Obama Calls Opponents of Renewable Energy Subsidies "Flat Earthers"—What Does That Make Him?


Obama tilts at solar panels

Whenever President Barack Obama wants to make some point or other about his energy policy, he makes a beeline to latest set of solar panels for a photogenic visit. Yesterday, the president found himself wandering among the 1 million or so panels of the Copper Mountain Solar installation outside Boulder City, Nevada. In his remarks, the president accused opponents of subsidized solar power of wanting

…to dismiss the promise of solar power and wind power and fuel-efficient cars. In fact, they make jokes about it. One member of Congress who shall remain unnamed called these jobs "phony" – called them phony jobs. I mean, think about that mindset, that attitude that says because something is new, it must not be real. If these guys were around when Columbus set sail, they'd be charter members of the Flat Earth Society. (Laughter.) We were just talking about this – that a lack of imagination, a belief that you can't do something in a new way – that's not how we operate here in America. That's not who we are. That's not what we're about.

Yes, America has always been about subsidized electricity. In any case, let's add up once again what federal subsidies (in this case a 30 percent tax break) can conjure into existence and compare costs with a new natural gas-fired electric plant. As the president noted, the new 58-megawatt Copper Mountain facilty can generate enough power to supply 17,000 homes. How does he come by that number? Very roughly, one megawatt of installed capacity when operating can supply electricity for 1,000 homes. Since solar is intermittent, the usual estimate is that solar plants operate at 30 percent of maximum capacity. In this case, Copper Mountain would supply enough electricity for 17,000 homes. 

The Electric Power Research Institute latest estimate for building a new 550 megawatt natural gas-fired electric plant operating at 80 percent capacity is $1.2 billion. Using the same form of calculation implied by the president (1 megawatt per 1,000 homes x 80 percent of 550 megawatts) suggests that such a plant could supply electricity to 440,000 homes. 

Now let's scale up the Copper Mountain plant ten-fold for a rough comparison to a 580 megawatt plant. The current plant cost $140 million to build, so a ten-fold increase would (again roughly) be $1.4 billion. Not so much more than a natural gas plant; but then there's the 30 percent capacity factor to take into account. So to get the same amount of electricity generated means that a comparable solar plant would actually have to have maximum capacity of more than 1,800 megawatts. So at $141 million per 58 megwatts of capacity such a plant would cost roughly $4.4 billion to build. That's almost four times more expensive than a comparable natural gas plant would be. 

But surely, the extra expense for solar will be made up in fuel cost savings, right? Recent calculations of the levelized costs of various forms of electric power generation technologies (including lifetime fuel costs) suggest not. 

levelized costs

If opponents of renewable power subsidies are "flat earthers," what does that make proponents? 

NEXT: Public School Teacher Assigns Students Oppo Research on GOP Candidates, Instructs Them to Forward it to Obama Campaign

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. A mass murdering sociopath, albeit of the affirmative action, racist, inarticulate, without the teleprompter, variety.

    1. Irony Alert: Describing him as “affirmative action” is racist, dude.

      1. Does the fact that millions of stupid white people voted for him out of guilt make him “affirmative action”?

        1. If the primary motivation of a white person who voted for him was “see, america is not racist” or “I am enlightened cuz I voted for a black man for president” and the like, yes.

          1. If I’m forced to choose between:
            a) You’re a telepath
            b) You’re a racist

            I’m gonna choose B

        2. Millions of stupid white people also voted against him out of racism.

          1. I am forced to choose between:
            a) You’re a telepath
            b) You’re a racist

            I’m gonna choose B

            1. He’s not a racist because he believes he can divine the primary motivations of voters, he’s a racist because he calls Obama the affirmative action president, you dolt.

              1. You’re just as bag as those you deride, jackass.

          2. REally? Those people would have been voting Democrat if he had been white? Just who are these racist Democrats?

            1. Southern independents.


    2. I call Obama a fluent vote hustler.

  2. US oil companies receive billions of dollars in subsidies per year.

    Does that make the jobs they create phony?

    1. No, they don’t. They don’t get a penny, as far as I know, in “true” subsidies (checks from the government).

      And, they don’t get any special tax credits or deductions (again, as far as I know).

      If you know different, supply the details.

      1. But if you repeat the talking point enough times doesn’t it become true?

      2. The “subsidies” argument usually involve cheap government leases negotiated in the early 90s when oil was $35/bbl. Could the government get a better price now? Sure. Although I would argue that until about 2007 or so, US government action in the middle east significantly contributed to nobody knowing what the fuck the price of oil would be two years out.

        1. Cheap lease! = subsidy. Seriously, that’s a barrel of weaksauce.

          1. Not indulging, just repeating what I’ve heard. If the lease “should” generate $X and it generates $X/3 then the government is “subsidizing” the lease. Just like if my landlord could charge $X, but only charges $X/3 he’s subsidizing my rent because I’ve been in the same building for 30 years which he long ago paid off.

