White House Solar Panels: More Evidence that Obama = Carter

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The Washington Post is reporting:

The White House is going solar after all—a home improvement that carries modest energy benefits but much larger symbolic importance.

Not a dime's worth of difference?

Symbolic yes. But not in a good way. Symbolic, as President Obama often likes to say, of "the failed policies of the past." In this case, the failed policies of President Jimmy Carter. During the "malaise" era, Carter launched a vast program of subsidies for renewable energy that was supposed to lead the country to "energy independence." President Obama is reprising this Carter policy by again supplying billions in subsidies to high cost renewable energy technologies.

I confessed last year in a couple of Reason articles that I was a young energy regulator who got to see first hand how Carter's massive energy subsidy program failed.

To experience a sense of 1970s deja vu, you may want to go to my article, "It's Alive: Alternaive energy subidies make their biggest comeback since Jimmy Carter." In a companion piece, "Energy Futures," I compared the capital costs of various electricity generation technologies, e.g., various coal, gas, nuclear, wind, and solar technologies. I also added up the federal subsidies that had gone to each power generation technology. Costs were equalized by basing calculations on a 1,000 megawatt capacity operating 90 percent of the time.

Interestingly, the Energy Information Administration's new capital and operating expense figures for electricity generation in 2016 suggest that I was too generous in my analysis, especially with respect to renewable energy costs.

Estimated Levelized Cost of New Generation Resources, 2016 Table.
Carter tries to energize solar panels with his body heat

In the past two years, President Obama has been featured in numerous photo ops wandering among solar panels and not worrying overmuch about their costs. So there's every chance that he will reprise Carter's famous photo op when the new panels are installed atop the White House next year.

One cannot help but wonder why would anyone would think that today's Department of Energy bureaucrats are better at picking "winners" when it comes to subsidizing energy technologies than the 1970s era bureaucrats were? Of course, one "solution" to cheap conventional power is to make it as costly as renewable power.

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  1. I bet you that in the underground bunker, there’s a nuclear reactor.

    1. When you’ve been exposed to the T-virus, you don’t need electricity.

  2. One cannot help but wonder why would anyone would think that today’s Department of Energy bureaucrats are better at picking “winners” when it comes to subsidizing energy technologies than the 1970s era bureaucrats were?

    You know the answer, Ron; they’re idiots.

  3. My furnace went out of the weekend, so I experienced 3 nights of frost without heat. But my house never dropped below 66 degrees because it is well insulated and it has huge windows on the southern exposure. In fact, my house got uncomfortably hot during the days, but we couldn’t open the windows because we wanted to conserve the heat.

    Passive solar design for heat is cool stuff. But solar electric will never be more that a solution for a niche market — places where you need electricty but the cost of connecting to the grid is prohibitive.

    Fuck Obama.

    1. Passive solar design for heat is cool stuff.

      Conversely, using the same techniques to keeping buildings cooler is hot stuff.

      As for solar, I think fuel cell tech will displace it to niches where not only is the grid inaccessible but transporting gas isn’t even practical. So, pretty much just space and mountain tops. Maybe road signage.

      One unit, fed natural gas, for combined heat and electricity. Outputting water and CO2. What’s not to love?

      1. I have the dream of running a home completely on fuel cell tech. Completely off the grid and just waiting for the hydrogen man to arrive to fill up the tank. No more heat loss from long distance electrical transmission.

        They can then take the political hand wringing over the national grid and shove it up their collective ass.

        1. You do see the problem with placing these two sentences right next to each other, right?

          1. er,

            Completely off the grid and just waiting for the hydrogen man to arrive to fill up the tank. No more heat loss from long distance electrical transmission.

            You do see the problem with placing these two sentences right next to each other, right?

            1. What, the energy needed to transport the fuel? I’m guessing, yes, guessing, that the complexity, cost and energy needed for a fleet of trucks is far less than that of a national electric grid with centralized energy generation.

              We managed to make it work with the coal and oil men for heat. I can’t see this being much more difficult.

              1. Add to that that the energy generation becomes completely private and it solves a lot of political problems with noisy axe grinders to boot. No more progressive howler monkeys going on and on about energy ‘deregulation’ and how we all need to conserve our use of electricity for the greater good.

