P.T. Barnum said there was a sucker born every minute. There would have to be to satisfy all the hustlers out there. And this was before the alternative fuels dodge. As the late Mr. Rogers might have put it. Can you spell S-O-L-Y-N-D-R-A?
A gaudy amount of money, most in the form of government subsidies, has been shoveled into solar power research since the first Arab oil embargo of the 1970s. The subsidies have enriched various folks nimble enough or connected enough to receive them. But they have produced very little in the way of power, and nothing that can compete with power generated by fossil fuels.
Solar power was way uneconomical when Nixon was president and the subsidies began. It remains so today. Because of physical limitations having to do with the huge area of solar panels required to produce any significant amount of power, and the fact that we insist on having things like night and clouds, solar is unlikely to ever be more than a niche energy source. And an unreliable one at that.
But this doesn’t stop people from whooping up solar, and other “alternative fuels” that are just as uneconomical. Some are well motivated, genuinely spooked by the global warming bugaboo. Others, who deserve none of our sympathy, are attracted to the area only by the pots of government research money there for the enterprising opportunist to milk.
Solar power advocates are pushing for a ballot initiative in Florida, couched in glowing but vague terms about promoting and enhancing the availability of solar power. The solar power lobby is attempting to sell the notion that it should be official policy of the State of Florida to promote solar power under the conservative notion of deregulation. Conservative need to really watch this one when it comes up.
The usual suspects, The Sierra Club, Greenpeace, a United Nations “sustainability” group, and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy – this last one the group of billionaire global warming True Believer and political activist Tom Steyer — are enthusiastic about this kind of “deregulation.” Breitbart has reported that Steyer money is helping to promote these initiatives, and is even trying to seduce various conservative groups to go along with policies that would almost certainly advance a left-wing agenda but do nothing to improve the environment.
As is always the case when environmentalists start talking about “deregulation” and energy independence, it’s time to put up the nonsense filters.
One of the “should know better” groups that has been enchanted by solar and its false promises is Conservatives for Energy Freedom, an outfit put together by Debbie Dooley, one of the founding mothers of the national Tea Party movement. Her Green Tea Coalition pushes for solar on the grounds of “allowing energy sources to compete on a level playing field in the free market.”
Dooley has the not unreasonable free market gripe that electric utilities are monopolies. There can be real argument about what could or should be done about this. But it is the height of incoherence to argue that solar could survive a day on the free market. It costs more — lots more — to generate power from sunshine than it does from fossil fuels. And this will remain the case even if states promote and “invest” in solar, as Dooley’s outlier of a Tea Party group is lobbying them to do. It would remain the case even if utilities were as competitive as curb brokers. Groups like this just help the larger anti-fossil fuel, anti-prosperity environmental movement.
The solar initiative in Florida has gotten very little attention so far, and may well die the unattended death of so many other ill-considered ideas. But Florida has already spent tens of millions on sundry renewable energy projects and has gotten precious little for the “investments.” If this one gets past the talking phase, it will deserve a close examination from voters. The burden will be on those who claim a public interest in the state of Florida promoting solar energy. A burden I don’t believe they can meet.