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Green Energy Industry Staggers

As the Energy Department hustled to get another $4.7 billion in loan guarantees for green tech companies out the door before time ran out and the program ended last week, yet another solar panel manufacturer was wilting in the sun, and the green jobs scam was looking more threadbare than ever. Says the WSJ:

Solar-power equipment manufacturer Stirling Energy Systems Inc. has filed for bankruptcy, adding to a wave of troubles in the solar industry amid soft demand, falling prices and difficulty raising money. [… ] Both [of the company’s plants] were sited on public land in California and obtained fast-track construction permits from the Obama administration.

The filing is the latest in a string of U.S. solar company bankruptcies, as soft global demand for solar power, falling prices and a glut of solar panels from Asia have hammered manufacturers.

Surprise, surprise: the American “green energy” industry faces much the same problems as everyone else in this economy. Solar firms still have to compete with Chinese labor (and massive Chinese government subsidies further enhanced by cheap Chinese currency).

But there’s another factor behind the failure of so many Obama administration initiatives in this field.  Because alternative energy generation is expensive and inefficient, it requires some combination of subsidies, high energy prices and forced purchases to make these investments pay off.

The Solyndra guarantee and related programs were all developed back in the heady early days of the Obama administrations when delusional greens thought their global agenda was on the verge of being realized.  Cap and trade and other aggressive energy policies would artificially jack up energy prices in the US to the point where demand for solar and other alternative energy would grow.  The global carbon treaty would provide a permanent source of demand for green energy.

The political assumptions underlying the green investment boomlet turned out to be false.  There will be no global carbon regime for the foreseeable future; there will be no cap and trade and no aggressive federal programs to raise energy prices during the deepest recession since World War Two.

Perhaps even worse from the green point of view, a cascade of discoveries and technological advances has dramatically increased the supplies of oil and gas in the western hemisphere — including huge new domestic energy supplies in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio and upstate New York.  These discoveries are devastating to the politics of the environmental movement.

There will be the usual NIMBY-motivated opposition (some of it justified) to frakking and to oil and gas pipelines, but overall millions more Americans are going to be economically tied to domestic energy production and they will not want their congressional representatives voting against the industry on which their paychecks depend.  Nor will they support presidential candidates who promise to eliminate their jobs.  It will not just be the people who work in the extraction business who feel this way.  Those who supply the industry, those who operate pipelines, those who sell goods and services to gas and oil workers: they will form a powerful phalanx of pro-oil and gas interests that will reach far beyond Texas.

At the same time, key environmental arguments will be seriously weakened.  The western hemisphere looks set to become energy independent for the foreseeable future; the US is moving steadily away from the dependence on Middle Eastern oil that makes many national security experts think green.  Importing from Canada just isn’t the same kind of problem as importing from Iraq.

The question of supply and peak oil will also recede; with new technologies and new discoveries coming so quickly, fewer people will feel the need to make large financial sacrifices now in order to prevent huge oil shortage and massive price hikes in the near term.

Increasingly, the climate change argument will be the only argument left to support subsidies for alternative energy generation.  That argument has not been enough to make far reaching legal changes in the past when national security and peak oil worries supported it; there is not much to suggest that the climate change forces can win the political battle standing alone.

The collapse of the green political structure (cap and trade plus global carbon treaty) and the transformation of the American fossil fuel supply have dramatically weakened the case for alternative energy.  Investors take heed.

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  • Gary Hemminger

    I have seen this movie before. In the 70’s Jimmy Carter actually told a nationwide audience that we would run out of oil in less than a decade. There was a wave of alternative energy investment. That wave of money was lost as the oil industry reacted to high prices by going after more supply.

    Now the same thing is happening again. This time though, the “delusional greens” tried to basically outlaw main sources of energy through the global warming (sorry climate change) movement. As this movement is dies, the alternative energy movement will die with it. Even major VC’s like Kleiner Perkins fell for this scam.