                Environmental impact statement? I got that for you right *here.*

                1. Yes, the energy needed to transport the hydrogen fuel. And to maintain the trucks. And to maintain the roads. And to maintain your fuel cell. And…where do you think the hydrogen comes from, anyway? Solar cells splitting water?

                  Your original post seemed to try to make the case that trucked-in hydrogen would be more efficient by avoiding transmission losses. I, based on a number of years working for a major power generator/distributor, disagree.

                  1. The roads will be there anyway. Do we fret because it requires tanker trucks to deliver gasoline so that auto transport can function? Do centralized generators need maintenance now?

                    Like anything, local power generation has positives and negatives. I don’t imagine it being anything less, but it does solve a great deal of political problems that exist currently and only add to the cost of generation, not to mention area-wide blackouts.

                    Maybe solar will work for hydrogen generation. Or algea, Or nuclear reactors. Who knows. Maybe hydrogen won’t end up being the best fuel.

                    And yes, I do realize that any practical application of fuel cell technology is many years away and in fact, may never get here. It’s just warm and fuzzy navel-gazing on my part.

              2. You’re not really ‘off the grid’ of the Hydrogen Man has to come and refill you. You’ve put your reliance on the grid into his factory, but it’s still there.

                1. Yes, but it’s not a public grid, that has every interest group rubbing their hands together as to how they can influence or control its utility for their agendas.

                  1. Yes, but it’s not a public grid

                    Yeah, don’t like the service from Sam’s Hydrogen? Sign up with HydrogenExpress. Or, whatever options already exist for natural gas, since that’s where I think the tech will head.

        2. JW,

          Give up on fuel cells. They have been a pipe dream for 50 years. Some fuel cells are good for some things, but hydrogen PEMFCs will not be viable unless there is some unforeseen breakthrough in the near future. There are way too many problems to work out, like finding a better polymer electrolyte, finding a better catalyst that doesn’t rely on platinum ($1700/oz today), and doesn’t burn out in 6 months. Not to mention finding an economical hydrogen source.

          Forget it, man. It’s not worth it.

          1. We just need to spew more federal money into fuel cell research, that’s all. That makes everything better.

            I saw an article a few weeks ago about a fuel cell that runs off of basic hydrocarbons and uses less expensive catalysts. The downside was the waste heat, which was too much for a car, but was feasible for a locomotive engine. Something like that could work for a home.

            Anyway, it’s just a dream, that’s all. I never said it was a realistic dream.

            1. Were they solid oxide fuel cells? Yeah, they get REALLY hot. I wouldn’t want one in my house, but yeah locomotives sound like a potential application for those.

              1. “Microwave ovens?! They use REALLY high voltages, I wouldn’t want one of those in my house!”

                Things change. I imagine the concept of tooling around with tens and tens of horses worth of power at ones beck and call was a pretty scary idea when cars were 1st developed.

                “between 500 and 1,000?C” isn’t that insanely hot, and it’s not like the fuel cell appliance would be any easier for your kids to crawl into than a furnace or water heater.

                And no, hydrogen wont be the “fuel” of choice. Those SOFC stacks can convert natural gas to hydrogen right on site. And natural gas distribution is already mature. Heck, I don’t even have to get bottles delivered, they pump it right into my house! With less service interruption than the electricity provided by the same company to boot!

                Still, I agree, let’s not get too excited before the megapricey catalyst issue is surmounted. (screw that, I’m gettin excited!)

                1. I guess the temperature isn’t the issue as much as the amount of heat. I’m picturing something rather large (the size of a water heater) getting to 1000?C (glowing orange) in the utility room. I don’t know. How efficient is it? Are they small or large?

        3. Where does the hydrogen come from?

          Something like 99% of the world’s commercial hydrogen comes from steam-reforming and partial oxidation of hydrocarbons, i.e. natural gas and petroleum.

          Gas-fired microturbines are more practical than hydrogen-fueled fuel cells, and will continue unless Obama delivers on his green energy unicorn promises.

          1. By the way, producing hydrogen this way also produces CO2 and wastes most of the power that would have come from the hydrocarbon.

      2. 90% of my windows are only the south. Excluding the attached garage, I have three windows that face east or west, and no windows face north.

        I have deciduous tree planted on the east and west of the house. So in the summer they will block the rising and setting suns, but in the winter the sun will pour through.

