- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 22, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The green movement would be a lot funnier if it didn’t have access to our pocketbooks. Unfortunately, devotees of “alternative energy” have harnessed the greatest of all sources of renewable power - government taxation - to fulfill their fantasies. The results are as tragic as they are comic.

Last month, the Government Accountability Office released a report on a $300 million Department of Energy program designed to promote commercial products that boast fashionable “green” credentials. A team of GAO investigators with an uncharacteristically fine sense of humor submitted 20 bogus products to the department and walked away with Energy Star certification for 15 of them, including a gasoline-powered alarm clock. GAO deserves credit for illuminating the careless attitude that sets in when the greens start spending other people’s money. After all, when it’s being done in the name of the environment, liberal thinking is that there’s no need to measure a policy’s costs against the alleged benefits.

It appears that gasoline generators are at work pumping energy into Spain’s heavily subsidized solar panels. Of the 6 billion euros in government aid to the electricity market, 2.3 billion is lavished on electricity that is supposed to be produced by the sun’s rays, generating a mere 2 percent of the nation’s power needs. Under the profligate plan, anyone installing a solar panel can collect a check for 436 euros for each megawatt of power returned to the electrical grid. Several solar farms have sprung up as a result. As the newspaper El Mundo reported last week, at least 6,000 megawatts of purported solar electricity were generated during the dark evening and early-morning hours over three months. The decidedly nongreen use of generators helped the enterprising fraudsters walk away with at least 2.6 million euros.

The so-called environmentalists who peddle subsidies of this magnitude rarely stop to consider whether government intervention will inspire conduct that ends up causing more harm to the environment in the long run. The folly of tax credits, rebates, grants, loans and other subsidies for solar electricity is not limited to Europe. Washington state, for example, pays up to 54 cents per kilowatt-hour generated by a consumer solar panel and $1.08 per kilowatt-hour for electricity generated by a “community” project. That makes for expensive energy, given that a consumer plugging an appliance into a wall outlet pays an average of 8 cents per kilowatt-hour, according to the latest data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

With our country facing $12.8 trillion in public debt, Americans can’t afford to throw away money on a technology that is more efficient at generating laughs than light.

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