Brickbats

Brickbat: Picking 'Winners'

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The Crescent Dunes solar plant in Nevada received $737 million in loan guarantees from the federal government in 2011, and officials hailed it as the future of solar energy. But Bloomberg News reports the plant had already been rendered technologically obsolete by time it opened in 2015. It hasn't produced energy since April 2019 and lost its only customer late last year. But taxpayers remain on the hook for the loan guarantees.

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  1. The linked Bloomberg article puts it in better perspective…

    > The Energy Department estimates that losses represent only 2.9% of its $28 billion in loan guarantees for renewable energy projects, which also funded such successes as the massive farms of thin-film solar cells from the biggest American manufacturer. Advocates of public investment say flops are an inevitable part of seeding a carbon-­neutral future, just as they are for venture capitalists seeking the next Google. “You should probably have more than one or two high-profile failures,” says Yale economics professor Kenneth Gillingham, who studied energy issues as part of President Barack Obama’s White House Council of Economic Advisers. “Otherwise, you haven’t invested aggressively enough.”

    So sure, this one failed. Plenty of other things worked.

    1. Plenty of other things worked.

      Please link to the cost/benefit analysis of the government loan guarantee program if you think this is true.

      1. Here’s the financial report for the entire loan portfolio

        Just looking at those loans by segment, this article is very misleading. Of the $44 billion of loan authority – $17.7B is for vehicle mfg; $12.5B is for nuclear; $6.5B is for fossil; $3B is for renewable; $2B is for tribal.

        This just looks like a politically-driven trough – not an actual attempt to really increase fuel efficiency or transition to lower carbon. On the ‘vehicle’ side, the need in the US is for charging infrastructure not capital subsidies to US mfrs. eg France installed 12k ‘charging points’ last year – the US installed 532 (ranking just between Denmark and Portugal). Golly I wonder why EV’s are only a ‘luxury’ market here so there can never be economies of scale in manufacturing.

        I don’t know what innovation is occurring in nukes but this is all a regional subsidy to the Southeast (TVA, etc) and that should have at least been transferred to a regional interstate compact decades ago.

        It doesn’t even mention the specific ‘fossils’ projects. Golly I wonder why.

        And the renewables projects are mostly ‘utility scale’ attempts to move wind/solar from where they are generated to where cities currently are. Just a continuation of the 140-year old attempt to keep major parts of the US depopulated. Those areas now have a huge comparative advantage in energy sources that work really well at small/decentralized scale – but sorry folks we only think BIG so those areas now have to become a colony for utilities. God fucking forbid people/industries move to those areas – the whole ‘comparative advantage’ thing – and incumbents in Congress lose their seats. They ain’t even apparently doing the ‘offshore’ thing where realistically energy does have to be transported elsewhere.

        1. Only 1/3 paid back so far, and only 3% written off…so far. Given the high rate of bankruptcies in the renewable fuels sector (KiOR, Abengoa…) I expect at least half of the remaining debt not to be repaid. Even the ‘successes’ are problematic, rarely actually generating income.

          1. Those stats are for the entire portfolio – which is 90%+ not renewables at all.

      2. Please link to the cost/benefit analysis of the government loan guarantee program if you think this is true.

        Don’t need the cost/benefit analysis. If I take out a loan and only get the loan because I made you the co-signer and you didn’t consent, I’ve committed fraud. Moreover, if the roles are reversed and the only reason you got the loan is because I’m co-signer and I did consent, I have every right to criticize every last lost dime no matter how much you made back.

        It’s not exactly ironic that the people who talk about the evils of capitalism will go out and find and perpetuate doing evil things under its banner.

      3. And while he’s at it, provide the cost/benefit analysis for the Ivanpah plant, a similar design which, last I checked, was running at 1/3 estimated capacity due to maintenance issues on one unit, and the fire that destroyed the second of 3 units.

  2. Otherwise, you haven’t invested aggressively enough.”
    It’s not real money anyway. It’s taxpayer money. We got lots of that.

    1. I think 20-25 cents of every dollar of federal spending is going on the tax payer Visa card at this point, but yeah, who gives a shit?