  4. *sigh* Isn’t he dreamy??

  5. Obama = Carter

    One can only hope…

    1. …and just about as popular

    2. Obama >> Carter.

      1. Carter at least deregulated trucking, airplanes, and homebrewing. Has Obama done anything right?

        1. Maybe if the Rs take Congress, they’ll force him to do stuff he hates that actually is good for America.

  6. If Obama really cared about the externalities, he’d go 100% solar, including his transportation needs.

    1. don’t know why he’d need to go 100% to point policy in the right direction. we need a diverse mix of energy sources, inluding renewable.

    2. I think unicorn riding qualifies as that.

      1. He’ll need flying unicorns for AF-1.

    3. Re: Chad,

      If Obama really cared about the externalities, he’d go 100% solar, including his transportation needs.

      Oh, right, because there are no externalities involved in placing what amounts to enormous UMBRELLAS that occupy vast real estate.

      1. those externalities are far less than other forms in terms of environmental and national security concerns.

        1. Re: boomshanka,

          those externalities are far less than other forms in terms of environmental and national security concerns.

          Really? How so? You really there are NO emissions from buiding panels, transporting them, installing them, cleaning them?

          What about them batteries, boom? Do you think they are a small issue? Because they are NOT.

          And what’s with this “national security” shit? This is only an issue because of the USA FedGov’s forays in the Middle East, not because of oil itself.

          1. i didn’t say there were no externalities from solar panels, only that the external costs were far less than those associated with fossil fuels.

            “is only an issue because of the USA FedGov’s forays in the Middle East”

            Really? I’m sure there’s no connection between our use of fossil fuels and our “forays” in the middle east. None at all.

            1. i didn’t say there were no externalities from solar panels, only that the external costs were far less than those associated with fossil fuels.

              This is bullshit.

            2. i didn’t say there were no externalities from solar panels, only that the external costs were far less than those associated with fossil fuels.

              Evidence?

            3. http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-9889848-54.html

              The growth of the solar power industry is poisoning land in China, according to the Washington Post.

              Polysilicon, which is widely used to make solar panels, is in short supply. In the rush to make it cheaply, a Chinese company reportedly is dumping toxic waste into the ground, killing wildlife and endangering human health.

              The newspaper describes green fields in the nation’s eastern central Henan Province that have turned snow white from the powdery waste of silicon tetrachloride, four tons of which result from every ton of polysilicon created. Toxic hydrogen chloride gas and acids waft from the waste.

              .
              .
              .
              .

            4. Re: boomshanka,

              Really? I’m sure there’s no connection between our use of fossil fuels and our “forays” in the middle east. None at all.

              Did I say there wasn’t one? What I said is that the ONLY reason to bring up this “national security” crap is because of the forays in the Middle East. However, many other countries that have NEVER invaded those countries do NOT have such problem with oil being a “national security” issue – only the States.

              So bringing up this “national security” issue when it comes to oil is nothing more than an exercise in disingenuity. OIL in ITSELF does NOT provoke a “national security” issue.

              1. OM if we weren’t dependent on fossil fuel energy a very strong case can be made that we’d have not engaged in a lot of military action. That is trillions of dollars, and you’re dismissing it on grounds of pedantry?

                1. Re: Tony,

                  OM if we weren’t dependent on fossil fuel energy a very strong case can be made that we’d have not engaged in a lot of military action.

                  You’re begging the question. The USA militarism has nothing to do with oil dependance. Costa Rica has NO oil, yet the Costa Rican government does not send troops to nearby Mexico to “secure the supply.” They simply BUY IT.

                  Also, the biggest external supplier of oil to the US is Canada. Next, is Mexico (we haven’t been invaded by the US for OIL, not even after nationalizing it in 1938.) Next is Nigeria. THEN is Saudi Arabia. THEN is Venezuela. THEN is Iraq. And Canda supplies double what Mexico, double what Saudi Arabia and 4 times what Iraq.

                  1. Oh so we really were trying to liberate the people of Iraq from an evil dictator, and it was just random luck that we chose them instead of some other oppressed, non-oil-rich country.

                    1. Re: Tony,

                      Oh so we really were trying to liberate the people of Iraq from an evil dictator, and it was just random luck that we chose them instead of some other oppressed, non-oil-rich country.

