But Atlantic Monthly staff editor Matthew Quirk argues wind might be the new ethanol. Most will agree the government's support for ethanol has proven to be a disaster. Signs alerting gasoline buyers that a station's tanks are ethanol free should be deemed Exhibit A of the mess.

Wind energy could supply up to 20 percent of the nation's power supply but the two variables few talk about are reliability and transmission. The places where the wind blows the most -- like western Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle -- also have few residents or businesses that need the power.

To achieve the kind of wind power percentage that some states are mandating will require between 12,000 and 19,000 miles of new power lines criss-crossing the country. That kind of power line construction will cost up to $6.4 billion.

Mr. Quirk argues that wind farms tend to produce the most energy when it's not needed -- at night and in the spring and fall. To assure a steady supply, they must be backed up by natural gas plants. When backup supply sources are figured in, the long-term cost of wind power soars.

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