The Tea Party “Hearts” the Sierra Club

11 Sep

ImageTime to dust off the vinyl, fire up the turntable, and put on the Youngbloods… “Come on people now, smile on your brother. Everybody get together, try to love one another right now…”

It’s nice when groups who normally oppose each other find some common ground, don’t you think? (HT to Cluster and Mitch on that score) Well, in Georgia, of all places, the Atlanta Tea Party and the Sierra Club have decided to get in bed together and have a veritable love-fest. Says Tea Party spokesman Debbie Dooley:

“Some people may have done a double take on July 11 when they saw me and fellow members of the Atlanta Tea Party celebrating next to the Sierra Club as it was announced that Georgia’s largest energy provider will invest in a huge increase in solar power. Why was the Tea Party rallying with groups across the aisle like the Sierra Club?

It’s time for a new party. I’m calling it the Green Tea Coalition.”

Can I get a holy crap? C’mon, say it with me… HOLY CRAP! And what happened in Georgia is not just a weird, one-off thing, either. The Wisconsin Libertarian party is likewise teaming up with the local clean energy group, RENEW, to endorse a proposal to allow the state’s electricity customers to lease solar panels and other small renewable energy generators. The reason, of course, is that rooftop solar is very rapidly approaching grid parity with fossil fuel generation. In fact, it already has in a growing number of regions.

One could certainly argue that there’s a bit of irony in tea party groups endorsing solar power (just a bit), given how much government money has been invested in stimulating the market to reach this point (the German government in particular deserves a lot of credit in that regard). Considering that, you’d think they’d look a little friendlier at the concept of “dancing with who brung ya”. But hey, no sense in spoiling the party right now.  Grab your partner and have another cup of green tea.

One final point: manufacturing costs have gotten so low that these days the only barrier to making solar power widely available at grid parity prices (or lower) is the soft costs involved – the costs of financing, licensing, and installation. And as Dave Roberts explains, the utility companies are getting ready to fight tooth and nail against further encroachment. Why? Because distributed power generation will destroy their business model.  That last link is a must read, by the way. It will help you understand why your local utility, and likewise the fossil fuel companies who supply them, are likely to complain loudly, vociferously, and at length at any attempt to integrate distributed power of any ilk.


Posted by on September 11, 2013 in Uncategorized


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21 responses to “The Tea Party “Hearts” the Sierra Club

  1. Cluster

    September 11, 2013 at 8:05 am

    One of the great misconceptions of conservatives, and I believe Tea Partiers (although I am not a member), is that we are against government. On the contrary, we are against bloated, ineffective, all authoritarian government. There is definitely a role to be played by the government in transitioning to solar power, or other alternative energy platforms, but that role doesn’t include rewarding Solyndra and their Obama-donating executives HUGE government grants. That’s just corruption. If I were able to harness solar power and shed myself of paying the local power company, I would jump for joy. Furthermore, if I could get “off the grid”, like Jackson Brown has, that would be even better. Large, government-regulated utility companies are just as bad as large government bureaucracies of any flavor, and the more we can “decentralize” utility usage, the better.

    Big government liberals are only in favor of green energy because of the populist nature of it which wins them elections, and the money involved. But if you actually look at the desired goals of the green energy movement, which is a more self sufficient, widely distributed, and cheaper energy means, they are very conservative in nature.

  2. GMB

    September 11, 2013 at 11:04 am

    “we are against bloated, ineffective, all authoritarian government”

    I’ll witness for that congregation brother. Can I have an Amen! Can we also have a few hundred thousand needless been counters off the tax payer payrolls to go with that?

    As far as as the big energy distributors, go ahead and destroy them, large corporations are just as much part of the problem as this monster of a government we have.

  3. ricorun

    September 11, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Cluster: There is definitely a role to be played by the government in transitioning to solar power, or other alternative energy platforms, but that role doesn’t include rewarding Solyndra and their Obama-donating executives HUGE government grants.

    Okay, so now we heard what that role doesn’t include. Now tell me what it DOES include. I really want to know, because despite the lip service you and others pay, you don’t seem to be FOR anything. Germany dramatically accelerated the production and deployment of solar PV using feed in tariffs (FITs). But I’m guessing you (and the Tea Party) are not in favor of those. Likewise, it’s obvious that you are not in favor of cap and trade or a carbon tax. If you think Solyndra was a major clusterfuck then you’re probably not in favor of production tax credits (PTCs), loan guarantees, or development grants, either. So what does that leave? Earmarks?

    Okay, I’m kidding about the earmarks. More or less. (note to self: that’s not a bad subject for a future post). But seriously, what ARE you for?

