An ‘elaborate tapestry of mismatched, ineffective, redundant, and short-sighted programs…’
(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) America Rising Squared announced the release of a paper last week that documents the expanse of government subsidies for renewable energy in the United States.
The paper challenges the notion that federal, state, and local subsidies for clean energy have: decreased the prevalence of fossil fuel use; increased the use of renewable energy; and combated climate change.
“Billions in federal and state spending for this elaborate tapestry of mismatched, ineffective, redundant, and short-sighted programs continue to move forward without critical or objective review,” AR2 said in a press release. “The plain fact is that America’s bureaucrats continue to throw billions of taxpayer dollars toward renewable energy without asking the hard and inconvenient questions.”
AR2 advocates for conservative policy positions through research and communications.
The group looked through a North Carolina State University database that collects information about government clean energy programs.
Research revealed about 1,000 programs.
“All fifty states and the District of Columbia have some type of program in addition to seventeen different federal programs,” AR2 said.
Minnesota has 96 renewable energy programs — more than any other state.
California has 53 programs.
At the federal level alone, taxpayers spent $13.6 billion on programs aimed to promote “renewable energy and energy efficiency.”
Taxpayers paid this money, plus more at the state and local levels, to prop up solar, geothermal, and wind energy.
“This puts the government in the role of picking winners and losers in the marketplace,” AR2 said.
Government support for renewable energy over fossil fuel energy has come in more ways than direct subsidies.
“The financial incentives include rebate programs, tax credits, as well as loan and financing options,” AR2 said.
Many states hope to combat climate change and facilitate the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy through standards and goals.
The Obama administration, for example, directed federal agencies to adopt “renewable portfolio standards,” which aimed to reduce fossil fuel use.
President Obama signed an executive order in 2013 directing federal agencies to obtain 20 percent of their electricity from renewable energy by 2020.
AR2 said the executive order will triple the federal government’s reliance on renewable energy, effectively providing a large subsidy to solar, geothermal, and wind companies.
A major problem with government subsidies for renewable energy is redundancy.
AR2 found several states with multiple overlapping programs.
In some cases, federal, state, and local governments all provided subsidies for solar or geothermal technologies.
These subsidies accumulate, reducing the cost of renewable energies to make them competitive with traditional, more cost-effective energy options.
Congress authorized tax credits for solar panels that pay for more than 30 percent of consumer costs.
AR2 found that solar companies and solar consumers received about $3 billion in taxpayer funding in 2014 alone.
Similar subsidies exist for wind producers and consumers.
Congress permitted subsidies for renewable energy companies in the early 2000s to the decades-old technologies a boost, even though they have never been shown to be efficient or economically feasible.
“Originally, the tax incentives for the solar and wind industry were due to expire in 2007, but they have been extended several times and once again were extended in the recent tax reform bill passed by Congress,” AR2 said.
AR2 said lawmakers have not considered the true “environmental cost” of clean energy.
The major environmental harm from clean energy come from producing technology — solar panels, wind turbines, rechargeable batteries, etc.
The group said another environmental cost comes from extracting the rare earth metals — Indium, Gallium, and Tellurium — needed to produce these technologies.
“Rare earth elements are not only hard to find, but also energy intensive to extract and refine,” AR2 said.
“Used in solar panels, electric vehicles (EVs) and wind turbines, these technologies present geopolitical issues, environmental impact and concerns over labor standards.”
Lithium-ion batteries, for example, require large amounts of energy to produce, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The energy required to produce them offsets, to a large degree, the environmental benefits of their use.
The United States has not developed a system to effectively recycle rare earth metals, either.
AR2 reported less than one percent of rare earth metals are recycled.
This strains the limited supply of rare earth metals and poses an environmental threat.
“Environmental activists and the state leaders advocating for these programs fail to confront the fundamental realities that surround supposedly clean technologies,” AR2 said.
AR2 said politicians have made the dichotomy between the environmental impacts of renewable energy and fossil fuel energy too clear-cut.
AR2 argued that fossil fuel energy is not always environmentally safer than renewable energy, especially when the practices to produce renewable energy have not fully developed.
“The process of shaping America’s energy policy, particularly when it comes to renewable energy and their connection to critical materials like rare earth, lacks the essential simplicity for average Americans to understand,” AR2 said. “The government’s objectives appear primarily political, with neither clear ‘big picture’ goals nor the strong leadership needed to chart a logical path forward.”