Despite the rapid growth in the solar industry worldwide and the mounting evidence that solar technology benefits both the economy and the environment, some anti-solar activists just don’t know when to quit.
A recent guest column at Forbes.com by David Williams illustrates just how poorly conceived some of the solar-haters arguments can be. Mr. Williams, who is credited as the President of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, opens his piece by touting the Manhattan Project, the Apollo Program, the Hoover Dam, the interstate highway system as “…evidence that anything is possible with the right application of American ingenuity and persistence.” He goes on to state that “…The Manhattan project produced the bomb; the Apollo program put men on the moon; the Hoover Dam tamed the Colorado and let a desert bloom; the interstate highway system unleashed America’s mobility. What is there to show for the decades of effort, and trillions of dollars spent, trying to make “renewables” a major part of the nation’s energy portfolio?”
Mr. Williams apparently feels that massive amounts of taxpayer dollars spent to develop the atomic bomb was a better use of federal money than encouraging an individual’s right to generate their own electricity. That is, the bomb which killed 150,000 civilians in Hiroshima and 75,000 in Nagasaki. The bomb that triggered the most costly arms race in human history. It’s interesting too, that Mr. Williams fails to mention the nuclear energy industry, which was built almost entirely with taxpayer dollars and has continued to depend on the federal government for existence since 1959. In fact, all of those projects which Mr. Williams mentions were government funded, and all of them to questionable ends. Where are his examples of free-market successes in the energy industry?
The fact is that Mr. Williams, who is supposedly an anti-tax advocate, openly pillories policies designed to reduce taxes on individuals who choose to invest their own money in solar technology. Technology that reduces their reliance on outside energy from government-sanctioned monopoly utility companies. It could seem to many readers to be the height of hypocrisy. One might come to the conclusion that an article like this one is more motivated by politics than by a real understanding of the energy sector economics. Despite one’s feelings about President Obama, the Stimulus or Global Warming, it is hard to deny the market success that solar has achieved, even in states and nations without strong incentive programs.
The Washington Times also recently ran a blistering anti-solar editorial. The piece stated that “Everybody likes the sun. The rays feel good and they’re free for everyone. Nobody likes the sun more than the promoters of solar electricity. These so-called “green energy companies,” however, are anything but free, and have collected, on average, $39 billion a year in federal subsidies in the six years and counting of the Obama administration. They haven’t produced enough electricity to match the glow of a lightning bug’s bottom.” Interestingly, the Times cites many of the exact same statistics as Mr. Williams. Statistics that are somewhat dubious from the outset. also, like Mr. Williams, the Times fails to call for an end to the piles of money that other energy sectors have historically received from the Federal government. Are taxpayer funded subsidies for mature industries like coal and gas somehow excempt from the wrath of so-called “anti-tax” advocates?
In another case of politics trumping facts in anti-solar statements, A Tuscon Sentinel article recently reported that State Representative Paul Gosar filed an anti-solar letter with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In the letter, Gosar accused third party solar leasing companies of “deceptive marketing strategies.” The Sentinel also exposed the fact that the letter signed by Representative Gosar was drafted for him by an employee of Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest electric utility provider. The letter was filed by Rep. Gosar verbatim, without one word changed from the letter given to him by the utility company employee.
Arizona Public Service also happens to be waging a campaign to end third party solar leasing in the state, and not surprisingly, is one of Mr. Gosar’s largest campaign contributors. Along with Republican Gosar, Democratic Reps. Ron Barber, Ann Kirkpatrick and Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Reps. Trent Franks, Matt Salmon all sent a similar letters to the energy regulators.
The Sentinel also reports that “Over the past three election cycles, the political action committee and employees of Pinnacle West Capital Corporation (The parent company of Arizona Public Services) have given a combined $99,675 to Arizona Republicans Franks, Gosar and Salmon, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Pinnacle West has been the single largest campaign contributor for Gosar during his entire political career and has been the second largest campaign contributor for Salmon over the past three election cycles.”
It would appear that despite the falling installed cost of solar (with or without tax-breaks) and the increased market demand, some critics simply can’t accept the fact that solar is providing affordable energy and increased independence to consumers without the blessings of large energy companies. The reality of individual consumers or independent third-party solar providers owning a portion of the production is anathema to many of the large, government sanctioned monopoly utility providers, and they are using their political clout and media machines to create the appearance that they are trying to protect the ratepayers and taxpayers, when in fact it looks more like they are using government to protect their corporate profits.