            1. I get you, I just think that’s a mighty generous definition of “subsidy”.

            2. The landlord isn’t subsidizing you at all if he leased to you under a long term lease. He took the risk that rents might increase so that the future rent would be below market. You took the risk that rents might decrease so that the future rent would be above market. Both sides decided those were risks worth taking for the assurance of stable income/expenses.

              1. Let’s get into the bigger issue, which is: Why the fuck id the Federal Government leasing land to anyone in the first place?

                The land should be sold to the highest bidder and the proceeds used to pay down the national debt. Every fucking acre of land owned by the government that is not used for military bases and/or training should be sold.

                1. Most of these sweetheart deals are on Gulf of Mexico water leases where the government is the only agent who can legally “own” it. Other times, the oil company doesn’t want to own the land, it just wants to own the mineral rights.

                  1. That’s another bullshit deal. The land should be sold, with the mineral rights in the deal.

                    Why a government can own the “mineral rights” to privately owned land is beyond me.

                    1. They don’t. Only mineral rights on federal land. Like logging national forests. They are acting the same as a private landholder, selling resources while maintaining ownership of the real property.

              2. adam, nicely said.

  3. It was already well-known in Columbus’ time that the earth was round; the issue was that given the (nearly correct) estimate for the circumference of the earth they had, any ship attempting to sail west to Asia would run out of supplies long before reaching Asia, and they were correct in that regard.

    1. Yeah, “Columbus proved the earth is round” is a stupid myth that Obama should be smart enough not to perpetuate.

      1. Obama makes up for his second grade math skills by having first grade history knowledge.

        1. Not to mention a kindergarten-level knowledge of property rights. (Now, Billy. You need to share that with Susie because Susie is upset and crying.)

          1. Not sharing your ideology about property rights is not the same thing as not having knowledge of property rights.

            1. What does ideology have to do with it? Property rights are an established feature of our legal system, not a matter of opinion.

    2. any ship attempting to sail west to Asia would run out of supplies long before reaching Asia,

      Which means Columbus was counting on finding another land mass and food to get him back. Reading his diaries is incredibly interesting. The man’s attitude on the way out was that of a beggar and of a megalomaniac on the way back.

      1. No. Columbus’ problem was that he miscalculated the size of a longitudinal degree and though the earth was one third smaller than it is. He really thought he had reached Japan when he landed in the Caribbean.

        1. Yeah, that’s why they’re called the West Indies, to distinguish them from the “East” Indies, which were the original.

          1. Which gives me a chance to post this Louis CK video-


    3. It was well known to educated people almost two thousand years before that.

      1. Ptolomy calculated the earth’s circumference to a pretty accurate degree.

        1. I think you’re thinking of Eratosthenes (who Ptolemy cited). Pretty amazing accuracy for the time, too.

          1. Is he the guy who measured the shadows at noon in two different wells a known distance apart? I know someone in the ancient world did it and got within a few hundred miles of being accurate.

            1. That’s him. He was brilliant in any number of diverse fields and was chief librarian at Alexandria. One of my top time travel destinations is the Library at Alexandria.

              1. Mine too. But I want to bring my old classics professor with me, so he can translate the stuff. Think of all of the lost Greek plays that were there. We have 44 Greek plays from the golden age. We know there were hundreds of them. And Aristotle’s comedy. And lord knows what else.

                1. I’m bringing a large trunk. Or maybe just a camera with lots of batteries and storage.

                  1. I’m taking diagrams of every basic invention from the 5th-15th centuries and I am never coming back. I would be king of the world within a decade. A benevolent king, mind you, but a king nonetheless.

                    1. Yeah, they’d just torture you until you became their slave.

                    2. Not if I used my phaser I got from my quick trip to the future on my way there.

                      C’mon, Pro Lib. Think outside the box a little.

                    3. Phasers run out of power, so you just delay the inevitable.

                    4. Bullshit. Mine will run on a combination of dilithium crystals and Obama farts. It’ll last forever.

                    5. But they don’t know that.

          2. Fellow Cosmos fan?

            Too bad Sagan would still have supported Obama even after hearing this claptrap.

            1. I think I knew this one before seeing Cosmos, but I definitely recall Sagan talking about Eratosthenes.

              I just heard it again on a Modern Scholar course I’m listening to on astronomy.

    4. Make a fleet with ships occasionally replenishing the rest of the fleet’s supplies and then turning around.

    5. The Flat Earth Myth is anti RCC propaganda. No seafaring people have ever believed in a flat earth.

  4. If opponents of renewable power subsidies are “flat earthers,” what does that make proponents?

    Inhabitants of non-Euclidean spaces?

    1. Obama is an Old One?

      1. I thought he’d have more tentacles, and be more squamous.

  5. Curmudgeonly oil whoring to the future!

  6. Wait, Obama’s an obnoxious asshole? When did this happen?

    1. When did this happen?

      We’ll never know until he releases his passport information and college transcripts.