  • Daniel

    What are you going to do with these guys?

  • Moneyrunner

    Senator Jim DeMint provides the proper context:

    The demise of Solyndra, the bankrupt solar panel company showered with more than a half-billion dollars in stimulus loans, exposes the fatal flaw of President Obama’s jobs plans.

    Government officials rushed $535 million to Solyndra because the Obama administration was determined to make the company the centerpiece of its green agenda regardless of the law of supply and demand. Billions more have been wasted by politicians betting on favored companies and making Washington bigger, using the brute force of government to force liberal preferences into the economy. Mr. Obama calls them “investments,” but this is really venture socialism.

  • Mkelley

    The environmentalists/lefties that run our country actively prevent us from opening up new conventional energy sources:

  • PlatoBunker

    Dudley Herschbach (Nobel Laureate in Chemistry) has suggested for years that hydrocarbons are formed under intense pressure and heat abiogenically – no dead dinosaurs required. The implication is that the quantities of petroleum and natural gas are substantially greater than were projected a couple of decades ago. Here is a link:


  • profwalker

    I am re-reading ‘Atlas Shrugged’. All of the CURRENT energy-politics is in that book, published 54 years ago. And much more…

  • Right Wing Nutter

    Peak oil is delayed, not eliminated. Even if delayed a century, eventually we will have to come up with alternative technologies. Wise policy makers will look at these among others.

    Let me put on my futurist cap…….there.

    Thorium reactors for electrical power. The thorium fuel cycle is theoretically much safer than uranium. That would free up uranium…

    …for breeder reactors to make plutonium to power spacecraft (and presumably their plasma engines) beyond Mars orbit.

    Bio-fuels. Already organisms are being re-engineered to produce oils that can be used directly, or easily be processed into motor fuels current vehicles can use. These fuels would likely be butanol and flavors of diesel.

    Advanced engines. Turbines, which can be significantly more efficient than ICE when operating at constant loads may find their way into hybrid cars. The necessary technologies there would be finding and reducing the cost of materials that can stand the heat and rotational stresses. There are other innovative engine developments at varying distances from the production stage. Encouraging their continued development, perhaps via X-prizes would be a good idea.

    The newly developed Lithium/Silicon/polymer batteries have the potential to increase battery energy density 10x. Their use in all electric cars will no doubt happen, but due to shortages of generation and distribution capacity they will probably see more use in hybrid vehicles.

    Generation capacity and distribution infrastructure will take a while, but could easily happen in a century. Carbon nano-fibers replacing copper and aluminum could be part of that process. Once that, higher generation capacity (thorium reactors), and sufficiently high capacity batteries are engineered reality then liquid fuel use for other than large trucks may no longer be necessary.

    All this of course ignores future technologies and capabilities that may be simply gleams in a grad student’s eye at present.

    It also ignores possible political stupidity, such as continuing the Wilson Roosevelt Carter Obama cycle of electing leftists as President every 30 years or so. We’ve been through this as a nation enough times that I can entertain a slim hope that future generations will learn from ours and our grandparents and great-grandparents folly. Note to conservative scholars: Continue and extend Amity Shlaes work in documenting that folly.

  • 1profwalker

    Kleiner Perkins did NOT ‘fall for it’! They (and Algore) knew very well what they were doing, as did the boys at Solyndra.

  • Mark Allen

    When I was in college in the pre-Gulf War 90’s, I took a course in marketing and promtion where my group was tasked with marketing and promoting a cause, complete with slide shows, brochures, TV commercial concepts, a presentation and press conference with open questioning from profs and students (part of our grade was how many people showed up and asked questions).

    My group decided on alternative energy (like shale oil, CNG, biodiesel,solar but all had to be domestic US based resources) as a way to keep the US from having to deal with Iraq and the M.E. in general.