                      Tony, I don’t care what petty excuse your fascist Congress and government used to justify invading that country – OIL in itself does NOT compel people to invade countries. OIL in ITSELF does NOT create “national security issues.”

                    2. Afghanistan isn’t known for its rich petroleum resources. Neither is Bosnia, nor Haiti, nor Korea, nor Germany, nor Vietnam. But the US has conducted significant military operations in all of these places or maintains significant military assets in these places.

                      On the other hand, Venezuela is a major oil exporter to the US and is quite antagonistic, but the US has undertaken no military action there.

                      Your logic just doesn’t hold up to events in the real world.

                      (Please don’t make the nonsense argument that the US military action in Afghanistan was to support Unocal’s natural gas pipeline plans.

                2. OM if we weren’t dependent on fossil fuel energy a very strong case can be made that we’d have not engaged in a lot of military action. That is trillions of dollars, and you’re dismissing it on grounds of pedantry?

                  That is due to the decisions by the government.

                3. You’re acting as though the government is some sort of machine rather than a group of moral agents who consciously chose to dick around with other people for unethical reasons (at a time when many other nations just as dependent on oil did not).

      2. Lisa: Oh, yes, and he [Christo] also set up hundreds of yellow umbrellas along the California highway.
        Homer: Why did he do that?
        Lisa: To make the world a more magical place, I guess. [sadly] Although they did blow over and kill some people.
        Homer: Killer umbrellas! Of course! Exquisite.

    4. Excellent idea.

      I think Obama needs to be a pioneer in solar powered airplanes.

      He can lead by example – personally.

    5. This is a very well crafted spoof.

  7. if you’re only looking at levelized cost then i guess you have a point, but it doesn’t factor in any external costs to different forms of energy.

    1. The point of “levelized” calculations (which can vary slightly from DOE study to DOE study) is that they usually do take variable costs into account in addition to capital costs, which I think is the point you are trying to make.

      1. Although I think most of those really underestimate future fossil fuel costs.

  8. Of course, one “solution” to cheap conventional power is to make it as costly as renewable power.

    Even then I don’t see how that can make sense. Solar panels are extraordinarily inefficient for their size, and very costly to produce. I don’t get why would Whiskey Hotel subsidize their production by taxing oil, gas or nuclear. I don’t get that plan.

    I mean, I understand lobbying for regulations to make your competition suffer, but solar panels NEVER competed with other forms of energy production (except for off-the-grid application) and never will, so I don’t get it.

    1. Not only are solar panels expensive, the rely on rare earths that the US does not control, and manufacturing panels produces large quantities of toxic waste.

      Solar panels are extremely un-green.

      1. there are disposal concerns with solar panels, but it just doesn’t compare to the emissions, mountaintop removal, spills, and war associated with coal, oil, and gas.

        1. The claim that solar panels are green is a lie.

          They are a valuable technology for certain applications that require electricty in remote locations.

          They have almost no value in commercial or residential use as a replacement for the grid.

          You would have a far bigger impact on global emissions if you would take the money being dumped on “green” technology and just insulated the old houses that fixed-income senior citizens dwell in. And you’d actually provide a direct benefit to the less fortunate in life.

          Fuck Obama and everyone in the green movement that wants to tax everybody and dump the money into fantasies.

          1. “You would have a far bigger impact on global emissions if you would take the money being dumped on “green” technology and just insulated the old houses”

            Pretty much every green book etc I’ve read acknowledges that it’s much cheaper to get energy efficiency first,.

        2. Re: boomshanka,

          [T]here are disposal concerns with solar panels,

          No shit, Sherlock – just begin with them batteries…

          […]but it just doesn’t compare to the emissions, mountaintop removal, spills, and war associated with coal, oil, and gas.

          Nobody has gone to war for coal, as far as my military history tells me, nor for NatGas. As for emissions, which ones? SO2? NO2? Or are you talking about (*gasp*) the deadly and dreaded CO2??? The one that (*double gasp*) everybody exhales as part of their life cycle????

          And mountaintop removal – that’s rich. Stupid to bring it up, but rich – most coal mines are underground.

          Oh, by the way – the materials for solar panels have to be MINED as well. And do you know how??? By taking mountaintops!

