) be able to provide base-load (and related) power, (2) make financial sense on its own, and (3) not cause environmental destruction.

This passage is a classic "straw man." None of Droz's three conditions are necessary for wind power to be meritorious in terms of environmental, energy and economic impacts. A more reasonable construct would be this:

For a "renewable" source [such as wind turbines] to make a meaningful impact on our energy and climate problems, it must: (1) substitute for fossil fuels that would otherwise generate equivalent electricity, and (2) make financial sense when its subsidies and "externality costs" (pollution) and those of competing sources are accounted for.

(Note I have dispensed with Droz's third criterion since it is subsumed in the first.)

The first criterion is the critical one. If wind turbines don?t displace fossil fuels, then their value is indeed minimal. Conversely, if wind turbines do substitute for coal, oil or natural gas that would otherwise have had to be used to generate the electricity that the wind turbines produce, then they are contributing directly to mitigating climate damage since it is the burning of these fuels that principally causes global warming.

Droz wrote in his article:

... when adding wind power to the grid, backup from conventional sources (like coal and nuclear) must still be built. Even in the short term, the complexity of nuclear and coal-fired power plants means they cannot simply be "turned down" when wind power is available. The net result: cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming, are small (emphasis added).

According to Droz, wind turbines' intermittency prevents them from displacing fossil-fuel power generation. This argument is utterly fallacious, but it is a standard thread of anti-wind discourse, and it is disheartening to find it in your pages. (Note that Adirondack Council spokesperson John Sheehan abjured this argument in his July/August 2005 Explorer piece, "Should the APA approve wind towers in North Creek?". Sheehan, to his credit, correctly stated, "Every kilowatt we produce with wind is one we don't need to make with coal, gas or oil.")

The claim that wind turbines make only small cuts in CO2 emissions is categorically false. For it to be true, other generators on the grid would have to be unable to ramp down (or up) immediately in response to fluctuations in supply and demand. But if that were so, how could the grid respond to the myriad of such fluctuations that occur daily for reasons that have nothing to do with wind turbines -- from events ranging from sudden outages at generating plants to the simultaneous switching on of thousands of television sets to watch "American Idol"?

To accommodate these recurring random variations in the balance of supply and demand, power grids deploy some generating assets as "spinning reserves" and also for regulation duty. They do so by maintaining some generating capacity at partial output in a state of readiness allowing them to be quickly adjusted up or down. The presence of spinning reserve allows New York?s and other power grids to match power output to fuel burning in virtually perfect synchronicity. As wind output rises or load falls, operation of fossil-fuel generators falls, and conversely as well. (Droz is wrong that fossil power plants can't easily ramp up or down.) Moreover, the amounts of regulation and spinning reserve required do not change one-for-one with wind generation on the system. These amounts are determined by the total system load and by the size of the largest two generating units on line (to cover the worst-case scenario in which the two largest units trip simultaneously).

While wind generation adds some complexity to this process, it does not fundamentally alter it; nor will it, according to the electric engineers entrusted with grid reliability, until wind power's share of the grid reaches approximately 20%. New York State is now below that mark by at least an order of magnitude (factor of ten). Moreover, the threshold may even rise above 20% in the future as wind farms become geographically more diverse and as technology improves for micro-prediction of weather and wind speeds.

Droz's claim that Maple Ridge and other wind farms don't displace fossil fuels is, thus, pure bunk. But that claim is the linchpin of his piece. For if wind turbines do displace fossil fuel power generation one-for-one, or nearly so, then the question of their merit becomes one of relative environmental damage -- the wind turbines versus the equivalent fossil fuels. And that is a question that Mr. Droz has no evident capacity to analyze; nor desire, either, since he will surely lose, at least in the case of Maple Ridge and other wind farms sited in areas without unique and irreplaceable ecological or scenic value.

Because the question of fuel displacement is so central, it bears emphasizing that Mr. Droz has no apparent qualifications to address it. He has no evident experience in or knowledge of electric-grid supply, transmission and management. He offers only his conclusions on the strength of his weak claim to be a physicist, a claim he makes despite having left employment in the field in 1979 (according to his on-line resume[1]). This is noteworthy, for he is opposed on this matter by the entire electricity-supply and power-engineering community. Every grid operator (including the New York Independent System Operator), every power-industry committee (e.g., the Utility Wind Integration Group; the U.S. Department of Energy's lead agency on wind power, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; and every academic institution (e.g., the University of California?s Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory[2]) -- has confirmed, many times over, the proposition of a substantially one-for-one substitution.

Indeed, were it not the case that wind output displaces fossil-fuel use, why would Congress have enacted and renewed many times the "Production Tax Credit" that grants wind turbine owners 1.9 cents for each kilowatt-hour generated? Yes, Congress is notorious for "pork," but it would defy even Beltway practices if the federal government dispensed production credits for power generation with as little functionality as Mr. Droz ascribes to wind turbines.

One further point on "environmental damage": as evidence of wind power's unclean hands so far as carbon dioxide production is concerned, Mr. Droz wrote in his Explorer piece that "the manufacture and delivery of the cement in each [turbine] base produces about 250,000 pounds of CO2." Good heavens! It takes a standard 2-megawatt "industrial" wind turbine less than ten average days of operation -- a thousandth of its life-span -- to displace that much carbon dioxide from fossil fuels.[3] What next: wind turbine installers eat hamburger meat for lunch?