      1. There’s no practical difference between taxes and loans. Both suck money out of the private sector, just different means. The problem is spending, not the source.

  3. Advocates of public investment say flops are an inevitable part of seeding a carbon-­neutral future, just as they are for venture capitalists seeking the next Google.

    There’s still a glaring difference between the two.

    1. Are you saying that it’s not the government’s job to be gambling with the taxpayer’s money? Then why do government agencies hold so many of their retreats and conferences in Las Vegas?

      1. My guess is a certain industry illegal everywhere else in the country, that happens to empower women.

        1. They must be sex addicts if screwing the taxpayers all day long isn’t enough to satisfy their urges.

      2. He could also mean that the search for the next Google is not the quest to control all of humanity’s future the way bringing a ‘carbon-neutral future’ to pass is. Wishing to make a billion dollars is a significantly different wish than wishing half or more of humanity would do as you command.

  4. Hey remember when Reason supported subsidized solar energy as a great deal for local governments, taxpayers and environment?

    https://reason.com/2012/02/12/solar-power-pays-off-debt/

    1. From your linked Reason article:

      “Of course, the ITC and other narrow tax policies still constitute a form of political favoritism. The best course of action would be to repeal all of these energy tax breaks and deductions, and lower rates for everyone.”

      This is after Reason wrote that Boulder City leases out its land for solar energy, and thereby bypasses MASSIVE amounts of regulations on using federal lands instead, for such purposes! Better is better than worse! The perfect is the enemy of the good!

      So this Reason article constitutes “…Reason supported subsidized solar energy…”? Why are you subsidizing massive exaggeration, to the point of lying? What is the REAL axe you are grinding on?

      1. Why are you subsidizing massive exaggeration, to the point of lying? What is the REAL axe you are grinding on?

        If you haven’t figured out Tulpa’s pig-wrestling motives yet, I don’t know what to tell you.

        1. It’s hilarious that you and the other sock jockeys can’t differentiate me from Tulpa even though we have entirely different writing tics and stylistic choices. Particularly when you’re fluffing Mikey Hihn’s… what is this, his 8th sock account?

      2. Cherry pick the one “to be sure…” sentence in an effusively laudatory 10 paragraph puff piece to hang your hopes on and accuse others of lying. Never change Mikey. Unless it’s changing from a live person to a dead one by way of killing yourself.

        1. “Unless it’s changing from a live person to a dead one by way of killing yourself.”

          Libertarians for drinking Kool-Aid! How’s it working for ya?

          He’s a real Kool-Aid Man,
          Sitting in his Kool-Aid Land,
          Playing with his Kool-Aid Gland,
          Has no thoughts that help the people,
          He wants to turn them all to sheeple!
          On the sheeple, his Master would feast,
          Master? A disaster! Just the nastiest Beast!
          Kool-Aid man, please listen,
          You don’t know, what you’re missin’,
          Kool-Aid man, better thoughts are at hand,
          The Beast, to LEAVE, you must COMMAND!

          A helpful book is to be found here: M. Scott Peck, Glimpses of the Devil
          https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1439167265/reasonmagazinea-20/

  5. For an even worse example of Government Almighty fucking things up really bad, by picking “winners”, see the below…

    https://qz.com/1784335/the-space-military-industrial-complex-profits-off-us-failure/
    Boeing and Shelby killed fuel depots
    OUT-SPACED
    The best way to make a profit as an aerospace company is to fail

  6. The Crescent Dunes solar plant in Nevada

    Looks like a California Condor microwave oven.

    1. “Looks like a California Condor microwave oven.”

      Excellent! Makes my day to think of it! I’ll take my California Condor sliced 1/8th, on whole wheat, mayo on the side…

  7. ‘Success’ or ‘failure’, government spending tax dollars for subsidies of anything is a bad idea.
    (yes, including oil depletion allowances etc)

  8. In other new, Helios Two is a failure…

    1. They probably chose to activate Archimedes II and can’t find Max or the bottle caps to buy Euclid’s C-Finder off of him.

  9. Yes We Can!

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