The survival of wind and solar energy, like electric vehicles, is wholly dependent on coerced wealth transfers by government from the private sector (i.e., taxpayers) to the renewable industry. This distorted “economic sector” could only exist under political practices such as Communism at worst, and crony-favoring corporate welfare at best.
Unfortunately for “green” proponents, they are stuck with the stigma that they can’t make it without government mandates and subsidies. The last few years of President Obama’s (un-)stimulating spending, with billions of dollars that have gone to prop up projects that produce piddly amounts of energy (compared to fossil fuels), that have resulted in bankruptcies including Solyndra and Abound Solar, have projected an even worse image for wind and solar.
As a result the advocates for clean-tech, in order to conceal the true nature of renewable economics, have come up with a new term: “Democratization.” For example:
- A proposed program, funded with a $10 million U.S. Department of Energy grant, by the North Carolina Solar Center would seek to “Solarize Raleigh” by reducing the cost (or subsidizing) residential solar installations. “Democratizing solar energy in our community not only makes renewable energy more accessible to the general public, it also creates an innovative model for reducing the cost of clean energy,” said Evelyn Contre, managing director of Springleaf Strategies, a NC sustainability consulting firm.
- The president of Juhl Energy, a Minnesota-based wind power company, said “We remain committed to ‘democratizing’ the renewable energy asset class….”
- Forbes reported last year how the California Solar Initiative employs state and federal tax breaks and incentives that make costly rooftop solar systems more affordable for lower-income homeowners. The publication characterized it as a “trend toward democratizing solar in the Golden State.”
It’s hard to imagine a more misleading adjective to describe the expansion of “green.” The word “democratize” means exactly what it implies: To make something, such as a nation, organization or business, more “democratic.” Only recently has Merriam-Webster (and only Merriam-Webster) expanded to allow a secondary meaning: to “make (something) available to all people” – undoubtedly the result of liberals bastardizing the term until it stuck. M-W is also the editorial organization that strives to be culturally relevant to the point it has added “f-bomb,” “sexting,” and “man-cave” to its Collegiate Dictionary.
Sticking with the actual meaning, if solar and wind energy were truly “democratized,” their results would parallel those of the Green and Libertarian parties at Election time. In order for a democracy to exist there must be a choice, but when it comes to renewable energy, government’s policy is to implement mandates and payoffs because almost nobody would choose it otherwise. As my former colleague Jon Sanders of the John Locke Foundation wrote this week:
“After all, if a measure of democracy were present, then people would be able to choose solar and any other energy source by themselves, without hosts of subsidies and with arrangements to buy and sell without the state utility monopoly. Apart from third-party sales, there has been nothing out of the solar industry in North Carolina to suggest that it wants anything to do with the kind of “democracy” that involves people freely voting with their wallets. To hear them tell it, solar is a powerhouse industry that would collapse like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge if any state support were removed.”
For both wind and solar, whenever their special privileges are threatened, they fight in Congress and state legislatures to prevent their removal. For example last year the federal production tax credit for wind energy was due to expire on December 31st, but thanks to furious lobbying by the American Wind Energy Association, it was preserved for another year. Now it’s due to expire again and the fight to protect it is gearing up, but the one-year reprieve didn’t help the “democratization” of renewables much.
“The uncertainty over renewal of the PTC had a massive impact on the industry: Just one wind turbine was installed in the first six months of 2013,” Politico reported earlier this month. “The figure crept up in the third quarter, but only to an anemic 68.3 megawatts, according to an American Wind Energy Association report…. That’s a far cry from 1,000-plus megawatts that the industry built in most quarters in recent history.”
The desperation to repeatedly preserve the PTC undermines the claim that wind has ever been “democratized.” As the Institute for Energy Research notes, the PTC was enacted in 1992 and “was supposed to at the end of 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2012,” and now 2013.
“The wind PTC…supports an industry that simultaneously claims it is an ‘infant industry’ and that it is 100 percent competitive with other sources of electricity generation,” IER reports. “In reality, wind generation has been around for more than a hundred years, and its recent growth has been driven by public policy, not consumer demand.”
A genuine “democracy” of energy would allow consumers (akin to voters) to make their choice freely from the slate of sources available to generate power: wind, solar, biomass, natural gas, nuclear, oil or coal. But instead, besides the tax credits and subsidies, government (in about 30 states) demands that utilities generate specific percentages of their electricity from renewable sources. On the other side of the equation, government – pushed by environmental pressure groups – are trying to destroy the coal industry and eliminate power plants that burn it.
Meanwhile the lie you hear from wind and solar advocates is that the public would demand their energy if they could just get their sockets connected to it. In other words, if their products weren’t so expensive and delivered even when the sun isn’t shining or wind isn’t blowing, customers would be all-in. In the “democratization” analogy that’s like Ralph Nader or Lyndon LaRouche saying if everyone just came to their senses and agreed with them, they’d win their elections. But because wind and solar aren’t viable or economical in the real world, government has to coerce their usage.
“You can hear echoes of that same justification here,” Sanders of the John Locke Foundation wrote. “‘Solar energy has mainstream appeal’ — it clearly does not. Basketball has mainstream appeal. Fast food has mainstream appeal. iPhones have mainstream appeal. Solar only gets some people’s interest if they can succeed in forcing other people to pay for it. That’s ‘how great the demand is.’”
So just like the “global warming” alarmists changed their slogan to “climate change,” then “energy security,” and then “climate disruption” when the planet’s temperature stopped increasing, so also now is the renewable energy industry trying to sell wind and solar as “democratization.”
If that’s their tack, then make them comply with campaign laws and disclose who’s sponsoring their phony ads. Then we can vote.
Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center and publishes CarolinaPlottHound.com, an aggregator of North Carolina news.