Finally, Mr. Droz quotes the Wall Street Journal editorial page to the effect that "huge artificial subsidies are driving the wind-power business." I could point out that the Journal's editorial page has been shilling for the nuclear-fossil fuel industry for a good half-century, and leave it at that. But I happen to have spent a good number of years professionally researching electricity economics and tallying up power generation subsidies. I have authored four major monographs in this area, including the authoritative Power Plant Cost Escalation, and was an expert witness for New York State, and indeed for California, Texas, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, among others, in most of the major utility regulatory proceedings on nuclear power costs from the mid-1970s through the late 1980s. Because of my expertise, I was asked to examine the claims in the Journal's editorial when it ran several months ago, and reached this conclusion, in an article in Grist[4]:

The score (in 2007 dollars):

* Reactor subsidies, 1950-1990: $154 billion, or $3.75 billion a year.

* Wind power subsidies, 1983-2007: $3.75 billion 25-year total.

Over the past 25 years, the entire federal subsidy for wind power has been no greater than the subsidy bestowed on nukes each year from the fifties through the eighties.

So much for the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, then, as a reliable source on comparative subsidies, and so much for Mr. Droz as a credible source for your readers. As to whether wind power's production tax credit of 1.9 cents per kWh is justified in absolute terms, please consider that it would take a carbon tax of just $21 per ton of CO2 to raise the average cost of fossil-fuel electricity by that same amount (1.9 cents).[5] Authorities on climate such as Dr. James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, not to mention my own Carbon Tax Center, are calling for carbon taxes of $100 per ton of CO2 or more. In other words, the wind power subsidy decried by Mr. Droz is but a small fraction of the climate-damage cost being borne by Earth's inhabitants due to the ongoing use of fossil fuels -- which wind power could help displace and reduce.

Then again, Droz probably regards climate damage from fossil fuels as virtually nil. Did you know that he signed the infamous petition circulated by the fossil fuel industry-funded climate denier Frederick Seitz, opposing action to control the use of fossil fuels on grounds that:

"There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane or other greenhouse gases, is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate.[6]"

There you have it: John Droz, global warming denier. In his Explorer article, however, Droz took pains to feign the opposite sentiment, stating, "Global Warming is too critical an issue for us to waste time and money on trivial solutions."

Did you know as well that there is not a shred of evidence on the Internet supporting Droz's claim in his article that he "has been an environmental activist for more than 25 years"? And did you know that in 1993 the New York Secretary of State suspended Droz's real estate license for incompetence in connection with misrepresentations he made in a real estate deal?[7]

Richard, do you now see the damage caused by the Droz's article? Damage to the Explorer, as awareness spreads of the falsehoods that pervade the article. Damage to intelligent debate over wind power, as anti-wind groups exploit the Explorers reputation for probity and circulate Droz's hollow allegations as established facts. And damage to our planet, as wind projects that would otherwise pass any meaningful benefit-cost test are held hostage to phony objections dressed up as sweet reason.

Yes, my feelings about wind power run deep. But I did not write you in this fashion about John Sheehan's 2005 article noted above, although I disagreed strongly with it. There was nothing false about Sheehan's article, and no can deny that Sheehan and the Adirondack Council have standing in the matter of a wind farm proposed within the Blue Line. Droz's article, in contrast, is, in all important respects, patently false. He has misrepresented himself, he has misrepresented the criteria by which wind power (or any alternative to fossil fuels) should be judged, and he has misrepresented how well wind power meets those (or other) criteria. Moreover, Droz's condemnation of wind power is global, not restricted to the Adirondack Park as was Sheehan's.

The damage cannot be undone by a letter to the editor. The matter is too complex, and I fear that public comment may only embolden Droz and his allies. The solution is for you to make a full retraction of Droz's article in the next Explorer. I hope you will do so. The Explorer's reputation demands it. Your readers deserve it. And the urgent work of deploying alternatives to fossil fuels, on which depend the Adirondacks and our precious Earth, requires it.


Charles Komanoff

[1] Accessed at

[2] See

[3] On a fuel-weighted basis, each kWh generated with fossil fuels releases approximately 1.8 pounds of carbon dioxide. (This is calculated by weighting coal's 2.08 pounds of CO2 per kWh for its 70% share of U.S. fossil-fuel power generation, oil's 1.74 pounds for its 2% share, and natural gas's 1.13 pounds for its 28%.) A 2,000-kilowatt turbine running for 69 hours will displace 250,000 pounds of CO2, since 69 x 2,000 x 1.8 is approximately equal to 250,000. Since the average large wind turbine has a 1/3 capacity factor, it needs to be ready to run for just 69 x 3 or 207 hours -- a little under 9 days -- to offset the 250,000 pounds that would have been emitted by equivalent power generation from fossil fuels.

[4] "Who's zooming who? Subsidies for wind power pale beside subsidies for nuclear." [Alas, this post is no longer available.]

[5] Since a kWh generated with fossil fuels releases 1.8 pounds of CO2, on average (see earlier footnote), a ton of CO2 is emitted per 1,100 kWh (2,000/1.8) from fossil generation. If each ton is taxed at $21, the tax per kWh is $21.00 /1,100, or 1.9 cents.

[6] The global warming-denying petition may be viewed here. Droz's signature is shown here.

[7] The unedifying details are available here. This document popped up during my unavailing Internet search for evidence of Droz's "environmental activism."