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NYT Blinded by the Sun


To hear the Gray Lady tell it, it’s solar power’s time to shine, the green energy source is here to stay, and those skeptical of its efficacy or its effect on energy prices are polemicists. That’s the gist of a recent article it ran on the virtues of solar power. The piece rattles off some impressive numbers detailing solar’s rapid ascendance—especially in Europe—before explaining why solar has been so successful:

The rapid expansion of renewable energy generation in Europe has been driven by policy, and specifically by the provision of relatively high guaranteed prices for renewable energy sold into the transmission grid — known as feed-in tariffs.

To spur solar, governments have to incentivize producers with guaranteed long-term rates because the energy source wouldn’t be able to compete with fossil fuels on price otherwise. Of course, someone has to cover those subsidies, which is why consumers in Germany—both households and businesses—are paying exorbitant rates for electricity, rates so high that many businesses are fleeing Europe for shale-rich America’s better business climate.

The NYT‘s specious defense of Europe’s feed-in tariffs is threefold: first it points out that Britain recently negotiated feed-in tariffs for a new nuclear energy plant, second it cites a study that found the costs of feed-in tariffs are outweighed by their benefits, and finally argues that removing the tariff, as Spain has done, would cause irreparable harm to the industry. But do these arguments hold water?

First, it isn’t clear how Britain’s decision to pay out the nose for nuclear excuses solar’s problems. Secondly, the article cited was released in 2011, the year Germany’s energiewende kicked in. Costs have soared since then, making this two-year old study outdated. And third, since when has “we started so we can’t stop now” been an good reason to charge ahead?

Europe’s green energy policy is a disaster—even Brussels can see that. Greens, and the NYT, like to credit the continent’s propped-up renewables industry for a recent downtick in emissions, but a sluggish economy has had far more to do with that “green” progress. Higher electricity costs will continue to hold back a European recovery, so in a sense, solar’s feed-in tariffs are accomplishing their goal. Just not the way green policymakers had planned.

[Broken solar panel image courtesy of Getty Images]

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  • Andrew Allison

    It’s “through the nose”!

  • crabtown

    And third, since when has “we started so we can’t stop now” been an good reason to charge ahead?

    • Corlyss

      In administrations with no humility, doubling down on bad ideas has always been better than admitting a mistake. Besides, Obamacare is not really a mistake. It’s all about power. Now that the Statists know Americans are more than willing to give up control and privacy for a few shekels in subsidies, they won’t stop till it becomes a functioning reality.

    • Bill_Woods

      Obamacare is ‘too big to fail’….

  • Corlyss

    Two things the NYT SHOULD have covered:

    1. The typhoon as a manifestation of the President’s lousy policies. Of course it’s absurd but let’s all recall that was exactly what they did re: Bush and the Indonesian tsunami.

    2. The fact that Doofus-in-Chief declined to attend the 150 anniversary celebrations around the Gettysburg Address. Apparently he felt his rhetoric wouldn’t hold up in comparison to Lincoln’s. Let’s think for a second: is there anyone alive today who could hope to match that rhetoric? And since when did the celebrations become a contest to see who could match or best Lincoln? Naturally, Doofus’ take on it is that the celebration would be all about him.

    There’s no end to the extent to which this sorry a*s in the White House disappoints – the ways are too numerous to catalogue.

  • lukelea

    What’s that old definition of a fanatic? Someone who redouble his effort when things don’t go the way he expected.

    I’ll be curious to see if the NYT issues post mortem once the alarmist global warming “consensus” finally breaks down? Or will they just quietly move on?

    Viewed purely as a social phenomenon, global warming hysteria has been a fascinating example of the madness and delusion of crowds.

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