- Apr 30, 2008From the New York Times:
> Dumb as We Wanna Be--
> By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
> It is great to see that we finally have some national unity on
> energy policy. Unfortunately, the unifying idea is so ridiculous,
> so unworthy of the people aspiring to lead our nation, it takes
> your breath away. Hillary Clinton has decided to line up with John
> McCain in pushing to suspend the federal excise tax on gasoline,
> 18.4 cents a gallon, for this summer’s travel season. This is not
> an energy policy. This is money laundering: we borrow money from
> China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for
> ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks. What a way to build our
> When the summer is over, we will have increased our debt to China,
> increased our transfer of wealth to Saudi Arabia and increased our
> contribution to global warming for our kids to inherit.
> No, no, no, we’ll just get the money by taxing Big Oil, says Mrs.
> Clinton. Even if you could do that, what a terrible way to spend
> precious tax dollars — burning it up on the way to the beach rather
> than on innovation?
> The McCain-Clinton gas holiday proposal is a perfect example of
> what energy expert Peter Schwartz of Global Business Network
> describes as the true American energy policy today: “Maximize
> demand, minimize supply and buy the rest from the people who hate
> us the most.”
> Good for Barack Obama for resisting this shameful pandering.
> But here’s what’s scary: our problem is so much worse than you
> think. We have no energy strategy. If you are going to use tax
> policy to shape energy strategy then you want to raise taxes on the
> things you want to discourage — gasoline consumption and gas-
> guzzling cars — and you want to lower taxes on the things you want
> to encourage — new, renewable energy technologies. We are doing
> just the opposite.
> Are you sitting down?
> Few Americans know it, but for almost a year now, Congress has been
> bickering over whether and how to renew the investment tax credit
> to stimulate investment in solar energy and the production tax
> credit to encourage investment in wind energy. The bickering has
> been so poisonous that when Congress passed the 2007 energy bill
> last December, it failed to extend any stimulus for wind and solar
> energy production. Oil and gas kept all their credits, but those
> for wind and solar have been left to expire this December. I am not
> making this up. At a time when we should be throwing everything
> into clean power innovation, we are squabbling over pennies.
> These credits are critical because they ensure that if oil prices
> slip back down again — which often happens — investments in wind
> and solar would still be profitable. That’s how you launch a new
> energy technology and help it achieve scale, so it can compete
> without subsidies.
> The Democrats wanted the wind and solar credits to be paid for by
> taking away tax credits from the oil industry. President Bush said
> he would veto that. Neither side would back down, and Mr. Bush —
> showing not one iota of leadership — refused to get all the adults
> together in a room and work out a compromise. Stalemate. Meanwhile,
> Germany has a 20-year solar incentive program; Japan 12 years.
> Ours, at best, run two years.
> “It’s a disaster,” says Michael Polsky, founder of Invenergy, one
> of the biggest wind-power developers in America. “Wind is a very
> capital-intensive industry, and financial institutions are not
> ready to take ‘Congressional risk.’ They say if you don’t get the
> [production tax credit] we will not lend you the money to buy more
> turbines and build projects.”
> It is also alarming, says Rhone Resch, the president of the Solar
> Energy Industries Association, that the U.S. has reached a point
> “where the priorities of Congress could become so distorted by
> politics” that it would turn its back on the next great global
> industry — clean power — “but that’s exactly what is happening.” If
> the wind and solar credits expire, said Resch, the impact in just
> 2009 would be more than 100,000 jobs either lost or not created in
> these industries, and $20 billion worth of investments that won’t
> be made.
> While all the presidential candidates were railing about lost
> manufacturing jobs in Ohio, no one noticed that America’s premier
> solar company, First Solar, from Toledo, Ohio, was opening its
> newest factory in the former East Germany — 540 high-paying
> engineering jobs — because Germany has created a booming solar
> market and America has not.
> In 1997, said Resch, America was the leader in solar energy
> technology, with 40 percent of global solar production. “Last year,
> we were less than 8 percent, and even most of that was
> manufacturing for overseas markets.”
> The McCain-Clinton proposal is a reminder to me that the biggest
> energy crisis we have in our country today is the energy to be
> serious — the energy to do big things in a sustained, focused and
> intelligent way. We are in the midst of a national political brownout.