Pyle: Green energy handouts hurt Wyoming – Casper Star

February 2, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

The evidence is mounting that “green” energy is dirtier than it seems.

The latest data comes from a new investigative report by CBS News. The federal government, according to the report, has lavished the green energy and technology industry with at least $150 billion in taxpayer money in recent years. Yet this deluge of federal funding has only resulted in a string of technological flops and business bankruptcies.

There’s no shortage of examples. Solyndra—which went bankrupt after receiving half a billion taxpayer dollars—is already well-known. But that company wasn’t alone. Abound Solar received $400 million in 2010, then filed for bankruptcy in 2012. Fisker Automotive took $528 million from the feds in 2009 and another $392 million in 2012, then laid off 75 percent of its workforce last April. And LG Chem took $151 million in stimulus money to build an electric car battery plant where employees were paid to be idle thanks to low consumer demand.

In all of these cases, poor and middle class taxpayers came out the real losers. They paid for it once with their taxes and they will pay again with higher energy bills. The winners, though, are the millionaires and billionaires who used the taxpayers’ money to experiment with new technologies and business models. Our loss has been their experiential and monetary gain—even if the companies they founded go under.

Even where it hasn’t fizzled, green energy’s economic impact hasn’t been that bright. According to a comprehensive study recently released by a team of Spanish academics, each new “green job” costs the rest of the economy 2.2 other jobs because of the necessary subsidies. More damning is their finding that each “green” megawatt of energy destroys an average of over 5 jobs, with each solar-powered megawatt eliminating nearly 9 jobs and each wind-powered megawatt costing over 4 jobs.

These perverse trade-offs can be laid at the feet of government subsidies, according to the study. Whether it’s $150 or $150 billion, the government’s financial intervention distorts the economy by shifting investment from proven job creators to expensive experiments that—as Solyndra and others demonstrate—don’t always pan out.

The Spanish study bears directly on America’s experience because many of our country’s green job initiatives are based on the Spanish model. In fact, President Obama has specifically praised Spain’s green jobs experiments on numerous occasions, labeling theirs a system worth emulating.

This sharply contrasts with the job growth—and the private, rather than public, investment—that’s flowing into conventional energy industries. From 2007 to 2012, the oil and gas industry added 162,000 jobs, a forty percent increase, compared to just a one percent increase in total private sector employment. Best of all, none of this economic bounty has included the chilling economic effects that accompany government-funded green energy projects.

These facts and figures are worth keeping in mind as Congress takes up various energy-related bills and expired tax provisions in the coming months. Most prominently, it bears on the question of whether Congress should renew the recently-expired federal Wind Production Tax Credit (Wind PTC).

The Wind PTC is a case study of an unfair federal handout that gives electricity producers a lucrative taxpayer funded subsidy of 50 to 75 percent of wind’s wholesale electricity costs. Even then, electricity from new wind facilities still costs at least 30 percent more than conventionally generated electricity according to the Department of Energy. For example, in 2012 Wyoming taxpayers paid nearly $4 million to multi-national wind companies to produce this energy.

The Wind PTC is thus a microcosm of the problems inherent in the green energy industry. Like other taxpayer-funded “green” initiatives, renewing it would only worsen the negative effects that such subsidies have already had on job creation and economic growth, while enabling green job billionaires to continue their experiments with taxpayer money. There’s nothing clean about perpetuating such a system.

Thomas Pyle is the President of the American Energy Alliance.

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