White House Solar Panels: More Evidence that Obama = Carter


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.