The Energy Department’s Solar Cronyism


The Department of Energy recently announced another $60 million in subsidies for solar energy. Yet the billions of dollars the government has already spent subsidizing solar and other forms of “renewable” energy have done little but line the pockets of cronies. Worse, these subsidies have likely reduced investment in truly innovative energy technologies. Instead of throwing good money after bad — and thereby increasing further the debts that will fall on our children — the federal government should terminate this line item of discretionary spending.

The new subsidies are part of the department’s SunShot Initiative, the primary stated goals of which are to reduce the cost of photovoltaic solar-energy systems by about 75percent — to $1 per watt — by 2020 and to help reach President Obama’s goal of doubling the generation of clean energy in the U.S. over the next 25 years. Even renewable-energy advocates admit that these goals are probablyunachievable. Worse, solar subsidies divert energy investments away from more productive uses that would more effectively reduce emissions.

Over the course of the past decade, the United States has shifted dramatically to the use of lower-carbon fuels, but almost none of that shift has come from solar. According to the Energy Information Administration, solar currently contributes at most 0.2 percent of U.S. electricity production — an amount that makes even geothermal (at 0.4 percent) look significant. While a small part of the shift toward low-carbon generation has come from so-called “renewable” energy (specifically, windmills, which now generate about 3 percent of electricity — up from 0.3 percent in 2003), the vast majority has come from natural gas, which went from about 17 percent of electricity production in 2003 to 30 percent in 2012. And the switch to gas was driven by the widespread adoption of hydraulic fracturing as a means of extracting gas from shale deposits.

Read More at: Real Clear Policy

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