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10858Energy "Policy"

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  • Richard Risemberg
    Apr 30, 2008
      From the New York Times:

      > Dumb as We Wanna Be
      > 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
      > country.
      > 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.

      Richard Risemberg