THE VIEW FROM MY POND

the online presence of Don Keayes

Tag: solar panel manufacturers

Putting your money where their mouth is

Here on the pond it’s pretty much every organism for himself. I say himself, because there’s no such thing as political correctness when life really is all ‘frog eat frog’. But I digress … What interests me about those who claim an interest in the quality of my environment is how much of other people’s money they spend on things that make their friends rich, and how little of their own money they spend on actually cleaning up the mud.

US Congressman Tom McClintock (R-CA) made an excellent statement as he debated an amendment on HR 5325 (Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act):

“But that’s still not a reason for taxpayers to foot the bill.  It’s a reason for the actual research and development to be paid for by the companies that will profit from this long-promised breakthrough, and if they’re not willing to finance it with their own money, we have no business forcing our constituents to finance them with theirs.”

I love it! At a time when his country’s economy is sinking into the mire, Congressman McClintock argued that he could save nearly $1.5 billion by ending a failed federal government direct-investment program and reallocating those scarce resources toward productive ventures that maximise America’s energy potential:

If we’re serious about an “all of the above energy policy” we’ve got to stop using taxpayer money to pick winners and losers based on their political connections, and instead require every energy company to compete on its own merits as decided by the customers it attracts by offering better products at lower cost. For too long we have suffered from the conceit that politicians can make better energy investments with taxpayer money than investors can make with their own money.  It is this conceit that has produced the continuing spectacle of collapsing energy scandals epitomised by the Solyndra fiasco.

At least Solyndra was funded from a loan program in which the public has a chance to get some of its money back when these dubious schemes go bankrupt. This amendment eliminates direct spending that funds commercialisation projects for ideologically pleasing technologies and the politically-favoured firms that make them – money taxpayers have no chance of recovering after it is spent. This amendment, and the two that I will take up shortly, protect taxpayers from being forced into being venture capitalists by incompetent politicians, it gets government out of the energy business and requires all energy companies and all energy technologies to compete equally and on their own merits.

Well that seems fair. I hear on the grapevine that, just as it does here in Australia, most of the money goes to wind, solar and car subsidies. Apparently the multinational mega-corporations who bankroll the Left side of politics have convinced lawmakers that the UN’s Agenda 21 trumps common sense; it’s now necessary to nurture these new and promising technologies in which they have an interest and stop spending other people’s money on stuff that actually works. Only Congressman McClintock makes an excellent point,

But they are not new and they are not promising. Photovoltaic cells, for example, were invented by French Physicist Edmund Becquerel in 1839, and in more than 170 years of technological research and innovation and billions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies, we have not yet invented a more expensive way to generate electricity. So we hide its true costs to consumers through subsidies taken from their taxes.

Moreover, as I wrote a couple of posts back, solar power is not only ridiculously expensive but far more polluting than the coal- and gas-fired power we’ve been enjoying at low cost for decades. Sadly, the amendment failed by a factor of about 2 to 1.

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Clean energy’s dirty secret

As you probably know already, we frogs are particularly susceptible to environmental changes. The quality of our air and water is important to us so we like to keep abreast of the … ahem … Green literature.

ImageJust imagine my shock, then, to read in Ozzie Zehner’s new book that the use of solar panels does nothing at all to offset greenhouse gases or curb fossil fuel use.

In fact, according to this University of California – Berkeley visiting scholar, in order to reduce the production of the naturally-occurring CO2 needed for my lillypad to grow a few solar panel manufacturers are pumping huge amounts of hexafluoroethane (C2F6), nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) into the atmosphere.

Hexafluoroethane has a global warming potential that is 12,000 times higher than CO2, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It is 100 percent manufactured by humans, and survives 10,000 years once released into the atmosphere. Nitrogen trifluoride is 17,000 times more virulent than CO2, and SF6, the most treacherous greenhouse gas, is over 23,000 times more threatening.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that these gases are now accumulating within the earth’s atmosphere at a rapid rate: concentrations of SF6 have been rising exponentially and a paper published in Geophysical Research Letters demonstrates how NF3 levels have been rising at a whopping 11 percent per year.

“If photovoltaic production grows, so will the associated side effects. Even worse, there’s no evidence that solar cells offset fossil fuel use in the American context.”

Instead Zehner advocates other conservation measures, the most expensive of which right now would become cost competitive long before today’s solar cell technologies. “If limiting CO2 is our goal, we might be better off directing our time and resources to those options first; solar cells seem a wasteful and pricey strategy,” he says.

I’d lend you my copy but it’s probably better you get your own at Green Illusions.