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Give me abundant, clean, reliable, and cheap electrons and I will give you a world that can continue to grow without triggering unmanageable climate change….Give me abundant, clean, reliable, and cheap electrons, and I will put every petrodictator out of business. Give me abundant, clean, reliable and cheap electrons, and I will end deforestation from communities desperate for fuel and I will eliminate any reason to drill in Mother Nature’s environmental cathedrals.br> Unfortunately, he confesses, “no one has yet come up with a source of electrons that meets all four criteria: abundant, clean, reliable, and cheap.” But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done! br>
[I]t is precisely [this] kind of innovation we need to be, and can be, stimulating right now to overcome the technological barriers that prevent existing wind and solar systems from being cheap, abundant, and reliable — today. The way to stimulate this kind of innovation…is by generous tax incentives, regulatory incentives, renewable energy mandates, and other market-shaping mechanisms that create durable demand for these existing clean power technologies…..That kind of [progress] will come about only if government uses its power to set prices, regulations, and standards to reshape the energy market and force utilities and other big players to either innovate or die. [Emphasis added.]br> So there you have it. Friedman really doesn’t like markets at all. What he likes is government manipulation of markets forcing people to adopt technology. Only a collection of carrots and sticks can goad this dumb donkey-cart of an energy economy onto the proper pathway.
In case you haven’t noticed, it’s already happening. You would be amazed at the number of windmill and solar projects popping up all over the country in response to the maze of federal and state mandates and incentives, to push us in that direction. None of these projects make sense economically and none will ever produce much useful energy, but what else are government mandates for?
WHAT FRIEDMAN DOESN’T understand is that markets are a network of information. They inform us, in rapid and uncompromising fashion, about the availability of resources and the rewards for turning them to specific uses. Windmills and solar collectors remain a very bad investment for one reason — they produce very little useful electricity. As an example it is only necessary to note Friedman’s sorrowful history of First Solar (“Read it and weep!”), an Ohio company that invented thin photovoltaic films to capture solar energy on buildings. Although the company was funded at one point by John Walton, it eventually relocated to Germany in order to take advantage of a German law that forces utilities to buy solar electricity from any provider at a government-fixed price. “That is a no-brainer,” exuded Mike Ahearn, First Solar’s CEO.
But a no-brainer for whom? When we finally get down to details, it turns out that First Solar’s annual production target is 25 megawatts worth of electricity. The average coal or nuclear plant now produces 1,000 MW and the newer ones get 1500 MW. It would take more than a hundred square miles of First Solar cells to match the output of the average power plant. The market is telling us that solar and wind are hideously expensive and then don’t produce much electricity anyway. Every time the wind dies down or the sun goes behind a cloud the power goes out.
Of course that doesn’t mean that Americans won’t indulge in such folly. Late last month, Republican Governor Charlie Crist of Florida announced the cancellation of a 700-MW “clean coal” plant in favor of 10 MW of thermal solar power. The installation is supposed to expand to 300 MW at some point, although “a site has not yet been chosen.”
The uniform disadvantage of all forms of solar energy is that they must consume vast, almost unthinkable, amounts of land. Biofuels suddenly tanked last winter when it was recognized that they are consuming one-third of America’s corn crop, leveling whole tropical forests, and causing a world food shortage — all to replace 3 percent of our oil supply. In fact, the only technology that can match fossil fuels while creating far less environmental disruption is nuclear power.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?