Image credit: Lauren Keith, used under Creative Commons license.
When Bill McKibben called on the clean tech industry to stand up against the Keystone XL pipeline, he noted that the fossil fuel lobbies are working furiously to scupper the renewable energy revolution. One thing seems certain. As solar industries continue ferocious cost reductions (and some players that can't keep up go under as a result), and as China's prediction that solar will be as cheap as coal by 2015 starts looking increasingly realistic, the lies, distortions and straw men will get louder and more prominent. While intensely irritating, this phenomenon can only be seen as a good thing. Green Jobs a Government Fetish?
Take this opinion piece from Wall Street Journal board member Stephen Moore on "Green Jobs vs Real Energy Jobs". Moore, who Source Watch notes is a founder of Cub for Growth, and has been criticized for getting paid to promote the ideas of the Koch Industries-funded Americans for Prosperity , argues that this administration has a fetish for green energy, and refuses to support any energy source that "actually works".
Solar Lifespan of 10-15 Years is Nonsense
Case in point, he says, is the $300,000 in stimulus money used to install solar panels on his local library. The project is projected to shave $14,000 in annual electricity costs but, Moore argues, the panels have at most "a life span of no more than 10 to 15 years". While he declines to offer any evidence for this assertion, he proceeds to argue based on these numbers that the Fed spent $300,000 to shave off "at most" $150,000 off the net present value of Arlington's electric bills. The only trouble is, unless Moore's library is purchasing particularly dodgy technology, his math is a lie. Solar panels have a well documented lifespan of at least 20 years, and are often expected to function for over 30 (with admittedly somewhat reduced capacity). Once you double the lifespan, and add in the fact that massive energy price hikes in the next 30 years are hardly unrealistic, and the math looks a little different.
Increasingly Abundant Fossil Fuels
Moore goes on to argue that fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas are "increasingly abundant"—an odd notion given the geological timescales they are created on, and the IEA's warnings over peak oil—while wind energy is apparently a "500-year-old" energy technology that has no hope of scaling up to meet the demand of a modern industrial economy. (He presumably hasn't read, or disagrees with, reports that 100% renewable energy is possible by 2050.)
A Level Playing Field is Impossible
And as for the notion of comparing subsidies on a dollar-per-unit-of-energy-produced basis, don't get me started. The fossil fuel industries have enjoyed massive direct and indirect Government subsidies for generations, giving them a virtual monopoly on the market—so a little spending to level the playing field is hardly outrageous. And that's before we even get into the topic of external costs, hidden subsidies and the real cost of oil.
Some may see the increase in attacks on renewables as a threat—and in many ways they are. But they are also an increasingly encouraging sign of the times. Fossil fuel lobbies are starting to look decidedly scared. As the old adage goes, first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win. We're well past the ignoring and the laughing stage. Now it's time to fight.
More on Renewable Energy vs Fossil Fuels
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100% Renewable Energy is Possible by 2050
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China Predicts Solar as Cheap as Coal by 2015