    • Cluster

      September 11, 2013 at 3:55 pm

      There are a lot of things the government can do to incentivize end users, investors, and industries, and just off the top of my head I might consider:

      – giving 100% tax breaks on their investment to end users (home owners) who outfit their homes with solar

      – I would give tax breaks, and possibly matching funds to venture capitalists who presented viable investment opportunities into solar, wind, etc, industries.

      – I would make tax incentives, or possibly even waive taxes for a period of time, to green energy companies that had solid business plans and models.

      – I might even partner with those companies in marketing, distribution, and employment efforts.

      – I also might offer a huge reward for the individual, or company who first develops a mass produceable, affordable energy alternative to fossil fuels.

      In the case of Solyndra, government money was simply handed over to a company that was making a product that was being sold for far less by foreign competitors – not exactly a good business plan. And as it turned out, the company went broke and the left over product, which was very expensive, was destroyed.

  4. meursault1942

    September 11, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    • ricorun

      September 11, 2013 at 3:53 pm

      Thanks meursalt. It is VERY relevant to the discussion. And I think something else that is relevant is the fact that solar PV (or wind, for that matter) don’t use any water. No thermal energy source can say that — not any fossil fuel – driven plant, not solar thermal, and definitely not nuclear. Likewise, the fracking technique used to recover tight oil and gas, as well as the recovery techniques employed in tar sands development use an ungodly amount of water. And that’s becoming a bigger and bigger problem (which is to say a bigger and bigger “externality”) as time goes on — especially in water-scarce regions like southwest USA.

  5. Fredrick Schwartz, D.S.V.J., O.Q.H. [Journ.]

    September 11, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    Holy crap!

  6. mitchethekid

    September 11, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    • GMB

      September 12, 2013 at 3:05 am

      I would love to be able to start digging up old landfills. Waste, if it be money or just scrap metals, doesn’t suit me at all. How to make it profitable though? If you have any ideas please share them.

      Turning pizza into energy sounds like a good idea. What your article didn’t explain was where that plant got it’s funding and how much it costs to produce that energy that powers just 900 homes compared to any other power source..

  7. mitchethekid

    September 12, 2013 at 9:02 am

    Ricorun, I don’t think anybody has given you credit for the Youngbloods Woodstock video, but I will. I noticed on the right side other related videos and saw Joni Mitchell. The Hissing of Summer Lawns is one of my all time favorites. She was so far ahead of her time with that album. Jazz fusion, African rhytm’s and insightful, expressive lyrics. I’ve always thought it was her masterpiece.

    • ricorun

      September 12, 2013 at 10:56 pm

      Are you married Mitch? If not, I think I may have just the girl for you! More about that privately, lol!

      Joni is one of my favorites, too. I can’t pick a favorite album, but if I were asked to pick my favorite Joni Mitchell song it would be “Blue”. I have one tattoo, and it’s all various shades of blue. It wasn’t intended to be representative of any one thing, but if you remember her comment on her Miles of Aisles disk to the effect, “No one ever asked Van Gogh to paint “Starry Night” again”, well, that’s where it started. I am a big Joni fan, a big fan of Van Gogh, as well as a big fan of Miles Davis. So I combined all of those elements into “ink on a pin”. So… 20 points towards your next cup of coffee, not to mention the possibility of love eternal, if you can identify which song that last quote came from!

      • mitchethekid

        September 13, 2013 at 3:51 am

        If I had to pick 2 desert island favorites, it would be Edith and the Kingpin and Don’t interrupt the Sorrow, the later of which seems to be a very accurate description of the contemporary condition all of us are in. “God goes up the chimney, like childhood Santa Claus. The good slave loves the good book, a rebel loves a cause”. “Don’t interrupt the sorrow. Darn right. In flames our prophet witches be polite”.

  8. ricorun

    September 12, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    GMB: Turning pizza into energy sounds like a good idea. What your article didn’t explain was where that plant got it’s funding and how much it costs to produce that energy that powers just 900 homes compared to any other power source.

    I can’t answer those questions with any specificity either. The fact is, those considerations have to be evaluated pretty much every single one of them

    In general, though, organic waste-to-power plants (of which there are several types) are pretty expensive to build, and they are relatively risky. Said in another way, if the high capital investment costs are not defrayed by some sort of loan guarantee, their potential value would never be realized. On the other hand, their potential value can be considerable. Consider this: that waste has to go somewhere. It either goes into a landfill, goes into the air, or is dumped in the ocean. Sometimes it’s all three. No one should be dumping into the ocean anymore. And if they do, at least in this country, it’s illegal (at least I’m pretty sure it is). That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen (I’m pretty sure it does). Nor does it mean everyone in the world lives in the US (that’s something I’m sure about!). But I think that when it happens, it’s an issue so egregious that everyone of pretty much every political persuasion can agree that the perpetrators should be prosecuted (bailiff, whack his pee pee!). So enough said about that. If it goes into a landfill, the site is oftentimes situated many miles from the source of the waste, increasing transportation costs as well as wear and tear on the roads and other transportation infrastructure elements in between. When it gets to the landfill the waste can leak toxic substances into the ground as well as emit all kinds of gasses (methane, nitrogen compounds, sulfur compounds) into the atmosphere. Plus, they stink! That’s gotta be worth something, right? I’m pretty sure that only in South Park is that a plus.