          Isn’t physics grand?

          1. Most coal mines are underground, but the numerous mountaintop removal strip mines are extremely damaging to the environment.

            1. Re: Juice,

              but the numerous mountaintop removal strip mines are extremely damaging to the environment.

              Which include those that mine the materials for the REQUIRED batteries – so what’s your point, juice???

              1. Mountaintop removal mining is devastating to the surrounding environment and should be outlawed. It doesn’t matter what you’re mining.

                1. If the mountain is privately owned and the mining doesn’t affect other property, what’s the problem?

                  The environment won’t even notice.

                2. Also, most strip mines are not on mountains.

      2. Not to mention that for all that money you get something that, even at the equator, only works at full capacity half the time.

        Then you have to take into account that:

        1.) At northern latitudes you get progressively less potential from the sun because the rays are less direct and deflected by thicker layers of atmosphere the lower the sun is in the sky; and

        2.) Roof mounted systems are even less efficient because they can’t track the sun across the sky and optimize the angle of incidence. To do that you need to install tracking systems that cost more money/energy.

        But solar is so awesome!!!!!!!

    2. Slap a 1000% tax on fossil fuels and solar will suddenly be cheap by comparison.

      1. But not any more easily obtainable. The result would just be more people doing without.

        1. Gooooooooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaal!!!!!!!!!!!1

        2. Who cares?
          It’s a matter of fairness and equality.
          It is better for people to huddle together shivering than for oil tycoons to make obscene profits.
          Shared misery is preferable to income inequality because when everyone is equally miserable they don’t feel bad about themselves because someone else has more than them.

    3. Solar panels are extraordinarily inefficient for their size, and very costly to produce.

      Spain sure found this out. They tried to base their economy on this green solar panel chimera, and it has been a complete and utter fiasco.

      This fucking loser in the White House seems determined to try and reimpose every failed idea in the book.

      1. This fucking loser in the White House seems determined to try and reimpose every failed idea in the book.

        Spain obviously didn’t have the right people in charge of the green jobs program.

  9. ARFARFARFARFARFARFARFARFARF!!!!!!

    1. Was that pre-emptive?

  10. “It’s Alive: Alternaive energy subidies make their biggest comeback since Jimmy Carter.”

    I think it’s spelled “ultranaive”.

  11. No worries. President Flake will just take them down again.

  12. In the past two years, President Obama has been featured in numerous photo ops wandering among solar panels and not worrying overmuch about their costs.

    Lefties never worry overmuch about the cost of their plans and “good intentions” – they make damned sure they themselves are not the ones who have to bear them.

  13. Look at those Republicans with the same ole ideas. Unbelievable. With me you get innovation and fresh new ideas: Romneycare for all, solar panels on the White House, investment in our unions, war escalation, and the most transparent government in history. Just wait until I break out my scalpal and go at that waste, biotches!

  14. Well, one way that solar and wind are superior to fossil fuel generation is that they can more efficiently be deployed at single sites.

    You can have solar panels on every house. It’s harder to have fossil fuel power generation at every house with creating noise and pollution issues, and without an infrastructure for delivering fuel, etc.

    Fossil fuel generation looks most cost-efficient NOW because states and municipalities spent a century using the power of the state to FORCE property to be developed in a way conducive to centralized fossil fuel power generation.

    Without that century of state power at work, fossil fuels would not enjoy the efficiency advantage they currently enjoy.

    1. What do you do on calm overcast days?

    2. ummm, no.

      I will give you that there are biases built into the existing system in favor of fossil fuels, but there were also biases in favor of whaling and spermaceti back in the day, too, and those went away because petroleum turned out to be a better option. If renewables have an advantage over fossil fuels, they’ll eventually win out despite the biases in the system. Don’t be so fatalistic.

      Go read a physics textbook and you can take the exam again next year.

      1. If renewables have an advantage over fossil fuels, they’ll eventually win out despite the biases in the system.

        But not in a way that reflects accurate market signals. The fact is carbon-based fuel is quite heavily subsidized, and on top of that the industries are so powerful that they have been doing everything they can–and succeeding–to prevent alternatives.

        1. Exactly how do carbon-based fuel industries prevent alternatives?

          Oh yeah, the perpetual motion machine in Exxon’s basement sitting next to the car that runs on water.