  7. Considering the fact that Obama thinks that Oil costs “$1.20 a barrel, $1.25 a barrel”, I’ll take his criticism with a large boulder sized grain of salt.

    1. That is another wingnut lie.

      1. Oh is it?


        THE PRESIDENT: All right, I just wanted to make sure. Because I didn’t think it was a wise use of your tax dollars. (Laughter.)

        We have subsidized oil companies for a century. We want to encourage production of oil and gas, and make sure that wherever we’ve got American resources, we are tapping into them. But they don’t need an additional incentive when gas is $3.75 a gallon, when oil is $1.20 a barrel, $1.25 a barrel. They don’t need additional incentives. They are doing fine.

        1. Its a transcription error. That would be a huge gaffe and no news service has picked it up. Also, I heard his speech and he clearly says “$120”.

          The audio of that would be everywhere if he said “one dollar twenty”.

          1. That would be a huge gaffe and no news service has picked it up.

            Of course they won’t pick up on it. That would be racist to point out how stupid he is.

            And there is a whole lot more stupid in that paragraph than just the price of oil. We haven’t subsidized oil companies ever much less for a century. And the price of oil and the price of gas are not the same thing.

            Obama is a fucking moron.

            1. We tax subsidize O&G, you fucking dumbass.

              Once again you are wrong.

              1. No we don’t. So me a link that says we do. Sorry, shrike but the voices in your head don’t count.

                  1. Sorry dipshit a tax break is not a subsidy. A subsidy is writing a check. By your definition, the government subsidizes everyone in the country via the standard deduction.

                    Try again retarded little hack.

                    1. Sure it is. Is “rent seeking” favoritism (a term I learned here) and if Buffett got a tax subsidy H&R posters would go ballistic.

                      I clearly said TAX SUBSIDY at the top and you challenged me, dipshit.

                      O&G is a tax-favored just as solar is.

                    2. No it is not. IS the DOE giving loans to failed natural gas companies? It is not even close.

                    3. Technically a special tax break specifically for their industry is absolutely an indirect subsidy, but it is also true that lots of industries get special tax breaks. Which also explains why almost no one pays the 35% corporate tax rate, except for small, domestic corporations that don’t have the power to bribe congress for favors.

                      I work for a small-medium sized domestic manufacturer and we paid 35% last year (state + federal total). Sucks to be us.

                  2. If you had bothered to read that, you would know that it doesn’t apply to big oil companies.

              2. C’mon – tax subsidize? Really? So many industries receive special tax breaks from federal and state sources that all it is is an indictment on a retarded tax system.

              3. I think tax breaks are just subsidy’s with different accounting rules.

                All the subsidies should be removed. A flat tax should be implemented.

          2. So he thinks oil is $120 or $125 a BARREL?

            Either way it’s a fucking stupid thing to say, and considering the link I gave is from the WHITE HOUSE PRESS RELEASE it shows you what incompetent folks are running this show.

            But please continue slobbering over him. You have something on your chin though, might want to wipe that off.

            1. It is for Brent. We import Brent and about 85% of what we refine is Brent or North Slope sweet.

              Learn something about oil, dude.

              1. Maybe they should hire you Shriek, since you seem to always be available to correct Obama’s misstatements.

                He didn’t say “Brent” crude either. And in the context of his point, oil companies aren’t trading only in Brent Crude (thanks genius, I know what that is) they are trading in a world wide commodity that is currently $20 per barrel lower than what he’s saying.

                If you need to explain your point this much, maybe you are just full of shit.

                1. You can parse and spin almost any statement to mean something other than what it means or meant. You hear more of that during election season.

                2. Yeah, dude.

          3. Considering that oil is currently at about $105 a barrel, he would still be wrong.

      2. You would think Sarah Palin could have seen that from her house, along with Russia.

        1. Or course she never said any such thing. Funny how people believe Palin said things that she didn’t, yet never believe things that Obama has actually said.

          1. Palin deserves plenty of criticism, but not for something she never said. Obama, otoh, actually said 57 states like it was a variety of ketchup.

            1. 57 states like it was a variety of ketchup.

              OT, but I always thought that was the varieties of pickles Heinz had at one time. It would explain the pickle under the “57 Varieties” on the bottle. Does it really mean catsup? And if so, how can there be that many varieties of ketchup?

              1. I think it referred to 57 varieties of Heinz products.

                  1. Actually, I’d heard that it was just a slogan and not a reality. Probably from the Straight Dope.

                    1. He also referred to a Navy corpsman as a Navy corpse man. Twice in the speech.

  8. I mean, think about that mindset, that attitude that says because something is new, it must not be real.

    Photovoltaic cell power has been around for about 40 years. Wind power has been around for millennia.

    These aren’t new ideas; they’re just ones that no one has bothered with for a while because they can’t possibly compete with fossil fuel as an energy source on a level playing field.

