Green Energy Subsidies

The largest photovoltaic solar power plant in ...

The largest photovoltaic solar power plant in the United States is becoming a reality at Nellis Air Force Base. When completed in December, the solar arrays will produce 15 megawatts of power (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is a lot of talk about government subsidies and how bad they are for the country today.

Check the history books, encyclopedias and the internet; If it were not for government subsidies we would not have the rail road, highway, or canal systems that we have today.  The aviation and shipping industries both got their starts through government taxpayer subsidies.  Subsidies also contributed to the science and technological improvements that made it possible to build wastewater treatment facilities, sanitary collection systems, and water purification plants in nearly every city during the early part of the last century.  If it were not for the government subsidized WPA, many small towns would be without city halls, post offices, and libraries today.  Just look at all the power that is generated by government built hydro-electric dams.  Those were huge economic burdens to previous generations that we, some 150 years later, all take for granted.

From 2002 to 2008, according to the nonpartisan Environmental Law Institute, $72 billion in subsidies went to fossil fuels, while $12 billion went to non-polluting renewables – and that includes hydropower, which is not a new technology.

For example, the U.S. government offered enormous tax incentives, financing and government help to promote oil and natural gas exploration in the United States, Middle East and elsewhere after World War II. The investments were a fantastic success – but they have continued to the present day at between $3.5 billion and $4.3 billion per year, while these companies have become the most profitable and powerful on the planet. Roger Bezdek, a long-time energy CEO, economics professor and former research director for the U.S. Department of Energy, analyzed U.S. energy subsidies from 1950 to 2010. He estimates that oil received $369 billion in inflation-adjusted subsidies, natural gas got $121 billion and coal got $104 billion.

These figures do not include billions of dollars spent every year to keep the Persian Gulf open and global oil prices stable. This may be smart foreign policy, but it costs billions of dollars every year -paid in taxes funding the defense budget, instead of at the gas pump.

These fossil fuel subsidies also do not fully include pollution costs. For example, automobile exhaust accounts for 85 percent of air pollution in Las Vegas. We all pay the costs of asthma and other illnesses in health-care costs, not at the pump.

Admittedly, solar technology is quite expensive at this point in time.  However, the costs to manufacturer silicon based Photovoltaics (PV) have dropped dramatically in just the past four years.  Other types of solar energy generating facilities are also becoming less expensive to build and the amount of energy produced per square foot is increasing as technology improves.

Solar panels on the roofs of homes can save home owners a significant amount of money in energy costs over the long run.  The current pay back is approximately seven years.  As the number of homes utilizing solar power increases, the need for the amount of energy generated by power companies will decrease.  In the short term that means that for those without solar panels on their roofs will be paying more for power as the power companies try to make up for lost revenue.  However, in the long run, as power companies adjust their markets and begin to capitalize on new technologies (such as electric vehicle charging stations), and expand their own base of renewable energy generation facilities, their customer base will stabilize and costs will go down.

I find it very interesting that for as long as I have lived in Las Vegas, since 1975, politicians have been saying that we need to diversify our economy to avoid future economic problems.  Here we are some 37 years later and people are now asking why we did not diversify our economy years ago, and are now behind the proverbial eight ball trying to make it happen.  I foresee the same happening in another 40 years when people are running on fossil fumes and asking why we did not do something before things got so bad.  Just as America did in the last Century, forward thinking Americans can prepare for the future by improving our energy infrastructure now so that the next generations will benefit.

The following article gives a general overview of where the Solar Industry has come and where it is going.  http://www.expansionsolutionsmagazine.com/070812_solar

This article gives a more in-depth look at the research taking place in the Solar Industry: http://www.technologyreview.com/mitnews/410624/bright-days-for-solar/5/#

About craigruark

Craig A. Ruark is a freelance writer, journalist, and marketing and PR professional. In 2008, Craig became one of the first non-technical persons to become an Accredited Professional by the U.S. Green Building Council for ‘Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design” (LEED AP). Over the years he has immersed himself in the subject of “sustainability” and by combining this knowledge with his expertise in marketing and advertising, has published a book titled “Marketing Your Green Side,” which is available through Amazon. Craig is an avid fitness participant, sailor, SCUBA diver, enjoys singing Karaoke, listening to jazz, and is working on his next book.
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