A report by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) found that power from the sun could generate 15 percent of America's power in the next decade, but only if Washington levels the playing field on subsidies. The fossil fuel industry, led by oil and coal, received $72 billion in total federal subsidies from 2002 to 2008, but earlier this year President Obama called for those subsidies to end. [...] But during that same 7-year period, the solar industry got less than $1 billion, says SEIA. Putting the subsidies even with those for fossil fuels would create jobs and dramatically cut the country's global warming causing emissions.
This from the solar industry lobby SEIA, shameless shills who among other things are promoting an disgustingly-named "Solar Bill of Rights", demanding such "rights" to the solar industry as free access to public lands (#5), and free electric transmission (#3) (that is, the right of solar owners to force utilities to buy their electricity at retail rates, rather than much lower utility rates paid to ordinary power plants -- forcing them to transmit electricity at loss), and the "right" of the solar industry to "require" utilities to sell solar power (#7), and of course the "right" to massive government subsidies (#4), hypocritically named "right to a fair competitive environment".
It's that last perversion of rights which is what this latest PR release is about. The solar industry PR wizards are trying to sell an absurdity - that fossil fuels only exists because they are heavily subsidized, the playing field is tilted in their favor, and solar power would actually flourish and thrive if only those subsidies were removed. It's about fairness! Naturally this 'worldview', no matter how blatantly it challenges reality, is something many people will simply accept, because it is a convenient and comforting narrative. Fossil companies are evil; solar companies are plucky underdogs. Fossil subsidies are a perfect scapegoat for solar's failure: it's a simple explanation which simultaneously vindicates solar (they'd win, if only the playing field was fair), demonizes oil companies (thieves!), and the policymakers, err, oil-military-industrial complex (polluters!). The cynical solar shills know very well how to manipulate public opinion.
First, they try to paint $72 billion in fossil subsidies 2002-2008 as a large sum, with their intented implication that the fossil industry is dependent on these incentives for survival, or at least significant competitive advantage. Simply removing these subsidies would cause a "solar boom", so they must be very important subsidies. Obviously what they've willfully omitted is the scale of the fossil industry for comparison. At typically 20 million barrels oil/day and maybe $60/barrel averaged over the time period (7 years), US revenue for oil alone would be on the order of $3 trillion. Fossil subsidies, in proportion, were less than 2% of the fossil revenues. It is, I suggest, obvious nonsense that fossil fuels only hang on by a razor-thin 2% competitive margin.
And this isn't even the full picture - to begin to talk about "level playing fields", we must look at special incentives in both directions, subsidies and taxes. Oil may get 2% in special subsidies but they pay 20% in special taxes - 45.6 c/kWh average gas tax in the US. Order of $350 billion over the same time period for gasoline alone. The net incentives are tilted against fossil fuels! And in Europe, the oil taxes are far higher - over 100% even - and despite this oil dominates transport fuel.
But if they only stopped the 2% fossil fuel subsidies, everything would change!
Now for the hypocrisy -- the single grubbiest subsidy-sucker in the world is solar power, by enormous margins. Start with their whiny sob-story...
But during that same 7-year period, the solar industry got less than $1 billion, says SEIA.
Boo-hoo! During that 7-year period the solar industry only generated 4.2 TWhe, worth barely $350 million at the average retail rate of 8.32 c/kWh. Their subsidies were bigger than their honest revenue!
And this is just scratching the surface - the USA measures very low in solar support levels (hence solar adoption rates, naturally). Let's look around:
Spain's direct subsidies to solar power are 575%, legally guaranteed for 25 years. Attempts to reduce the subsidies caused the market to instantly collapse, which shows what the solar market really runs on.
Germany's subsidies are 47 c€/kWh (about 68 c/kWh currently). At current utility prices (what power plants get, not what homeowners pay) of 47 €/MWh (4.7 c€/kWh), this is a 1,000% subsidy. (Retail prices are far higher - almost 20 c€/kWh - but this is not the selling price for power plants; much of it goes towards grid distribution or taxes.)
In case it wasn't obvious, these two countries and their astronomical subsidies represent the vast majority of worldwide solar "demand".
But the crown goes to, of all places, Ontario. Partly because of the even-higher cost of solar power in Canada, and partly because of their exceptionally cheap electricity (52% nuclear, of course, as well as 22% hydropower and 18% coal, also very cheap). With such extraordinarily cheap and clean electricity, and so little sunlight, why, and how far would they support solar panels? Quite far. Their solar subsidies are (Canadian cents) 44.3 c/kWh and 80.2 c/kWh respectively, for commercial and residential installations (about the same in US cents). The market price of electricity there is 4.06 c/kWh - that's what ordinary (non-sanctified) power plants get. So the solar feed-in subsidies, for commercial and rooftop respectively, are a slightly-generous 1,091% and 1,975%.
And the shills dare talk about level playing fields.
By the way, these kinds of numbers never seem to end up in mainstream news. Take the top-ranked NYT article on the subject, which euphemizes the subsidies as "Europe’s Way of Encouraging Solar Power". Absolutely no mention of the actual costs involved, or how they compare. It is a whitewash. Here's how they dishonestly spin the costs:
But requiring utilities to pay extra for green power has a direct impact on ratepayers. Homeowners’ electricity bills will rise 74 cents a month in Gainesville, or about half a percentage point of the average homeowner’s monthly bill.
“Seventy cents — what’s that? A Coke?” said Mr. Regan, of the Gainesville utility.
That is the cost increase to every ratepayer to subsidize the extremely tiny minority with solar panels. See how dishonest it is? Here are the suppressed numbers: the Gainesville subsidy is 32 c/kWh, which is 280% of the average retail rate in Florida.