    We had to be just as ready with good answers for the downsides of our cause as the upsides. We seriously considered shale oil because there was so much of it, but ultimately decided against it. The downside was due to the high cost of extraction. The energy needed to extract the oil (a dedicated power plant) added to the cost of extraction and transporting, priced the oil out of the market (around $1/gallon).

    Doesn’t it seem that at some point the price of extracting these types of petroleum will again be too expensive to justify? The US is a massive energy sucking machine, we will always need more and more ions to keep it going, but what happens when we step out of the world market and become our own closed North American market? Won’t the price of oil drop around the world as well thus making it more economical to again buy non-N. American oil? What about the EPA and congress increasing the mpg standards? Less demand, right?

    Just wanted to get this off of my chest.

  • standfast24

    Technology that is not economically viable serves no purpose. Adoption only occurs when a payback (savings vs. next best alternative/amount invested) is obtained in a reasonable time frame.
    Wind and solar technology are inefficient and fail this test.
    Often forgotten in the discussion about China is the near crisis like shortfall between supply and demand for energy, so any source, however inefficient is welcomed by China.
    When you have a zero cost of capital and massive savings it is easy to justify throwing money at SOE’s and other solar companies but they too will ultimately face economic reality.

  • http://Angelor Angelo Rombola

    To Mark Allen’s question as to future oil prices as the US becomes self- sufficient:
    We will not be insulated from the world petroleum economy. Remember that China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia et al are also
    industrializing continually and adding population- thus increasing the need for more energy. So the overall demand will continue to rise even though more supplies will be available as the US withdraws slowly from current import policies. We will add selling pressure to prices but overall demand
    worldwide and prices will only decline slightly.

  • 1profwalker

    To Mark Allen:

    Who said anything about not buying ‘non-domestic’ oil? Let the market operate in that sphere.

    In respect to extracting oil from shale: That expense depends in part on the efficiency of the extracting process (better than when you were in college, probably) and on the cost of the oil-extracting energy source (nuclear, etc.).

  • Corlyss

    The ankle-bitting good citizens of Slateland and Huffingtonia and the Peoples Republic of MarKosta will rail and rant and call Obama every unflattering name in the book, but they won’t demand his impeachment like they would if he were a Republican.

  • Corlyss

    My apologies for putting that last item in the wrong thread. I thought I was in the Obama thread.

    On the instant topic, the Greeeeeeenies remail strong as ever in blocking the pipeline thru the US to Louisiana. It’s very reassuring that the hot-house flower boutique energy companies are self-immolating, but can’t something be done about the environmentalists’ rigid determination to destroy American cheap energy and thus American prosperity? Can’t we deport them to China?

  • Tununak

    The sad thing is that the news that wind power is an inefficient, ecologically unsound disaster has not gotten out. Read this article at the New York Times
    which outlines a wind power mess about to happen in Vermont. The author is a greenie who makes all the right arguments, but apparently the project will continue. If you read the reader comments on the article, you’ll see why (and see what real zealotry looks like: these people totally buy the climate change narrative presented in the mainstream media).

  • Randy

    Right Wing Nutter,

    Speaking of peak oil, do you know of any greenies that have clued in to the notion that pushing the peak oil narrative actually plays into the hands of Big Oil? By mindlessly pushing the notion that we are running out of oil, they help keep prices up despite advances in (supposedly) ‘unconventional’ production. If I were head of Exxon, why would I discourage the Peak Oilers?

  • Mark Allen

    Angelo Rombola and 1profwalker:

    I was going to agree to see things Angelo’s way and disagree with 1profwalker about extraction energy from nukes and then I saw this article at the WSJ:

    And then I thought of 2 famous quotes from Otto von Bismarck:
    “It has been said that a special Providence watches over children, drunkards, and the United States.”
    “The Americans have contrived to be surrounded on two sides by weak neighbors and on two sides by fish!”