    1. And there is all of this, cheap renewable sources of energy no one is using because they are not smart enough to do so with out the black Jesus leading them to the light.

    2. If a “level playing field” contains the externalities of burning fossil fuels, they sure as shit can.

      1. Nope. Even when you factor in the cost of cleaning up the known problems caused by emissions, fossil fuels still win the day.

        Note I’m not factoring in climate change because that’s not known.

        1. Well then your analysis is asinine.

    3. I don’t mind small government-funded pilot projects. Those can be justified as part of national defense.

      I do mind attempts to build full-scale industries with subsidies. That’s something else entirely.

      I also mind the fact that they keep on focusing on wind and terrestrial solar when the really cool stuff that will likely pay off are geothermal, tidal, and space-based solar.

  9. we’ve always used petroleum & always will.

  10. Goddammit. That shit pisses me off to no end. No end. Fuck him in the ass with his unicorn farts plan for addressing energy. I am just abominally tired of being told that I’m ignorant by people who don’t possess the skills to run the numbers and haven’t done it themselves.

  11. Solar panels are like trains: they’re inordinately worshipped by the invincibly ignorant.

  12. I am constantly amazed at how stupid Obama is. He can’t even make a coherent argument. Granted, making one for this shit is hard. But it can be done. I am sorry. But Obama is just stupid. I don’t know how else to describe him.

    1. I don’t think he’s stupid, but I think he believes the rest of us are.

      1. That is a valid alternative. To say the shit he does you either have to be stupid or believe the world is profoundly stupid and will believe anything you say.

    2. Then Apple is ignorant. They are building a solar powered data center in North Carolina. PG&E is stupid for their huge solar fields in the Mohave.

      Of course you’re trying to ‘Palin’ him and your megaphone is far too small.

      1. I am Palining him. That would be an insult to Palin. Obama is stupid. And no one will point that out because they are too afraid to call a black man dumb in public.

        And running a single data center on solar is a hell of a lot different than running the country on it. We have a President who believes in myths and has based his entire energy policy on them.

        1. Sans teleprompter, do you think that shrike honestly thinks that Obama is a good communicator?

          Is there really any doubt that Palin’s VP nomination speech was far better than any speech ever made by Obama?

          1. Shrike does. But Shrike is insane. And yeah, Obama’s speeches are terrible. If he is such a good speaker, why hasn’t he been able to move public opinion on a single issue since taking office?

          2. He debated the House GOP leadership in 2010 and Fox News pulled the plug it got so one-sided.

            1. Hey Shrike, did you hear the speech where your beloved president read Navy corpsman from the prompter and pronounced it ‘corpse man’ twice in the same speech? Yes the commander in chief doesn’t know the difference.

        2. Obama is indeed not as smart as he appears. He buys in to failed economics and is too dumb not to see the superiority of free markets. Obama is not even as smart as George W Bush.

      2. Shrike, what kind of subsidies is Apple receiving for that?

        1. Apple bought coal futures for the data center. That is smart.

      3. That’s likely mostly PR.

        Does Apple get tax credits for the solar powered data center?

        1. I don’t know but the two nuclear power plants Obama approved in Georgia ARE subsidized with loan guarantees.

          Obama is the only president pushing all forms of domestic power generation – albeit with subsidies in some cases (which are problematical).

          There is a reason the market likes him (and taxpayers wouldn’t).

          1. Obama is the only president all forms of domestic power generation…

            There is more than one president?

      4. Actually Amazon has said exactly that.. that Apple’s Solar field in NC is kind of a waste. They are clearing 171 acres of trees to supply only 4% of the electricity the facility will use.


        1. 171 acres of trees for some green fantasy. Fuck yourself shrike.

    3. From his condescending manner I suspect that he thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room, and like any president he’s surrounded by obsequious genuflecting toadies who will reinforce whatever delusions he has.

      I think he overrates himself. He may have been Da Man in academia but that has little meaning in the real world that he is now trying to manipulate.

      1. He may have been Da Man in academia

        I assume he wasn’t, since he was doing a lot of drugs and we have never seen one transcript or any of his grades.

        My guess is he was a rather shitty student who got by mostly on charm and a heaping dose of affirmative action.

        1. He was never Da Man in anything. He was an adjunct at Chicago. He never held a tenured track position.

          Consider this. Obama was editor of the Harvard Law Review but never clerked for an appellate much less Supreme Court judge and never obtained a tenured track position. He was not the man in academia.

          1. Obama was editor of the Harvard Law Review but never clerked for an appellate much less Supreme Court judge.

            That part is surprising. Our EiC had to beat off clerkship offers with a stick, and I didn’t go to HYS. That he was the first minority to be EiC of the Harvard Law Review and not be immediately fast tracked to a SCOTUS clerkship is really telling. I would think he’d have had to out and out refuse the Justices’ calling him and offering it to him.

            My only guess is that he must not have wanted to work that hard. Or he didn’t want a career in the law.

