“Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources. Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all — and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen.” — Barack Obama
Folks, you are being treated like infants — while you are being robbed. Windmills and solar panels are not “innovative”; they exist only because some politicians have made icons of them and are wedded to them as a result.
These technologies aren’t new. Wind-powered electricity was commercialized in 1891. Solar cells were patented in 1888. The modern solar cell was created in 1954. In 1978, Jimmy Carter vowed to increase solar cell subsidies, supported by promises that solar cells would provide 20% of our electricity by 2000. Solar still provides just a fraction of one percent of it. So close! And solar gets three pitches in the 2011 State of the Union address as if it’s some breakthrough waiting to happen. Sigh.
Coal-fired electricity was commercialized in 1882. Somehow it’s a dinosaur and the others are new. Please.
Commercial windmills and solar cells were invented at the same time as coal-fired power plants and automobiles. Two of those four technologies have succeeded spectacularly and as a result are under assault from people who hate abundance, mobility, and freedom from reliance on them.
Those other two are dismal failures that cannot find markets and investors in a nation where the Snuggie and Vince the Sham-Wow guy did. That’s pathetic. And they and their enablers in Washington and state capitals snivel that they are “innovative,” “just-around-the-corner,” “new” technology and therefore need welfare because otherwise the companies that produce them will go bankrupt.
The answer to that drivel is not only that being new does not in any way mean a company needs welfare but also: if your company can’t survive without government subsidies, then go bankrupt. After all, the truth is that they’ll go bankrupt even if we do give them that wealth transfer. Just a little later — until you give them more. They got bugs crawlin’ in their skin, man, can’t you see? They can stop any time they want, but just a taste, man, just a taste!
Windmills aren’t Sputnik. They aren’t “big things” (his closing line), unless you have to live near them (ask the Kennedys if there’s one at your viewing party).
They aren’t the Internet. The Internet made people more efficient, allowed them to do more, to create more wealth with less. Windmills and solar panels are the opposite. They are woefully inefficient, are inherently uneconomical, would not exist without government support, and in any other way do not deserve being in the same conversation with actual innovations like those that have been produced in Silicon Valley. Except that if we had forced Silicon Valley to run on more expensive, less reliable, and less efficient energy sources, those innovations would have happened somewhere else.
Which brings me to something a colleague of mine says, made only more relevant by the current White House: Do not despair; there will always be an America. It’s just that it may have moved to Asia.
Christopher C. Horner is a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.