    Could it be possible that the US becomes a net exporter of oil, totally lucks out and changes the paradigm, again?
    China has a lot of our bonds; we have a lot oil they might want. Currently, China manipulates its currency to keep it low vs. the dollar.
    What happens when the world’s largest economy discovers a locally sourced and abundant supply of energy?

    Off the top of my head, I’m pretty sure that the US comes out ahead (for some reason) and the Chinese still gets to keep the solar panel manufacturing market all to themselves. They just wanted it more than Obama did.

  • Randy

    Never mind. Some guy at Counterpunch is figuring it out.“peak-oil”-hello-glut/

  • FObama

    This President is [not to my taste].

  • Andynonymous

    As Solyndra is unfolding, I am surprised by the attitude that accompanied the money out the door. They really seemed to think that throwing 500 million dollars of government money would part the Green Sea, that simply the act of flushing them with OPM would create something sustainable. This attitude is what must be exposed if they are to be re-consigned to the wilderness for 30 years.

  • MAlanCox

    Mark Allen, if you were in college in the 90s during the pre-gulf war days you pulled a [heck] of a trick. The Gulf War was the one in which Kuwait was invaded by Iraq and let’s think of that as summer of 1990. Are you talking spring semester?

  • Steven Hicks

    I would have to assume the reference is to Kliner Perkins Caufield Byers, Which includes both Al Gore and Colin Powell among its “advisors”/

    There is a difference between “falling” and actively homing in on a project like a heat seeking missle. KPCB is guilty of the latter.

    Granted I have not checked in approximately 12 monyhs into their activities, but last time I did, I noticed that not only did they have listed in the biographies of their staff/administration/officers that they had 19 people with direct connections to ACORN, 14 with direct connections to the Federal Reserve, and 4 direct connections to APOLLO/TIDES (which wrote the stimulus bill).

    This company is nothing more than a clearinghouse for defrauding the taxpayers and making a few democrats rich. They had direct connections to Janet Yellen who was, head of the San Fran fed at the time, as well as work extensively with Quantam(Soros), they also included in their list one Nancy McFaddin of PG&E/APOLLO fame.

    What we need is to do away with the fed, and end the 89 ACORN affiliates/58 union executives on the boards of directors of the 12 main and 25 sub branches, and then companies such as KPCB could not have the influence to raid the treasury as easily, and keep their political cronies flush with taxpayers money.

    Also had noticed one of the staff had just also happened to not only work with the Chicago fed director ( now on Detroit board again,Mark Gaffeney, head of the MI AFL_CIO , but also with a certain law firm that once employed a former first lady.

    This entire facade is more incestuous than anything you can dream up, and KPCB is vry close to the heart of it

  • Frank Lyall

    It’s pretty simple actually. The economy is based on a value for value conversion or exchange of energy, has you and I are, or the life in a pond. Fossil fuels are far and away the cheapest and provide for factors, more wealth than the alternatives. Subsidies for green energy decrease the wealth of a nation and necessarily, decrease personal wealth.
    The bureaucrats and politicians in DC and the UN, who are wedded to the concept of something for nothing, are always the last to know.

  • Steve Q

    The bright side of Solyndra’s bk. . .

    Solyndra went bk b/c silicon based solar panel prices have fallen from $4/watt to $1/watt over the past 3 years. The fall in prices was driven by gov’t policy (in Europe), rapid growth in the solar market (300%) and the associated economies of scale. Solyndra used a non-silicon technology that was meant to address the high cost of silicon, but couldn’t keep up with the rapid cost declines in the silicon based solar market that has occurred since 2008. Silicon based solar pv has a mfg cost decline curve similar to the computer industry. Analysts for IBM used to say the global market for computers was 3 units b/c they were so expensive. Solar skeptics Watch out!Don’t underestimate the advantages and appeal of consumers/homeowners generating their own power. Now if that doesn’t give one a sense of freedom I don’t know what will.
    Check out the Solar Revolution by Bradford for a great analysis of the solar pv market.

