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Solyndra Solar is Bump in the Road

Solyndra Solar is Bump in the Road

That the federal government wastes money isn’t news. Expenditures from the Iraq War have been estimated at $3 trillion or more by the Washington Post. It bears repeating that the Iraq War wasn’t even necessary to begin with, and it has cost many lives. Politicians who are attacking the Solyndra federal loan as an indication that solar energy is not worth subsidizing, are wrong, and are simply trying to make partisan hay from a single mistake. Some of them seem to have very conveniently forgotten that Big Oil, Big Coal and Big Agriculture all receive federal subsidies amounting to a great deal of money, year after year.

The oil industry receives about four billion dollars a year in tax breaks from the U.S. government. Robert Kennedy Jr. said in an interview that oil and coal each receive about one trillion dollars a year in subsidies both directly and indirectly. Also, corn farming in the United States received $77 billion in subsidies from 1995-2010. These are just several examples of industries receiving support from the federal government.

Renewable energy like solar, wind, geothermal and wave power also require support, especially as they are emerging technologies subject to volatile changes in the market and haven’t found solid footing in mainstream culture. They need help because when they mature they mean cleaner air for Americans, and far less dependence on foreign oil, which is a waste of an enormous amount of money, and is geo-politically troublesome to say the least. About $25 billion dollars a year from America goes for Persian Gulf oil. Much more goes to Canada, though fortunately they are a stable democratic nation.

The coal industry receives subsidies even though burning coal to make electricity has been linked to deadly air pollution. One report says 13,000 premature deaths a year result from coal burning. Another study says there are potentially an extra 60,000 cancer cases a year due to coal mining via mountaintop removal. This explosive practice has also destroyed ten of thousands of acres of once pristine natural forests and polluted countless water sources both for wildlife and people.

Solar power plants don’t produce deadly air pollution. They don’t even produce sickness-inducing air pollution. Neither do wind turbines, geothermal power, or wave energy. Clean energy doesn’t kill or sicken as many people or wildlife as fossil fuel-based energy does.

In the long run we could save a large portion of the money we spend on foreign oil by investing in renewable energy sources now. If we don’t do it now, we probably will eventually later simply because it is the way the whole world is going, because it is necessary given climate change problems, and pollution problems due to fossil fuel use. Most of the world’s power may be solar-based by the year 2060.

The faster we develop our own clean energy sources, the better change we have to be leaders in this field, rather than followers. As leaders we stand some chance at licensing and selling our clean energy technology to other countries and making money. As followers we might end up paying more, and having little chance of pursuing international business opportunities. In information technology we are leaders with companies like Google, Apple, Twitter, Microsoft and so on. There is no reason we can’t also be leaders in clean energy, but we need our politicians to understand clean energy vs. dirty energy, public health, climate change, and long-term economic trends. We don’t need more petty infighting and finger-pointing over relatively small mistakes. Moving an entire nation to new sources of energy isn’t going to be a perfectly smooth transition.

 

Image Credit: Public Domain

 

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41 comments

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9:12AM PDT on Oct 1, 2011

The difficulty of any new regime is how to move the old guard out of the way.

3:25PM PDT on Sep 30, 2011

"Clean energy doesn’t kill or sicken people or wildlife like fossil fuel-based energy does." So we're not counting birds as wildlife, or forgetting that they are building them where endangered animals are. I guess if you don't think about what you are writing about today you will be able to write about something tomorrow.

3:25PM PDT on Sep 30, 2011

"Clean energy doesn’t kill or sicken people or wildlife like fossil fuel-based energy does." So we're not counting birds as wildlife, or forgetting that they are building them where endangered animals are. I guess if you don't think about what you are writing about today you will be able to write about something tomorrow.

12:32PM PDT on Sep 28, 2011

I believe that when we keep it simple and follow our hearts and think logically, solar, wind and water are the healthiest ways to progress. Anything else keeps us stuck in the Dark and Murky ages. For your health's sake - forget the politics and rhetoric - and realize it's time to move forward, into the future. Have a beautiful day....full of fresh air, clear skies and butterflies :)

6:17PM PDT on Sep 19, 2011

For the sake of a carbon tax, let's hope we have seen the last of Obama's Solydra strategy. Obama has done more harm to the hope for a carbon tax than even algore!

We DO need a meaningful carbon tax but how?

a robust carbon tax, is only two rhetorical questions away:

1) If the solution to too much CO2 in the air is to use less fossil fuels, why is NOT the solution to too much federal debt to use less government?
2) If the optimal amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is 350 ppm (current=389 ppm) because that is the maximum concentration of CO2 that life as we know it can continue, why is 18% of GDP (current =25% GDP) NOT the optimal size of government because that is the size that most likely yields maximum economic growth (of 4.1% historically)?

Think about it. Liberals (including Obama) and Conservatives are actually making the same apocalyptic argument albeit on different issues. They both make good arguments for action. But the public is yawningly uninterested in AGW and unwilling to make the hard choices on America’s fiscal problems. Buying off the opposition is the American.

It’s time for progressives concerned about rising temperatures and conservatives concerned about rising federal debt to realize the obvious: they need to BUY each other off in order to effectively address their pet ideological concerns-there is no other way.

Blog: letsmakeadeal-thebook.com/

Or just Google "LMADster" for more info.

8:44PM PDT on Sep 18, 2011

more reason for transparency in business practices. as a "potential investor/shareholder" you should have free access to any given company's fuel source(s) so that you can be a more informed consumer

6:49PM PDT on Sep 18, 2011

Robert, you are so right. The marketplace not the government should be deciding where the money goes. Whenever the government gets involved, the potential for fraud and waste of taxpayer money is huge.

2:29PM PDT on Sep 18, 2011

i hope so

1:46PM PDT on Sep 18, 2011

How curious that the politicians who are so scandalized about the solar panel company seem to take no notice of the very large amounts of Texas public money heaped upon companies that just happen to be connected with a certain governor...Yes, the one who said that he was insulted that someone could think that he could be bought for $5000.

1:00PM PDT on Sep 18, 2011

Deborah: Very well spoken-concise.

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