While Kanye West, one of those rich people (worth $400 million), showing up at Occupy Wall Street wearing a $350 shirt and gold chains to show support might seem stupid or even ironic, in reality he has a lot to thank poor people for, as do a lot of other millionaires in California.
If you are rich and in California and care about solar energy enough to do something, there is a pretty good chance the $3.3 billion all Californians have tacked onto their utility bills to bolster 'clean' energy is really just going into the pockets of you, just like those other tax breaks the 99% say are a bad thing.
Glenn McCoy Belleville News-Democrat
Residential solar power has always been something of a placebo for people who want to rationalize they are not part of the problem and want to feel all science-y about it. On my last house I had solar panels and it took more electricity to pump the water onto the roof than I saved even heating the pool. It's just bad technology and I have argued early and often we should be funding basic research to make solar worthwhile rather than subsidizing companies and efforts we know will fail 100% of the time - Solyndra is just the tip of the scandal iceberg that will be coming in 2012. The reality is that solar power is dreadful and we would need to build giant solar plants every day for the next 50 years to meet just our energy demands today.
Why is this government program so especially flawed, even when we know most are and don't seem to mind? The biggest reason is that in order to get a rebate, you have to have money in the first place. The California method is designed to float companies that sell solar power systems. The people in the least efficient houses can't afford any money for a solar power system, only the rich can - so if a wealthy house in Napa Valley adds in a $1.45 million dollar solar installation, as Dan Morain used in a Sacramento Bee example, every taxpayer in California, rich or poor, forks over $319,000 of it. And then they get a federal tax break too.
People making money on this say the program is 'wildly' successful. I suppose it is, if you can afford to pay subsidies to rich people you supposedly want to tax more. It's obvious that if the 'industry' would not exist without state rebates and a 30% federal tax credit on top of it, it is not ready to exist.
How much weatherization for existing, inefficient homes and apartments lived in by lower income people could be done for $3.3 billion? Every single apartment building in the state, that's how many, and the energy savings would be far more than any solar program could hope to achieve - but that won't be a splashy campaign slogan about how much California cares about clean energy.
So if we want to have people in Compton buying solar panels for toney Malibu mansions, let's keep rationalizing feel-good science by press release instead of letting poor customers keep more of their money until we have a solution that works.