Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Envireligion of California

The state Public Utility Commission voted 3-1 to approve the California Solar Initiative, which would provide $2.9 billion in consumer rebates for solar panels between 2007 and 2016. Last month, the five-member PUC approved $300 million in rebates for 2006.
The initiative aims to install 3,000 megawatts of solar electricity on the rooftops of one million homes, businesses and public buildings over the next ten years.
Solar advocates said the $3.2 billion program would make solar energy more affordable, create jobs, reduce air pollution and cut emissions of heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming.

There are lots of reasons to dislike this plan.  First off, it is going to reduce the demand for an alternative to fossil fuels that are actually sustainable.  In areas of the country that do not get consistent sunshine, solar just isn’t a practical option.

Secondly, this probably isn’t going to have a substantial effect on making solar power more affordable to install on single family homes.  As the demand rises (and it will rise swiftly) supplies will diminish (very quickly) causing the distributors of the solar technology to raise their prices (assuming that government doesn’t step in to make the shortages permanent).

Meanwhile consumers are still going to be paying for solar panels, they savings are probably larger than they would have gotten without the rebates, but it certainly won’t be $2.9 billion.

Third, is it a fair question to ask where the Public Utility Commission is going to get this $2.9 billion?  Taxes?  If so then the citizens of California will be subsidizing the Envireligion of wealthy Californians that can afford to invest in solar power, or at the very least the poor are giving up programs that could have otherwise benefited from that money.

Perhaps the money is coming from increased energy fees – so the bills of every consumer will go up.  Doesn’t this disproportionally effect those at the bottom?  The very ones that won’t receive ANY benefit from such a program?

I simply can’t see any reason why this policy is a good idea from either a progressive or conservative viewpoint unless you happen to subscribe to a religion that says anything that superficially benefits the environment is worth any price.

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