The Sun Also Rises — But Not Solar Power

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A recent article allows me to reflect on one of my favorite topics — so-called renewable energy — as well as think ahead to the upcoming election.

The article concerns the infamous Tonopah Solar Energy plant. In 2011, the Obama DOE (Department of Energy) gave a $737 million loan to Tonopah to finance the $1.1 billion Crescent Dunes Solar project in Nevada. The plant was funded between 2011 and 2013. But very soon it faced technical problems.

As noted in an earlier report, in 2014 the plant only generated 45% of the power California had contracted for, and in 2015 only 68%. By 2015 it was already obsolete, and an outage forced the plant to shut down from October 2016 to July 2017. Another outage hit in April of last year, shutting it down to this day.

Solar Reserve, the main developer of the Crescent Project, filed for bankruptcy in November of last year. Tonopah owes the DOE over $424 million and finally reached a settlement late last month: Tonopah will pay back $200 million to the taxpayers. This is a fraction of what Uncle Sugar loaned the company, but then creditors seldom get much back in a bankruptcy settlement.

I give credit to the Trump DOE for retrieving at least some of the money that the Obama administration squandered on the Tonopah fiasco. And I continue to blame Obama — as I did in countless articles at the time — for funding dubious “green energy” projects, many run by businesses owned by people who had connections to the Obama regime.

Trump is basically protectionist, anti-free-trade, anti-immigrant (often demagogically nativist), with a knack for alienating allies and accommodating enemies.

Here I will pass from reflection to prediction. I have tried to be fair with the Trump regime when possible, tried to be intellectually honest. I have written pieces pointing to some things that Trump has done that seemed good to me. But on the whole, his reign has been wretched. Yes, he appointed some conservative judges — which any other Republican would have done. And he did use his executive powers to cut some regulations, which the next Democrat president will reverse on the first day in office. He also cut taxes for some people — though raised them on others.

The Boss has governed as the narcissistic populist he appeared to be. That is, he is basically protectionist, anti-free-trade, anti-immigrant (really, often demagogically nativist), with a knack for alienating allies and accommodating enemies. (It took a plague that China inflicted upon us to arouse in him the level of antipathy he viscerally feels for Germany, Canada, and Mexico.) He has appointed a string of competent people only to ignore their advice and push them out. And his abysmal lack of coherent leadership is most apparent in his policy flip-flopping about COVID-19.

So I think Joe Biden will be the next president. Just let those words slip off your tongue: “President Biden!” Say it, savor it — what a soporific prospect. Now, the question is: how will he govern? I would suggest he will be like Obama on Quaaludes.

It is not widely known, but oil production under Obama’s reign more than doubled.

Since this is a reflection on energy policy, let me unpack that remark. Obama was your typical Green Progressive. He professed to want to end the use of fossil fuels (to stop global warming), and so — being as scientifically ignorant as most Green Progressives are — instead of taking the obvious route of nuclear power, he pushed solar and wind power. To this end he shoveled billions of dollars at dicey solar and wind energy projects, and exempted those projects from environmental regulations protecting wildlife. Wind and solar, it turns out, are massively lethal to birds, killing about half a million of them a year — including raptors, many them members of endangered species.

But Obama was clever in this instance. While he took no action to help the fracking revolution, he took none to stop it, either. It is not widely known, but oil production under Obama’s reign more than doubled. And to my amazement at the time, he did something I complemented him for doing. He signed a repeal of the stupid 50-year-old law prohibiting American oil companies from exporting domestically produced oil.

I suspect that Biden will play the same game when he is president. He will placate the scientific ignoramuses in the environmentalist movement by bashing fossil fuels and ignoring nuclear energy. And he will shovel massive amounts of taxpayer cash at wind and solar projects, probably with the same corrupt ties to his campaign. But I doubt he will shut down fracking, There are just too many jobs — especially union jobs — dependent on it. And there is just too much geopolitical power dependent on our energy independence — which is what fracking has given us.

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