  • Ellen K

    While the Chinese drill off shore of Cuba in the same oil fields that the US used to control, our president dithers on signing permits for the potentially rich Julia field in the western Gulf to the point that Exxon has to sue to get action. In addition, this president could claim to have “created” jobs in the thousands by signing the Transcanada pipeline into fruition. In both cases he yammers and stalls deferring to his green controllers.

    Please understand, I am not opposed to green energy, but I believe any energy policy is going to have to include nuclear, petroleum and hydroelectric options in addition to solar and wind. The greens oppose all the more available energy sources on principle and are doing everything in their power to make these options so costly that solar and wind power will seem cost effective. In doing so, they hamper the production of every product that is made or transported in the nation forcing more jobs away from our shores. If this president doesn’t sever ties from green advocacy, our jobs rate will continue to plummet no matter what happens with his jobs bill.

    BTW, for those who haven’t read his jobs bill carefully, Obama has demonstrated far more concern with creating union jobs than white collar jobs. Since there are folks from all economic strata currently without work, one wonders how much Obama truly cares about the whole of America’s unemployed when he only seeks to employ part of it.

  • sub

    this kind of arrogance is only possible in the mind of a barack obama. a man who believes he is jesus/steve jobs/will smith rolled into one. mark zuckerberg must have asked for HIS help from a harvard dorm room, because only HE can have the vision, the wisdom, the brilliance, to bring world-changing ideas to market. i’m gonna throw up. this arrogant punter couldn’t manage a lemonade stand, and idiots in the progressive core are only too happy to believe that he is the greatest businessman that ever lived. probably because none of them have ever had real jobs either. the fact that this impostor could even be president is a damning indictment of our electorate. stupid is as stupid does….

  • Suze2

    The way the feds are shoving money out the door to “green” companies, which aren’t going to go anywhere, we might be better off burning dollar bills! 🙂

  • JungleCogs

    The whole “environmental” movement has become a political money-raising scheme. Though well intended decades ago in the effort to clean water and air from excessive and mismanaged waste; it has been hijacked by the Progressives for political gain. We need to stop these people at every opportunity.

  • R. L. Hails Sr. P. E.

    Having engineered a score of nukes, two score fossil fuel power plants and spent decades of assessing advance technologies, I judge that America has decided to destroy itself due to the green religion. The US abandoned the only prime fuels, carbon and uranium, that are capable of sustaining our advanced standard of living for the next generations. Our economy will collapse if we continue to subsidize, or place mandates to buy technologies which are losers for bulk supply.

    It is quite true that other poorer nations will pass us in some less desirable technologies because it is all they can do, e.g. ethanol in Brazil – they grow sugar cane, or solar electricity in China – they have no grid like us, and some juice is better than nothing.

    For reasons I can not comprehend, most of the US “experts” on energy have zero expertise in engineering; they are mostly lawyers or soft science types. If your kid was dying of brain cancer, would you take him to a lawyer or an environmentalist? It makes no sense to listen to a lawyer about energy balance.

    This election may be our last chance to sort out an dysfunctional energy policy which has off shored heavy industry and millions of jobs. It has already made engineering an undesirable career. Why spend a decade of hard study to be put out of work by some nut carrying a poster? The pols can not kick this can down the calendar any more. Our economy is on its last legs; those hoped for green jobs will never happen. It is far more likely that our grid will collapse before the Atlantic rises up and drowns Florida. America must decide.

  • Geezer117

    The politics of green energy cannot repeal business reality.

    Green energy competes with conventional energy. Green energy is much more expensive and much less flexible/available/reliable than conventional energy. Therefore, the price of conventional energy must be forced up dramatically so green energy can compete, all the while conventional power plants have to be kept running for the days the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. 

    This is a recipe for economic stagnation or decline. It also transforms our households into a state of energy subsistence. This is the Utopia environmentalists offer.