    What I’m trying to say is that the cost of the power is just a small part of the equation for installations such as the one Mitch mentioned. They pay off in other ways — (i.e., in all the negative externalities they mitigate and the occasional positive externality they enhance). For example, they dramatically reduce the need for landfill space. They eliminate the gases that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere. They eliminate the complications that would ensue if toxic chemicals leaked into the groundwater. They allow the retrieval of heavy metals (which is not trivial). They reduce wear and tear on (and use of) the surrounding transportation infrastructure. And they create jobs in areas close to where the waste was generated. All of those things (I’m sure there’s more, but that’s what I can remember off the top of my head) add considerable value to installations such as the one Mitch mentioned.

    Those are all real things — real costs and sometimes benefits — that one could very well argue SHOULD HAVE BEEN figured into the costs and benefits of the original transaction IF ONE IS SERIOUS about arguing that a simple model of supply and demand makes any freakin’ sense. But they weren’t, and it doesn’t. They weren’t for many reasons, but they still weren’t. Consequently, it still doesn’t. That’s the bottom line.

    I also argue that even under the simplest of conceptions, Cluster’s litany of tax breaks and tax incentives (assuming they aren’t just lip service to begin with) can only address the inequalities in external benefits among various providers while leaving the more important issue — the external costs — largely unaddressed.

  9. ricorun

    September 12, 2013 at 11:12 pm

    Cluster: One of the great misconceptions of conservatives, and I believe Tea Partiers (although I am not a member), is that we are against government. On the contrary, we are against bloated, ineffective, all authoritarian government.

    Well then, even though (or because) you didn’t endorse any of the programs that actually worked to effectively bring solar PV within grid parity, I guess we can award you the Luddite of the Year Award!

    The award is a hat, and it’s a great hat. It has lots of roots and dirt and stuff. You’ll love it.

    • Cluster

      September 13, 2013 at 4:23 am

      Did they need my endorsement? Or just my tax money? I am not sure that solar is currently at grid parity otherwise it would be a lot more common.

    • ricorun

      September 13, 2013 at 3:27 pm

      Cluster I am not sure that solar is currently at grid parity otherwise it would be a lot more common.

      Do you even remember what this post was about Cluster? It was about Tea Partiers and environmental types getting together to FORCE utilities to make the changes necessary to make them more amenable to solar power. And that IS a common problem. Utilities really, really don’t like to do that because it destroys their business model. I also talked about that, too. Sheesh!

      There are other issues as well, but if you live in an area where the utility is stonewalling you can pretty much forget about breaking even in any reasonable amount of time. But assuming you live in an area where the utility has seen the light (so to speak) there are other issues as well. Primary among them is the substantial cost involved in fitting your home (or commercial property) with solar panels. So even though the investment is bound to pay off, it’s not easy right now to get second mortgages or improvement loans. I’m guessing you know that pretty well too. But yet it’s somehow still a mystery to you why solar isn’t a lot more common. I find that incredible.

      Another issue is that it remains a fact that the best form of energy investment is increasing one’s energy efficiency. There’s nothing cheaper than not using energy in the first place, and it’s pretty darned cheap to significantly cut one’s energy use. I recently bought a bunch of CFL light bulbs for $0.50 a piece. Even the price of LED bulbs are dropping like stones. Adding insulation to your attic is usually a piece of cake, but very effective. Likewise insulating your hot water lines. Double-paned high efficiency replacement windows make a huge difference in both winter and summer, and they’re not that hard to put in. We did all that stuff (plus added some shade elements on the west side of the house) and we got our electricity bill down to under $50/mo on average, and our gas bill under $20/mo. And that’s in Southern California, where energy is supposed to be really expensive. Seriously, I’m paying less now for energy than I did in Austin, TX back in the early 80s — and that’s without correcting for inflation!

      • Cluster

        September 13, 2013 at 6:45 pm


        There are factors other than utility company obstruction preventing solar from reaching grid parity.

      • ricorun

        September 13, 2013 at 7:46 pm

        Read my post again Cluster. Is there anything you’d like to add by way of “other factors preventing solar from reaching grid parity”?

      • Cluster

        September 14, 2013 at 8:21 am

        It could be argued that solar is already at grid parity in some regions, but geography is a big obstacle to wider parity and acceptance, as are the soft costs already mentioned.

  10. ricorun

    September 14, 2013 at 9:45 am

    Not so much. The big obstacle is available financing vehicles and the installed cost.

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