    4. Obama reads a speech from a teleprompter.

      He cannot be both:
      Too stupid to write his own material
      Stupid for writing his own material

      you gotta pick one

      1. But he can be too stupid to realize the material that is being provided to him is stupid.

        1. When a stupid person says something stupid to another stupid person, does either one of them think it’s stupid?

        2. I think that’s contained within “too stupid to write his own material”

      2. I pick #3: too phony to go off script.

  13. “One member of Congress who shall remain unnamed called these jobs “phony” ? called them phony jobs. I mean, think about that mindset, that attitude that says because something is new, it must not be real.”

    No, I think he’s calling them phony because they’re unproductive, government-fabricated jobs. A real job involves compensation for creation of value.

    1. Obama is just giving a 21st Century update to the old liberal canard about how everyone in the Soviet Union is employed. He apparently didn’t get the memo that explain how a job that doesn’t produce anything is not a job.

  14. Pointing out economic realities does not make one “anti-science” or a “flat earther” as the Dear Leader would have it.

    I wonder: does he know the difference between science and science fiction? I realise that on Star Trek stuff never costs anything, but Star Trek isn’t a documentary.

    1. It always gets me how the people acting out the Catholic Church’s part think they’re Galileo in this situation.

  15. If opponents of renewable power subsidies are “flat earthers,” what does that make proponents?


    Isn’t solar just another of Obama’s Faith Based Initiatives?

    1. And that’s just off the coast of the Carolinas. Think about how little of the East Coast that is.

  16. Fear and ignorance. The tools of this administration.

    It’s absurd to suggest that everyone questioning these subsidies opposes alternative energy. Most of us don’t. We just oppose wasting money on something that will come or not come on its own. Stop trying to pick winners and let the market continue to do what it was already doing. Oil is likely to keep getting more expensive for the near term, so the incentive to find alternatives is already there.

    1. We’ll be competing with China which heavily subsidizes its clean energy industries. If our industries die, it won’t because the pure free market has spoken, but because we’re so fucking dumb we think that such a thing can exist in this world and we make the worst business decision imaginable, deliberately putting ourselves at a disadvantage for ideological reasons.

      Oil will eventually price itself out of use, but we know that’s gonna happen and we know there are bad consequences to waiting around for it. Humans are capable of forethought–trusting a magical market that doesn’t exist is religion.

      1. Yeah because if solar ever becomes competitive, we could never make our own then.

        So fucking what if China is subsidizing. Great, we will let them do the heavy lifting. I am perfectly fine with the Chinese paying for Obama’s solar energy fantasies.

        I know you are functionally retarded Tony. But you really have to at least try.

        1. See, what makes us so innovative and superior in our technology is, primarily, our freeish market. To the extent that China allows market forces to exist within its borders, it has success.

          By allowing our market to be more free, we’ll achieve far greater technological success than we will by using political biases to choose “winners.”

          1. But that doesn’t allow for stealing.

          2. China beats us on mass production, but we have more efficient tech in solar. You know, because our government invests in the scientific research behind it. A free market in energy, in any form, of course, is a fantasy. If it were a free market I wouldn’t be forced to burn any fossil fuels because I would choose not to, but nobody really has that choice yet.

            1. You’re not forced to. You definitely choose to burn fossil fuels every time you do it. This has to be a spoof.

          3. See, what makes us so innovative and superior in our technology is, primarily, our freeish market.

            I swear to god I thought that said “fetish market”.

            1. There are certainly those who think that’s what the free market is.

        2. Exactly. Solar doesn’t work – let them waste their money figuring it out and the we’ll steal it or reverse engineer it. Could not be simpler.

          1. I’m pretty sure it’ll be the usual suspects who develop feasible alternative energy options–the U.S., Europe, Japan.

            There’s been some possible movement on the fusion front recently, too (yeah, I know), which could make all of the other efforts a complete waste of time.

        3. Yup.

          We’ve come late to the party in new manufacturing processes and fucked the prom queen anyway plenty of times before.

          Textiles, steel, railroads, the automobile.

          There’s no first mover advantage in manufacturing that offsets the capital wastage of failed innovation attempts. If someone else is willing to piss money away on new technologies, let them do just that and then copy them later.

          1. Isn’t that how our own industrial revolution started? Copying the Brits?

            1. We were major copyright pirates during the 19th century, too.

              1. Pirate USbAy

      2. We’ll be competing with China which heavily subsidizes its clean energy industries.

        Evidence of cluelessness.

      3. You making a pretty big assumption that if China develops the technology, US companies can never manufacture it/refine it/etc. better. Do you have any support for that? Because it’s kind of important before the government goes spending hundreds of billions based on that assumption. The US developed the automobile, but plenty of other countries do that pretty well now. Likewise, we kicked Europe’s butt in producing a bunch of stuff that was developed in Europe.

        1. If pouring billions into technology worked for its stated purpose (i.e., developing new technologies), then our strategy would be to sit back and let other countries blow billions while we could simply reap the benefits later.