        2. on top of that the industries are so powerful that they have been doing everything they can–and succeeding–to prevent alternatives

          You do realize, don’t you Tony, that you’re making a case for limited government? For NOT picking winners and subsidizing specific market participants?

          Specifically, petroleum displaced whale oil because, in the 1800’s, pre-income tax and pre-leviathan, the only “signal” that mattered came from the market and the bottom line. Ditto for horse and buggy vs the automobile, which also happened before 1916.

          What has changed? The size and scope of the federal government and the opportunity to hand out favors.

          So, in that sense, I will partly rescind my previous comment and agree with you. Get the government out of the business of subsidizing anything and let true market signals prevail.

          RIGHT ON, TONY!

          1. EXTERNALITIES! YARGH!

          2. You do realize, don’t you Tony, that you’re making a case for limited government? For NOT picking winners and subsidizing specific market participants?

            Yes, and even more perversely, libertarians are defending the energy status quo, as government-influenced as that is, to save us from government picking favorites.

            Which brings me to a question I’ve never gotten a satisfactory answer for: reason mag is on the payroll, so I get why they shill for carbon energy, but why do commenters do it for free?

            1. Re: Tony,

              Yes, and even more perversely, libertarians are defending the energy status quo[…]

              Liar.

              […]I get why they [Reason.com] shill for carbon energy, but why do commenters do it for free?

              I like tomatoes. They are tasty and nutritious!

              I must be a shill for tomatoes, for free… I guess.

              Idiot.

            2. but why do commenters do it for free

              Because we paid attention in physics class?

              1. In fairness to you guys, the greenhouse effect probably wasn’t covered in your physics class, but that doesn’t mean it’s not physics.

                1. but that doesn’t mean it’s not physics.

                  Except for the anthropomorphic part, right?

                  1. That’s physics too. Keep moving that goalpost. After all, the creationists did eventually win by engaging in the same bullshit, right? Irreducible complexity! Oh, the eye is reducible? How about the bacterial flagellum?

                  2. Except for the anthropomorphic part, right?

                    The greenhouse effect now has human characteristics? Perhaps a Jolly Greehouse Giant farting out vast quantities of CO2?

                    I gotta take physics again.

                2. Re: Tony,

                  In fairness to you guys, the greenhouse effect probably wasn’t covered in your physics class, but that doesn’t mean it’s not physics.

                  They talked about that in my natural science classes during elementary school (or the Mexican equivalency.) The Mexican bureau of education was also riddled with anti-market socialists just as it is now, and they are not more or less believable than your bureaucrats in D.C.

                  1. So the greenhouse effect is a socialist conspiracy now?

                    1. The greenhouse effect is obviously real. My problem with the whole thing is that people want to reshape the global economy from the top down based on computer models. Models that say what the climate will be like in 100 years based on tree rings and ice cores. Let’s have a top-down, centralized controlled global economy based on that. It reminds me of the Great Leap Forward.

                    2. Re: Tony,

                      So the greenhouse effect is a socialist conspiracy now?

                      Somebody said “conspiracy”?

                    3. No, but AGW sure is.

        3. Re: Tony,

          Hey, STUPID – paying less taxes in capital investments is NOT a “subsidy”, just like giving away LESS money to a robber is not a subsidy the robber is giving ME.

          Only the NYT and enviro groups call tax breaks a “subsidy”:

          “According to the most recent study by the Congressional Budget Office, released in 2005, capital investments like oil field leases and drilling equipment are taxed at an effective rate of 9 percent, significantly lower than the overall rate of 25 percent for businesses in general and lower than virtually any other industry.”

          http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/04/business/04bptax.html

          Paying 9% when others pay 25% is NOT a “SUBSIDY” – it is THEIR MONEY, asshole, not the government’s.

          1. My favorite is when Obama describes how much tax cuts will “cost us”.

          2. “Paying 9% when others pay 25% is NOT a “SUBSIDY” – it is THEIR MONEY, asshole, not the government’s.”

            BULLSHIT!!!

            Giving favored industries a comeptive advatage over other business through a tax subsidiy is just the same as any other subsidy.

            It encourages that activty and investment in that activity over other activites.

            Moreover, it raises taxes on everyone else to pay for that subsidiy.

