Obama’s solar socialism
President Barack Obama recently made headlines in Nevada by promoting the “progress” his administration has made in promoting solar power and fighting climate change. Most media outlets conveniently forgot to mention one crucial fact: Without government mandates, subsidies, and sweetheart deals, the sun would quickly set on Obama’s solar socialism empire.
The administration has taken a two-pronged, carrot-and-stick approach to propping up the solar industrial complex. Carrots have been lavished on the solar industry by encouraging states to enact policies such as renewable energy mandates, which require a certain percentage of the electricity generated in the state come from renewable sources, and net-metering policies, which subsidize wealthy rooftop solar owners at the expense of middle- and low-income families.
Taxpayers have been bilked for billions of dollars for decades so politicians could funnel money into solar firms like Solyndra, which a new investigation by the Inspector General of the Department of Energy (DOE) confirms engaged in a “pattern of false and misleading assertions” to win a loan guarantee from DOE. The Inspector General also said DOE failed to do its job in vetting the loan, because of pressure from the White House.
Despite all these carrots, solar produces just 0.4 percent of the electricity generated in the United States, according to the Energy Information Administration, which is why Obama is increasingly turning toward using the stick.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has wielded those sticks, circumventing congressional authority in order to punish conventional sources of energy such as coal, natural gas, and oil by saddling them with a series of costly, burdensome regulations. Those regulations, such as the Clean Power Plan and new rules regulating methane from hydraulic fracturing sites, drive up the cost of energy while providing no benefit to the environment.
An analysis by the Cato Institute, using EPA’s own climate models, showed the carbon dioxide emissions reductions forced by the Clean Power Plan would offset only 0.02 degrees C of anticipated warming by the year 2100, an amount so small it falls below the margin of error for the model, meaning this plan would cost billions of dollars and drive up energy costs for no measurable benefit. The increase in costs will hit low-income families the hardest, a fact even EPA boss Gina McCarthy has admitted. Maybe that’s what Obama means when he claims he stands up for the middle class.
The Obama administration is subjecting the energy sector to the same harmful ideology that has stagnated the overall economy (except for oil and natural gas development from fracking, ironically). He is attempting to build up the weak—solar and wind—by tearing down the strong. Obama’s plan is to build up inefficient and costly forms of energy by tearing down reliable and affordable energy sources.
Obama’s solar energy socialism will not lead to a utopia of cheap energy but will instead drive up costs for U.S. households and businesses and further tank the nation’s economy along with the forms of energy we depend on to power our hospitals, schools, and refrigerators. All of that will accomplish nothing for the environment.
The solar industry gets the carrots, and the rest of us get the sticks.
Isaac Orr (email@example.com) is a research fellow for energy and environmental policy at The Heartland Institute. Follow him on Twitter @thefrackingguy.