          Of course, the reason this particular administration is dumping money into this area has a whole lot more to do with placating certain constituencies and spreading the wealth to its friends.

    2. “Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.” — The Sage of Baltimore

      1. Tell that to the Objectivists who clamor for monopoly government. They think that the hundreds of millions slaughtered by nation states in the last 150 years was preferable to anarchy.

  17. Barack Obama – Our first Scientologist president.

  18. “If opponents of renewable power subsidies are “flat earthers,” what does that make proponents?”

    Dumbass schlubs.

  19. So to get the same amount of electricity generated means that a comparable solar plant would actually have to have maximum capacity of more than 1,800 megawatts. So at $141 million per 58 megwatts of capacity such a plant would cost roughly $4.4 billion to build. That’s almost four times more expensive than a comparable natural gas plant would be.

    Ron–You’re neglecting the fact that the gas-fired plant will *still need to be built* to provide power for that time when the Sun is on the other side of the planet and the solar facility is producing exactly 0 megawatts.

    Imagine towing a Maxima behind your Leaf, for when it’s battery dies hundreds of miles from home.

    So, it gets even more expensive.

    1. Need more nukes. And, at some point, fusion.

      1. To nuke the solar facility, right?

        1. From a satellite in space. Yes. How did you know?

          1. I always want to be sure. It’s one of the habits of successful people.

            1. Seriously, if it comes to war between solar and nukes, who is going to win? Nukes by a mushroom cloud.

              1. What if the solar gets in the nukes’ eyes and they can’t aim right?

                1. The beauty of nukes is that you can miss and still eliminate your target. Keep on nukin’!

    2. JW: I was being extra fair to the president. Least I could do.

  20. Since solar is intermittent, the usual estimate is that solar plants operate at 30 percent of maximum capacity.

    But that’s up to 100% during the day and 0% at night. Demand does not follow production, so what happens? Does the cost of another power plant to operate at night get factored into the cost of the solar plant? I suppose excess solar power during the day could be used to pump water up a hill that can run through a turbine later, but I am not sure that cost is factored in either.

    1. Psssst ^^^^^^^^

    2. Something I’ve never seen addressed is that places that are good for solar are terrible for reservoir energy storage.

      We can produce lots of energy because the sun always shines brightly, but we lose lots of it because we pump water uphill which evaporates because…the sun always shines brightly.

    3. up to 100%

      Yeah, but you rarely achieve that execept on a clear day, preferably in a low humidity environment (ie, the desert). So, Nevada, yes; North Carolina, not so much.

      1. How much energy can you store in a superconducting ring?

        Among other great potential inventions, the world is really waiting for some breakthrough in energy storage.

        I imagine the availability of a solar station is quite high, if it’s in orbit. Getting the materials up there and constructing the station might be a problem though…

        1. Really hard now since Obama axed the shuttle program….

          1. The shuttle program was a joke – NASA is mostly a joke. America leads in the development of space, but NASA isn’t doing the innovating.

        2. I’ve seen some interesting research into this, and projections of power generation at 2? per kWh. Getting the material into orbit is not as difficult as one might think, making use of self-replicating robots and materials mined from the moon, where of course the lower gravity makes escape velocity easier to attain. Of course, the time frame is a bit longer than for a natural gas plant, and would probably take 20 years to complete – which is why I think natural gas is a necessary step on the way to a sustainable future. In fairness to Obama, he has been pushing natural gas too.

  21. The irony is, the longer we have waited, the more pressing heavy-handed, transnational enforcement powers have become necessary. If people would have listened to, say, Jimmy Carter instead of been distracted by the twinkle in Ronald Reagan’s eye like half retarded cats, the market would be playing a much bigger role in the necessary transition to clean energy. The longer libertarians whore for polluting energy industries, the more likely top-down central planning will be necessary to rid us of the blight. The market could have done this for us, but “free market” spokesmen have been too busy trying to convince us that polluting energy industries are operating in anything resembling a free market.

    1. Given the billions of dollars Carter pissed away on synthetic fuel initiatives that went nowhere, why should we regard him as possessing particular acumen for this problem?

      1. I’m referring only to his warnings about the obvious and predictable crises to come if we don’t take active steps to reduce dependency on fossil fuels.

        The last 30 years have been mostly squandered in this country, with occasional massive disasters, thanks to the cult of Reagan.

        1. What exactly were those obvious and predictable crises?

          1. It seems Tony had extra helpings of the Kool Aid.

          2. Eventually you will come to realize that you are not smarter than the global scientific community. Or you’ll die misinformed. Either way facts are facts.

            But by all means continue whoring for Muslim dictatorships and international cartels.

            1. So, you don’t have an answer. Got it. Thanks for clearing that up.

        2. Is the obvious and predictable crisis the discoveries of vast recoverable natural gas reserves that promise cheap natural gas for years to come? Or the ability to exploit the new oil reserves in deep water and in the canadian tar sands that promise a steady supply of oil for years to come?

