The Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2019 report stated that in the previous 10 years the world had spent $2.6 trillion on solar and wind power subsidies - which they framed as a good thing. Since we need to get billions off wood and dung, the largest sources of pollution, that so much money only led to 1,650 gigawatts(GW) of energy should have environmentalists concerned.

Instead of focusing on how we can get energy, and therefore water and sanitation. to the poorest, activists continue to create propaganda about natural gas and nuclear while claiming solar and wind are ready.

Data show the opposite. What did we get for our hundreds of billions in spending in the US? Not much except a feel-good fallacy and the chance to make some political donors richer. Though I keep reading claims that the industry is doing great, it is not a viable industry if without government mandates and subsidies it would be gone in months. Even with subsidies most companies collapse because the government is picking winners and losers politically.

Politicians may say you can create a Silicon Valley using the blueprint of the Post Office, but it has never led to anything but bloat, inefficiency, and high costs for consumers. Like the Post Office.

Solar and wind imagery are like this stock photo. Good luck finding it working in the real world.

Let's compare solar and wind to nuclear, which has been one of the big losers in politicization of science.  

Nuclear is 2 times the energy capacity of natural gas and 4 times more reliable than wind and solar plants. It is sustainable, green, and renewable.(1) So why did we spend so many trillions of dollars on intermittent energy that requires full-time back up natural gas and nuclear anyway?

You already know it's politics. 

The Obama administration believed in American Exceptionalism, even when it came to technology that has never worked, so they engaged in populism for their base. Though companies employing the best scientists and engineers in the world had been trying to make solar viable for 50 years without success, the U.S. government decided if they threw a lot of money at it all at once, things would be different. To inspire fervor among the public, they needed true believers, and to evangelize this cause they handed the Department of Energy to an academic who said he wanted gas at $9 a gallon.  Forcing competitors to have higher costs is one way to make your alternative look cost effective - it's just a stupid way, and horrible for poor people. If government forced normal eggs to be $17 a dozen then $16 a dozen for organic eggs looks a better deal - for organic egg farmers. It's terrible for consumers.

That is the problem with these glowing reports which frame wasting taxpayer money as a win. It's not helping solve the climate problem and keeps poor people from better lives. 

If Biden wants to be a pro-science President, nuclear is the place to start

We should have invested in American Exceptionalism when it comes to science and funded basic research rather than throwing money at well-connected donors who wanted to build companies. We might have had a CRISPR of solar by now. 

Or a CRISPR of nuclear energy if Democrats hadn't scuttled that science in America in the 1990s. Who led that charge with President Clinton? Former Senator John Kerry, who is now Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. President Biden handed a climate job to the guy who created the problem, by gutting nuclear and forcing us to use more coal.

We should have learned lessons from the last time we threw money at companies and claimed that was science, but the Biden administration has said not only do they want to replicate the failure of the Obama-era subsidies for solar, they want to waste even more money than the $70 billion we squandered on solar panel companies back then. 

It's a bad idea. Just over a week before the Biden administration made its proclamation that they wanted to bring solar panel jobs back to the US, SunPower Corp. said it was closing its Oregon solar manufacturing plant. Oregon is a solid left coast place, and therefore loves solar subsidies, but with a minimum wage of $13 an hour they cannot compete with Asia. And that is where SunPower is now going to build panels.

Instead of throwing more money at solar companies, the government should fix their own issues. The private sector is actually way ahead when it comes to greening energy. Energy companies improved emissions so much that the never-enacted Clean Power Plan was jettisoned; the private sector had already met the 2025 target by 2017. Meanwhile, the federal government owns over 300,000 buildings that don't meet the energy standards most private buildings do. If the Biden administration cares about the environment they will use taxpayer money to fix the buildings they own - and open the bids to all contractors, not help donors write RFQs with qualifications so narrow only one company, almost always a donor, can bid.

Solar Power Populism

"Built in America" when it comes to things like solar panels, as the Biden administration laid out, is just more populism, especially if government also mandates that an American worker must make 10X more salary than a Chinese worker. Subsidizing installations and the energy is bad - poor people in Compton pay for solar in Malibu - but subsidizing the panels is even worse.

It's still early and a lot of this could be rhetoric to make people who got him elected happy. President Obama also pledged to close Guantanamo Bay (never happened) and to lift a non-existent ban on human embryonic stem cell research; his staffers reminded him that the ban on embryos was by President Clinton, not Bush, so he only added a few more lines to the ones Bush had approved.

People quickly forgot, and here is hoping that job-cutting stunts like banning the Keystone Pipeline won't be replicated in areas where it is really important, just to prop up an industry that relies on belief over evidence.


(1) Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Arizona is just under 4 GW but it is on essentially full-time and cost just under $6 billion. It has been in operation since 1986. Data, not optimistic hopes, shows that intermittent energy like solar needs an equivalent 16 GW of potential to equal that. Even knowing that, and knowing maintenance for solar panels needs to occur often, we spent nearly $16 billion per equivalent gigawatt when nuclear costs about 10 percent of that.