            Here’s a simpler example, the world is made up of carptenters and plumbers. If we decide that from now on, carpenters only pay 15% in taxes, but plumbers must pay 25% then plumbers are subsidizing the carpenters through their taxes.

        4. The fact is carbon-based fuel is quite heavily subsidized

          Despite the fact that the wind-energy sector, through the$0.022 per-kilowatt-hour production tax credit, gets subsidies of about $6.40 per million Btu of energy produced?an amount that, according to the Energy Information Administration, is about 200 times the subsidy received by the oil and gas sector

          For someone who fancies himself as a progressive (or who clearly is more sympathetic to them than the average Reason commenter), you sure like to fight old battles. In order to progress, you have to keep moving forward, dude.

          1. There is supposed to be a link there.

            Link

          2. I don’t think it’s passe to note that fossil fuel energy industries–nay, cartels–are still heavily subsidized directly and indirectly in a way that renewables simply cannot compete.

            1. Tony,
              Let’s say you’ve got $100 in your wallet.
              If you give me the contents of your wallet because I put the barrel of a shotgun in your mouth, and then I give you $20 back out of the goodness of my heart, would you consider that to be a gift?

            2. Re: Tony,

              I don’t think it’s passe to note that fossil fuel energy industries–nay, cartels–are still heavily subsidized directly and indirectly in a way that renewables simply cannot compete.

              Nitwit – read: LOWER TAX RATES ARE NOT SUBSIDIES!

              1. OM don’t they amount to the same thing if one industry is given a special lower rate than others?

                1. Tony – If I steal $100 from you and then steal $75 from OM, would you consider that my giving OM a gift of $25?

                  It’s the exact same logic.

                  1. But taxes aren’t theft.

            3. Cartels and monopolies can ONLY exist when the government protects their market share.

        5. The fact is carbon-based fuel is quite heavily subsidized, and on top of that the industries are so powerful that they have been doing everything they can–and succeeding–to prevent alternatives.

          How have they prevented alternatives?

          Did they engineer the great oil crash of 2008?

        6. Most of them are positioned to profit from alternatives too, so that seems doubtful.

      2. That’s not what I’m saying.

        Centralized power generation [which fits the fossil fuel model perfectly; the two were literally made for each other] was initially regarded as impractical because it would have led to competing firms stringing wires across crowded city streets, people in remote areas not having access to power, negotiation over every individual piece of property that the infrastructure had to cross, etc.

        All those problems with solved with Gordian knot solutions imposed by state power. Utilities were given monopolies. Property variances were required as a condition of municipalities “allowing” property to be developed. Service to remote areas was required by law and paid for by assessments on all other users. Etc.

        At the end of that process, jumping in and doing a cost analysis and saying, “Well, it’s cheapest to give generating power centrally by burning fossil fuels and delivering that power to end users, so we have to listen to the market!” is, frankly, disgusting. You can’t appeal to the market to defend a system that only exists because of vast market interference. Give me a century where I can use state power to intervene over and over on behalf of a distributed generation renewables model, and piss on fossil fuels all I want, and then run the cost analysis again and see how it turns out.

        1. Centralized power distribution also fits the nuclear power model nicely. Both nuclear and coal rely on steam turbines, which are hella efficient. Large steam turbines are much more efficient than small ones. When you only lose 6-7% max from transmission losses, it makes the central power station look pretty good from an environmental standpoint versus everyone producing their own power. I think that maybe the best way to go about power distribution is to have massive nuclear plants to provide baseline power to a million or so people each coupled with solar and wind for commercial properties to handle peak times.

      3. BTW, I just realized that we’re probably talking about two different kinds of efficiency.

        Your reference to physics makes me think that you’re probably aware that fossil fuels are a much more efficient store of energy, and offer easier access to energy by combustion, than the available alternatives.

        But I’m talking about the overall efficiency of deploying generation and transmission facilities.

        Fossil fuel generation looks efficient because we simply used the power of the state to steamroller over the parts of creating the power network that would have been hard if individual property owners and business owners had retained all their liberties and rights.

        1. True. We are veering back and forth between economic efficiency (monopoly utilities) and physical efficiency (store of energy).

          Your point about granular generation is a valid one.

