The Week in Review: The return on our 'investments'

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them. Just enter your email in the box on the top right.

For today's week-in-review email, Andy looks at the recently concluded National Clean Energy Summit and finds that federal funding of renewable-energy projects has simply not produced a surge in green-energy jobs as predicted.

The return on our 'investments'

"Facts," John Adams once famously said, "are stubborn things."

I recalled this quote while reading Kyle Gillis' coverage of Sen. Harry Reid's fifth annual National Clean Energy Summit, which was held Tuesday in Las Vegas.

A constant theme at these summits has been that "investing" (i.e., spending large sums of taxpayer dollars) in renewable-energy projects will do more than simply produce environmental benefits. It will also be a boon to job creation and economic growth. On Tuesday, former president Bill Clinton, the event's keynote speaker, sounded that now-familiar note, saying that if each state were to adopt a renewable-energy standard, it would "put a lot of people back to work."

It's a contention we hear often from the current administration as well. On the same day Reid held his Las Vegas summit, the White House issued a press release announcing that it was expediting approval for "seven nationally and regionally significant solar and wind energy projects," which Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar says "have great potential to grow our nation's energy independence, drive job creation, and power economies across the west."

The problem is that this "potential" has been put to the test, over and over. Instead of debating the theoretical, we can actually see - and evaluate - the tangible results. And while we're constantly being told that public subsidies in renewable-energy projects will drive job growth, the stubborn facts say otherwise.

As Kyle reported in his story previewing Tuesday's summit, "over $1.3 billion in federal funds funneled into geothermal, solar and wind projects [in Nevada] since 2009 has yielded and is projected to yield just 288 permanent, full-time jobs. That's an initial cost of over $4.6 million per job."

I had a chance to appear on the Fox Business Network this week to discuss this story, and I highlighted a few examples of how substantial federal funding of renewable-energy projects has failed to produce the predicted surge in green-energy jobs. One particularly egregious example is a solar plant in Primm that is set to receive $50 million but employs only two people full-time:

(Click above or here to view the video)

After years of rosy assurances and more than $1.3 billion in handouts in Nevada alone, we're not getting anywhere near the return on our "investments" that renewable-energy advocates promised. By their own standards, their policies have failed. And this is to say nothing of the additional fact that renewable energy costs up to four times more than electricity from coal and natural gas.

Unless and until the renewable-energy sectors find a way to offer their products in a way that is respectful of the laws of economics - at which point there should be no need for government subsidies - they are simply not viable solutions to our energy (or economic) challenges.

It's long past time for devotees of the green cause to face that simple fact, and to stop throwing taxpayers' hard-earned money down the renewable-energy sinkhole.

Have a great weekend, and I'll see you next time.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President

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