  • Natural_Philosopher

    The “Peakists” are Malthusian nihilists. In essence, their argument is that at present prices we will eventually run out of oil, today, tomorrow, a century, a Millenia, who knows? They certainly don’t, but never mind, Oil Prices will go up someday, so lets let them increase today, lets suffer today, instead of waiting a century or a Millenia or three.

    These fools don’t realize that the Prices are artificially and monopolistically high over the past 40 years, and are due to collapse, as the Cartel ages, as all cartels do. Substitutes are now taking market share from the classical OPEC oil industry.

    Stupidity yes, but who ever thought a leftist Peakist eco-nitwit is anything but a pure nitwit, anyway?

    Meanwhile silently and under the radar, we are increasing our technological levels and finding ways to obtain energy unthought of before. New drilling technologies like horizontal drilling, and “fracking” have been developed.

    Commercial Nuclear power is now routinely “Actinide Burning” half of the long lived radioactive waste, and methods to burn the other half, the even atomic number Transuranics, are going forward, eliminating the radioactive waste problem.

    Commercial reactors are unique incinerators of elements, have helped disarm the World, burning up over 10,000 former nuclear bombs, forever. The politicians who negotiated Megatons to Megawatts should have won the Noble Peace Prize in any sane world. But the Socialist judges would have brought that attention to the World, re-invigorated Nuclear power, and we can’t have that, can we?

    Controlled Fusion is making technological progress and success is already assured in a few decades. The ITER in France is half built, and everything sought from it has already been achieved piecemeal around the world, while waiting for its long delayed construction. The next thermonuclear reactor after ITER, will add electric power to the grid. The we will have clean, unlimited, power essentially forever. Until the hydrogen “Peakists” complain that we will run out, when the Oceans boil away as the Sun self destructs in about 4 Billion years.

  • Denver

    In the late 70’s, during the Carter Depression/Malaise/Recession/hyper-inflationary times, I worked for a company that build Solar Energy Panels.

    Company went bankrupt.

    Thirty-something years later, different [stuff], same pile.

  • LarryD

    In addition to the abiotic theory of oil generation, the conventional theory now is that oil is derived from micro-organisms flourishing in warm, shallow seas. Which implies a great deal more of oil than we have found.

  • Eh2Zed

    Did any of you look at the Solyndra business model.
    The make the panels for $6 and sell them for $3. Where they were planning on making their profit was from carbon credits and carbon tax benifits. Since Cap and Tax failed to pass, all the green economy companies are facing bankruptcy. Now do you see why the rich left wanted Cap and Tax.

  • Ian R

    Having read Meade’s “Special Providence” I respect him as a genuine thinker. Here, sadly he sounds like a denialist crank. American America is currently producing only 40% of our oil. Meade’s incredibly rosy scenario is not realistic, would that it were but….

    From Wiki:

    “All the easy oil and gas in the world has pretty much been found. Now comes the harder work in finding and producing oil from more challenging environments and work areas. ”

    — William J. Cummings, Exxon-Mobil company spokesman, December 2005[45]

    “ It is pretty clear that there is not much chance of finding any significant quantity of new cheap oil. Any new or unconventional oil is going to be expensive. ”

    — Lord Ron Oxburgh, a former chairman of Shell, October 2008 [48]

    I speak as a person who has always thought that solar energy is not ready for prime time. I do not defend the Solyndra debacle, I merely note that Meade is WAY ahead of himself making wild predictions of imminent end to the peak oil question.

  • Ken Marks

    There is no way to overstate the power of delusion when mixed with the arrogance of the so-called enviornmentalists and the contempt they have for those of us who rationally do not share their utopian (Greek meaning “no where”)view of the future. But environmentalism is not really about the environment. It’s about exercising political power (fueled by arrogance and contemp) to control people’s lives.

    Therefore, you won’t be seeing the “green” movement or the wasting of money on “green” energy sources dying anytime soon.

    Ken Marks

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