          I actually do some work with renewable energy firms and there are several examples where the existing infrastructure for fossil fuels gives it an additional advantage over renewables (i.e. delivering coal by rail compared to wood via truck).

          The secret, as many of my clients are figuring out, is to make renewables capable of exploiting existing infrastructure (wires, pipelines) instead of requiring new infratructure (like hydrogen and ethanol).

          But your point is valid.

  15. why would anyone would think that today’s Department of Energy bureaucrats are better at picking “winners” when it comes to subsidizing energy technologies than the 1970s era bureaucrats were?

    Because we’re forty years smarter.

    Duh.

  16. By the way –

    Once the first set of panels were up, they were a sunk cost for the federal government.

    Leaving them up and generating power was the only way to get that sunk cost back.

    Spending MORE money to take them down both wastes THAT money and cost the taxpayers the money that had to be spent to replace the power they would have generated.

    So that makes Reagan an even bigger dick on this issue than Carter was.

    1. I’d think, to a libertarian, Carter would beat Reagan on just about every point.

      1. This is why no one cares what you think.

      2. Yeah. Libertarians just love the Departments of Energy and Education.

        1. Oh I’m fully aware that actual libertarians find space lasers to be a more practical use of government money.

          1. Do you always argue with straw men?

            1. Because it’s so much easier to win that way.

            2. What straman? See WTB’s post below. See, defense is a legitimate mandate of government, so why don’t we just ignore billions upon billions of dollars of waste there and focus on handouts to poor people and stuff?

              1. Yes I saw wtb’s post.
                The difference is that while you only saw it, I actually read it.

          2. actual libertarians find space lasers to be a more practical use of government money

            Theoretically, if it’s part of the defense mandate of the government, then yes, relative to telling people how fast they can drive or what their kids need to be learning in school.

            But I think that space lasers and superfluous government spending departments are both wastes of money.

    2. Spending MORE money to take them down both wastes THAT money and cost the taxpayers the money that had to be spent to replace the power they would have generated.

      They were taken down during a renovation of that wing, as I recall, so there was probably no marginal cost to removing them.

      As to whether they should have been put back up, you have to balance the costs of maintaining them against the value of the electricity produced. Not sure these olde schoole panels would fare well on that comparison.

      1. OK, I stand corrected then.

        I thought Reagan deliberately and specifically had them removed because a real he-man can’t live in a house with any faggy solar panels on it.

  17. The solution to the world’s energy needs, Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors.

    http://energyfromthorium.com/

  18. Silly boys. One cannot “create” or “generate” energy. Energy is natural and naturally provided our Creator (whatever you may deem that to be). Once you have come to understand that fact, you will realize that we are really talking about changing potential energy into kinetic energy. This does not require the kind of destruction or costs our current (heh) systems are inflicting. You simply alter the potentials and return them after you are finished using them. Completely green, no wires, no waste.

    Of course that means very little dependence on our existing structures upon which many have built careers, but it would open the door to many new industries.

    Yeah, I know, you think this is fantasy. But if I told you 100 years ago, that you could instantly contact anyone in the world in seconds no matter where either of you were, you’d say that was fantasy too.

    1. Entropy, it’s got electrolytes!

    2. One cannot “create” or “generate” energy.

      One can convert mass to energy. You’d have a weird view of the world if you equated mass to potential energy.

      1. Isn’t mass just another form of energy?

    3. But if I told you 100 years ago, that you could instantly contact anyone in the world in seconds no matter where either of you were, you’d say that was fantasy too.

      I find your argument compelling and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

    4. Energy can be destroyed, in practical considerations. How do we reclaim heat energy that has radiated out in to space?

  19. Carter was an ass, but at least he didn’t go around yelling at people like the sitting idiot in the White House.

    1. Carter was an ass, sure. But, he was the best president we had in the past 40 years (not saying much).

  20. One of my old high school buddies is a county commissioner. After being elected he started a blog about public money being wasted in the government (he consistently is the only no vote against a lot of boondoggles).

    One of his better entries is about how the county crowed about powering one of its buildings with solar power. When Jeff asked about the specifics it turns out that the $15K/month savings wouldn’t pay off the price of the solar panels until 2070.

  21. Personally- I think this sends the perfect message to the American people and helps start a discussion as to how we should look at energy as a responsibility instead of a guaranteed result of flipping a switch.

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