- The solar industry, like the wind industry, will take off on its own – or not – but it will all depend on whether there is a consumer demand for it, not whether a government program exists to subsidize it
Most political observers know that President Obama, progressive that he is, believes that Man’s activities (and cattle flatulence) are two factors working in tandem to destroy the planet. As such, he has made it his mission to extinguish as many industrious, productive sectors of U.S. economy as he can, in order to “save us” from ourselves.
In addition to that, the president is also ensuring that taxpayers are getting regularly fleeced in the process by pouring good money after bad down the endless solar energy “development” pit.
In recent days, his Department of Energy doled out another $32 million in support money to the solar industry, a sector that is rife with technology challenges and corruption. The latest tax dollar infusion is aimed at training a workforce of solar technicians, developing new technology and building a database to share performance data, according to a DoE press release last week.
The training goal is 75,000 workers by 2020 and an undisclosed amount of “other professionals” in other fields such as real estate, finance, insurance and fire and safety, Watchdog.org reported.
However, the release didn’t say that the Obama Administration has spent $150 billion on green initiatives between 2009 and 2014, yet the industry cannot survive without government giveaways, a Brookings Institution study found.
“Taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to spend even more money on job-training programs that are proven failures,” said Heritage Foundation energy expert David W. Kreutzer.
“Industry will provide job-training where there are real jobs to be filled. The energy revolution in places like North Dakota and Texas has created hundreds of thousands of jobs—many of which required considerable technical skill—without a federally funded job-training program,” Kreutzer continued.
The great Obama “green” rip off began with a bang in 2009, with the passage of the $800 billion-plus slush fund, er, “infrastructure” bill known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act; $51 billion was earmarked for the development of renewable energy. Some of that money was used to make loan guarantees to solar firms that eventually went bankrupt, such as Solyndra ($535 million) and Abound Solar ($400 million).
Then there was Ivanpah, a solar electricity plant that received more than $2 billion. When that project was completed, it produced less than 40 percent of projected output at a cost three times higher than traditional electricity, according to a report by the Taxpayer Protection Alliance.
The drive to go green began even before Obama, Watchdog.org notes. For instance, since 2005, a 30-percent tax credit for homes and business owners who install solar systems has been in place. But experts note that the residential solar industry will face a tough test when that credit drops to 10 percent for businesses and disappears altogether for homeowners in 2017.
The tax credits, incentives and loan guarantees have spawned a whole new type of business – solar leasing, pioneered by California-based SolarCity. The option of reaping the benefits of a solar system while paying a small monthly leasing fee has been attractive to some consumers – but only at a cost to other taxpayers.
Behind the scenes, the U.S. Treasury Department began to investigate whether SolarCity, Sunrun and Sungevity inflated the costs of their installations in order to receive additional tax incentives.
SolarCity also finds itself under investigation by the FBI for allegations it misused taxpayer funds. In that case, The Oregonian reported that after it blew a federal deadline SolarCity officials backdated an application for a $12 million government grant.
And if that isn’t bad enough news for the solar industry, Arizona state legislators passed a law requiring greater transparency in solar contracts. Solar lobbyists vehemently opposed the legislation, which calls for such disclosures as tax liabilities, total system costs and depreciation schedule.
The push toward renewable energy is spurred by Obama mandates that federal government buildings use 20 percent renewable energy by 2020. Twenty-nine states have followed suit, requiring utilities to produce a certain amount of renewable energy.
“If solar is as competitive as its supporters say, then great! We can get rid of renewable mandates, net-metering, the 30 percent investment tax credit, etc.; and let solar run everybody else out of business,” Kreutzer said.
Few Americans would oppose the development of clean energy alternatives, and in fact, universities have, for decades, been pursuing various alternative energy creation for decades. So has the energy industry, believe it or not.
But picking and choosing “winners” using the Department of the Treasury’s checkbook has never been a dependable barometer for success in an industry. Rather, the marketplace decides such things; demand for a product or service is what drives innovation, and frankly, Americans, thus far, have not shown en masse that they crave energy generated by weather-dependent devices like solar panels, especially at the price it costs to have them installed.
That’s what makes Obama’s doubling down on failed solar doubly hard to accept. The concept has not proven to be successful, despite the billions of tax dollars are spent on the industry, so continuing to spend that kind of money is neither smart nor sane.
The solar industry, like the wind industry, will take off on its own – or not – but it will all depend on whether there is a consumer demand for it, not whether a government program exists to subsidize it.
Radical environmentalism makes for poor public policy. Always has, always will.
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