Tuesday, August 26, 2008

They Came to the Right Place

Backers of not-ready-for-primetime energy technologies are out in force at the DNC, looking for a government crutch to lean on, reports the Denver Post -- showing that the "new energy economy" touted by Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, Barack Obama and other Democrats is and will be predicated on massive government intervention, from research support to subsidies to manipulations of energy markets through mandates and other means. And if they were looking for easy marks, they came to the right place.

"From the eye-catching 131-foot wind turbine on display near the Colorado Convention Center to the onslaught of industry-sponsored events, the burgeoning renewable energy industry is using the Democratic National Convention as its coming-out party," writes the Denver Post.

For some, the hope is to shine the spotlight on their new technologies. For others, the goal is to garner influence with politicians and regulators.

"They drive tax breaks," said Sam Ley, chief designer for Boulder-based Standard Renewable Energy. "They drive laws that affect whether or not HOAs (homeowner associations) can ban renewable energy systems.

"In a new industry like this, the only way any company can survive is if everybody bands together," Ley said.

Band together to get their hands in the taxpayers' pockets, that is, or to get government to regulate them an advantage in the marketplace.

Ron Lehr of the American Wind Energy Association -- who once (not surprisingly) chaired Colorado's Public Utilities Commission -- told The Post that "securing political favor" is the goal. The top priority for Lehr and a gaggle of subsidy-chasing allies is to see that federal wind and solar tax credits are extended indefinitely. A second priority, according to reports, is approval of national renewable energy production quotas, similar to those that many states, including Colorado, have adopted.

Since as far back as the last energy crisis, I've been hearing and reading about how wind, solar and other renewables are just on the verge of major breakthroughs that will make them cost competitive with traditional, "dirty" energy technologies. All they need is a little assist from Uncle Sam and they'll be able to stand, and compete, on their own. Yet such pronouncements are belied by the chronic inability of these niche energy technologies to deliver on those promises -- and to stand on their own, without leaning on the government crutch.

If they're looking for enthusiastic enablers, they'll find them at the DNC.

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