        3. The last 30 years have been squandered by not advancing nulcear power plants.

    2. I know you are a sock puppet and all Tony. But Jesus Christ that post is so stupid and downright evil, it shouldn’t even be sock puppeted.

      Shorter Tony “do as I say or we will have to fire up the ovens again”. Go ass fuck yourself and die Tony.

      1. I’m saying you’re bringing it on yourselves, vulgar moron.

        1. There will never be a world government dipshit. Ever. Forget it, it is not happening. And to even imply that we somehow deserve one and the monstrous evil that would result, pushes you from annoying sock puppet to outright troll.

          1. A global economy implies global governance of some sort. It’s not evil, you’re just a paranoid idiot with an information diet too heavy on paranoid idiots with microphones.

            My only point is that if you conservative morons had done something to actually transition to something like a free market in energy long ago when people first started talking about it, the market would be able to be a much bigger player in the transition. Your idiocy is bringing on the necessity of global heavy-handed regulation. I’m not saying it’s good, I’m saying its your fault.

            1. “A global economy implies global governance of some sort.”

              God you are stupid. We have had a global economy for 500 years or more. It doesn’t imply anything of the sort.

              And you don’t want a free market in energy. If you did, you wouldn’t support subsidies.

              1. I don’t believe a free market in energy is even possible. Polluting energy has been subsidized for many decades and exists in a global infrastructure. How is it a free market to make clean energy compete with that?

                It needs to be subsidized because it is necessary and because other countries are already subsidizing it, because they too know it’s necessary, not to mention good business.

                It’s bizarre how market innovation worshipers are such dinosaurs on so many issues.

                1. not to mention good business.

                  Good business? It’s time to join the reality based community, chumpstain.

                  Don’t you ever read the newspaper you write for? It’s been chock full of stories lately about the European countries ditching these stupid subsidies because they make no sense and can’t afford them. I can even point you to some of these articles if you’re too stupid to find them yourself.

                2. I’m sure that Tony is investing all his* money in green energy stocks.

                  *but I guess in Tony’s world its not his money to begin with.

            2. 1. Economy has always been global.
              2. Government is a necessary evil, but evil nonetheless.
              3. Conflating “conservative” and “libertarian” has been so thoroughly debunked that you are only succeeding in making yourself look more stupid.
              4. Regulation is a choice, not an inevitability.

            3. My God, you’re worse with the Star Trek bullshit than your Dear Leader. Do you really believe that a global Politburo could really run the economy for the entire world? Fuck, the only faster way to commit suicide as a species is to unleash the nukes.

              How would they even exert their “heavy hand”?

    3. “Necessary transition to clean energy”

      What, exactly, is necessary about it?

      1. The fact that continuing to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere will eventually make the planet unlivable for human beings?

        Or as libertarians might say, a totally subjective moral imperative that we can’t possibly verify, as who says humans need to survive on this planet? Is there a price signal somewhere that tells us that?

        1. There is absolutely zero scientific proof of that. Try again.

        2. The fact that continuing to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere will eventually make the planet unlivable for human beings?

          No rational person believes that. That is just a lie. Take your millennial death cult elsewhere.

          1. Really? So you’re claiming that all rational people believe that continuing to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere unchecked, as billion-population countries industrialize, will not cause catastrophic global warming?

            If you’re going to spend your days believing what Sean Hannity says you don’t get to use the word “rational.”

            1. Carbon concentrations have increased in the last 12 years but warming has stopped. There has been very little warming since 1979, while carbon has gone up.

              There is just no data that backs up that prediction. Moreover, none of the doomsday predictions that were being made even 20 years ago have turned out to be accurate. And of course the people making those predictions have been proven time and again to be liars.

              You are a dangerous idiot Tony.

            2. Do you spend much time listening to the Sean Hannity fellow?

            3. unlivable for human beings =/= catastrophic global warming

      2. It is necessary, but not necessarily for the reasons Tony claims. Pollution is a marker of inefficiency; cleaner technologies are more efficient.

        Certainly clean tech requires a great deal of development, and I am wary of attempts to subsidize a whole industry – but pilot projects are a good investment in the future. Now is the time to gain the expertise necessary to sustainably produce cheap and clean power in the future.

        And, of course, pollution tends to impose external costs, so avoiding those would be good too.

    4. So you’re saying that if we hadn’t supported the conditions that create progress, we’d have progress by now? That only if we destroy the economy will somebody finally spend enough money to figure out how to make green energy efficient?

  22. And lets not forget that these solar plants take up huge amounts of land that could otherwise be left pristine. And the panels wear out and have to be disposed of and are filled with all sorts of nasty chemicals.

    Which is better for the environment a single coal or gas plant with maybe a 50 acre footprint or a solar plant with a footprint in the 1000s of acres that is producing a steady stream of hazardous waste?

    This shit is not even “green”.

