Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Wise Alternative

While environmentalists like to spin the fantasy that "alternative energy" could replace our current conventional sources in the not so distant future, the reality is that alternative energy could have a more important impact in the larger energy picture by helping make those current carbon-based sources more efficient. Case in point is an article in Monday's WSJ on how Valero Harnesses Wind Energy to Fuel Its Oil-Refining Process:

In this windswept corner of the high plains, a big oil refiner is embracing new green technology in order to make more money producing old-fashioned fossil fuels.

Valero Energy Corp., which has the capacity to process more crude than any other U.S. refiner, recently installed 33 windmills to supply a refinery here with green electricity to produce gasoline and diesel.

The marriage is one of convenience, Valero executives say. "We didn't build the wind farm so we could get into the wind-energy business," notes Tom Shetina, the refinery's manager, who expresses awe at the windmills' size. "We built the wind farm so we could support the refinery and run it more economically."

The company hopes to lock in fluctuating electricity prices by developing its own source of power, rather than relying on the grid, and to cut the $1.4-million-a-month electricity bill at the seven-decade-old refinery. The $115 million wind farm, which will be ready to operate at full capacity in August, will pay for itself in about 10 years at current electricity prices, company officials said.

Using wind power to help an oil refinery run more efficiently? That's the smart way to go "green."

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