Defending alternative energy advancements is, unfortunately, a seemingly endless job; one that requires 24/7 devotion to a cause that should be universally accepted, but isn’t.
Here are the facts: The clean tech sector was one of the few industries to add jobs during the recession. When combined with the dramatically lower cost of solar cells and wind turbines over the last 5 years, the doubling of electricity derived from renewables, and construction of the country’s first nuclear power plant in decades, there is no denying that the United States has been an integral player in the clean energy market.
However, all of the aforementioned accomplishments are facts. Facts have no place in the current political landscape; instead, vitriol and opposition to any proposed environmental legislation has replaced reason. As a result, federal funding for clean energy subsidies is in dire straits. According to the New York Times article, The End of Clean Energy Subsidies?, “the Republican wrecking crew in the House remains generally hostile to programs that threaten the hegemony of the oil and gas interests… If nothing changes, clean energy funding will drop from a peak of $44.3 billion in 2009 to $16 billion this year and $11 billion in 2014-a 75 percent decline.”
It’s the same old story with the Republicans; don’t they ever get tired of being so senselessly combative? They’ve used the failure of one solar panel company, Solyndra (which I wrote about in an earlier post), as grounds for scrapping any further federal funding. Government assistance, in any burgeoning industry, is what makes our country unique and allows us to lead rather than follow. We cannot afford to lose this invaluable characteristic of our governing system.
As The End of Clean Energy Subsidies? states, “By spurring innovation and growth, a federal production tax credit for wind amounting to 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour has brought the cost of electricity from wind power to a point where it is broadly competitive with natural gas, sustaining 75,000 jobs in manufacturing, installation and maintenance… But the tax credit is scheduled to expire at the end of this year, with potentially disastrous results: a 75 percent reduction in new investment and a significant drop in jobs.” In order to save the subsidies, one proposal calls for subsidies to be long term, but rearranged to reward better performance and lower costs.
Now I know how Paul Krugman feels, day-in and day-out espousing the virtues of Keynesian economics to no avail. Maybe one day, when the reality of the environmental issues at hand becomes unavoidable, posts likes this won’t be necessary. But until then, I’m going to use Krugman’s persistence as my own guide.