    1. How green it is depends upon how the technology develops…but getting over some humps, the concept here is pretty good.


      1. And there may be ways to make solar practical. And if so, great. But if there is, it will happen on its own without the government. It is not like you can’t make money providing cheap power.

        1. Industrial applications require innovations to make renewables cost less than conventional power generation, or at least break even. However, government can play a small role in funding pilot projects that allow these innovations to occur more rapidly than they would otherwise. This can be justified as necessary to national defense. In fairness to Obama, he is also promoting natural gas as a stopgap measure that will buy us time to move to renewables while causing less pollution than oil and reducing our need for political stability in the middle east.

      2. The accomplishments of green energy (like, now that I think of it, our President) are always in the future, aren’t they?

        1. The accomplishments of green energy (like, now that I think of it, our President) are always in the future, aren’t they?

          Nah. The record of energy efficiency improvements in the US over the last 30 years are fairly staggering. These are green energy accomplishments.

  23. If opponents of renewable power subsidies are “flat earthers,” what does that make proponents?

    Obama campaign contributors.

    1. Cronies?


  24. 1) Really…what’s with the unereadable table?

    2) More on topic.
    Solar and wind are both technologies that can be implemented in large centralized power plant fashion, but are also easily implemented in distributed generation systems. I don’t think the calculations Ron cites take that into account.

    A bit of analysis from last year.


    1. NM: Unreadable? Misplaced your eyeglasses?
      Go here for the full EPRI report.

  25. We were just talking about this ? that a lack of imagination, a belief that you can’t do something in a new way ? that’s not how we operate here in America. That’s not who we are. That’s not what we’re about.

    Who’s this “we”, white man?

    1. Seems to me there’s nothing new about diverting billions of dollars to your supporters and contributors. That’s not a new way, that’s the Chicago Way.

  26. Is Obama the name-calling-est president we’ve had since, oh, the Civil War?

    1. It is all part and parcel of the lefitist political playbook – marginalize your opponents with appeals to emotion and to your own superiority. Denigrate, rinse, repeat.

    2. Yes. He is actually very unpresidential also.

  27. For the author.

    I dont comment much but this comparison falls into my industry, and profession. I am with you on the merits. And do not favor Obowma in anyway. But when you multiply the cost of the plant x4 to get to one with x4 output you are not being fair. When we design a plant there are set costs and overhead. Making it larger with more output, in a case like this, would not increase the cost x4. You should have just increased the cost by a factor of say 3, to allow for the increased material cost, but not a lot of design costs.

    1. Jimbo: Point taken. Thanks. I did say it was a rough calculation. BTW, just wondering what you think of the EPRI estimates for levelized costs? Full report is here [PDF].

  28. Solar energy is diffused intermittent nuclear energey. Why screw around with solar when you can have concentrated and continuous nuclear?

    1. It doesn’t fit the plan

    2. Hell, lets get fusion going and then we skip the whole supernova step as well.

  29. Um Obama and the authors of this piece seemed to have missed out on one other critical factor.

    This facility occupies 450 acres to generate it’s 58 MWh.

    Expanding that to 1800 MWh would mean scaling the facility to just shy of 14,000 acres of land, that is more than 21 square miles just to provide electricity to 17000 homes.

    With more than 110 million households in the US that means you would need to cover every square inch of the state of California, to replace the home electric usage in the US.

    Of course it is worse than that because only a very small percentage of California is anywhere near as efficient at Solar Generation as Nevada is so you’d have to throw in Washington and Oregon as well.

    Solar is a losers bet not because of cost but because of energy density. To make any significant dent in energy usage you need to literally pave over entire states with solar panels.

    1. …you would need to cover every square inch of the state of California…

      So, what’s the downside?

    2. I’m not trying to be sarcastic (o.k., maybe a little), but couldn’t you cover about 95% of the State of Nevada and nobody would notice?

      That said, here’s something I’ve often thought about. If our current state of energy technology WERE ACTUALLY wind and solar, with their huge, “pristine” landscape-scarring presence and inefficiency, and somebody discovered that you could obtain a source of cheap and far more efficient energy just by drilling a tiny hole in the ground, WHICH SIDE WOULD THE ENVIROS BE ON?

      1. If a 30 foot wide oil pipeline will have catostrophic impact on nature one can only imagine the impact covering an entire state would have.

  30. Awesome alt text on the photo.

  31. All power to the Soviets

  32. Is the Romney campaign like an Etch A Sketch?

  33. Wait! You are using logic to talk to democrats? Why not try Zwahilli? They have about as much chance of understanding that as they do the Zwahilli.

    Anyone who has looked at this knows that alternative energy, today, is just not economically feasible. This is why the Europeans are rapidly getting out of it. Even the Germans understand how they have been deceived.

  34. The flat Earth concept is tempting. I can imagine pushing back on all the failed CAGW/CACC/Green fraud mess and sending it over the edge. Instead, we are stuck with it spinning round and round and round…

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.