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Friday, February 27, 2009

Banks Wimping Out, Stimulus Just What Renewable Energy Needs

Leave it to the private sector to solve the recession, and worthy projects will die for lack of capital while bank execs hoard their perks. That's why the stimulus package is exactly what we need.

One industry poised to put that federal aid to work: renewable energy. From Wednesday's Marketplace:

SAM EATON: By injecting billions of dollars into renewable energy projects, the federal stimulus package aims to do one thing -- fill the financial void left in the wake of the banking crisis. New Energy Capital CEO Scott Brown says the number of big banks willing to finance wind and solar projects has dropped from nearly two dozen to a handful.

SCOTT BROWN: Lehman, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Citigroup, Wachovia. All of those players essentially are now out of the market.

Taking with them the principle funding mechanism that made renewable energy the fastest growing source of power. Rhone Resch with the Solar Energy Industries Association says the federal stimulus package narrowly averts a catastrophe.

RHONE RESCH: We have literally hundreds of projects that are in the queue, we've got thousands of installers ready to go and warehouses filled with equipment. What we were lacking was the financing to get these projects off the shelf and moving forward. We now have that through the stimulus bill. [Sam Eaton, "Stimulus Enables Green to Grow," Marketplace, 2009.02.25]

There are no guarantees of success, but this lifeline to the renerable energy industry is a good example of how government action in a time of crisis can create jobs and economic activity, not to mention pleasant side effects like environmental gains and energy security.


  1. Allowing off shore drilling in the US and opening up drilling in oil shale in this country would create many, many jobs also, and also help free us from reliance on foreign oil. Give me one rational argument against that! Green is good, but for a long time hence we also depend on oil, and no one can change that, even the mighty O.

  2. [Ah, the regular morning O comment from desperate Anon....]

    Regardless of the merits of more offshore drilling (that's a whole 'nother post, but as Apple would say, think different), the fact Anon ought to be celebrating is that in the renewable energy industry, the stimulus appears poised to do exactly what it is supposed to do: restore jobs, boost the economy, and improve our energy security. Anon appears to ahve no rational argument against that and wants to distract us with a different discussion.

  3. Anon 7:35

    If we opened up all of the offshore oil in all of our coastal waters it would only provide less than .1% of our current need. Let's say we went to town on ANWAR also:


    ANWAR can at most produce less than 900k BPD, again, less than 1% of our consumption. Those reserves provide an inconsequential amount of oil and are not a solution. Quit watching FOX news.

    Secondly, extracting oil from oil shale is only profitable when oil is ~$100 per barrel plus:


    Additionally, there are no restrictions on oil shale production. No one is stopping you from grabbing your shovel and heading off to North Dakota to make your fortune.

    Similarly, renewable energy is not profitable now, but is closer than oil shale extraction.

    Honestly, if we must choose between two technologies to subsidize, does it really make sense to you to choose the one with the finite lifespan? The one that will come to an end and force up to adopt the other? The one that does not have a financial advantage?

  4. The whole idea of "green" is to get us off dependence on foreign oil. And we have cars and industries dpeendent on oil that will not be converted to green immediately even if that were available, which it IS NOT. Only makes sense to use our own resources too. You haven't given me any rational reason not to.

  5. You know, Anon, I didn't set out to make such an argument against offshore drilling or oil shale in the first place. But I think Tony just did. Go, Tony!

  6. Anon 12:07

    So you accept my position that our current oil reservoirs are insufficient for really any use but do not consider that a "rational reason not to?"?

    Would you also support the government subsidizing the production of buggy whips? How about carburetors? Maybe vacuum tubes?

    Off shore drilling and oil shale production will incur significant environmental damage in addition to being both economical and functionally infeasible. Additionally, this would just be subsidizing another dying technology.

    Why not subsidize a technology that will be useful in the future? You also seem to accept that "Green" is the only future. Why wouldn't you choose to subsidize what will take over inevitably? Green has a future, hydrocarbons don't. (at least non-synthetically produced ones)

  7. I don't accept your position that there is insufficient oil off shore to make it worthwhile to drill, and I daresay you don't know either. All I'm saying is that our economy runs on oil and there is no way we can transition immediately to something else even if it were available, which it isn't.

    Green might be good, but it is over-hyped too. We can look at new technology at the same time we continue to develop what we need to use right now and will for quite awhile in the future. We can do both. But the enviornmentalists and "greenies" only want new technology. Are you going to buy my automobiles that currently run on oil and give me new green ones? Most people can't run out and buy a new car, especially with the economy the say it is. Unless we can find Obama's secret stash and use some of that; he seems to have a never-ending well.

  8. Here are the current reserves including all offshore sources:


    7.5 MBPD, 8 years. We consume 20.8 MBPD. If we exhaust all of our recoverable reserves at the maximum theoretical rate we could possibly satisfy 1/3 of our demand for 8 years.

    Of course we wouldn't transition immediately. The question is what we want to transition towards.

    Your position is to grab more oil which we will run out of in 8 years at our current consumption rate. Further it can only satisfy 1/3 of our demand at best so we will still be completely defendant on foreign sources.

    My position is that it makes sense to put all of our future investment into green forms of energy production. Green technology has a future.

    Again, why would we choose to invest in a technology that has a very limited life span? We know it will come to an end.

  9. No one knows for sure how much oil is there. We can "transition toward" all we want. We still have to drive our gas cars and use oil for all the other stuff set up to function on gas for quite a number of years, and it only makes sense to be as independent as we can until then. Lots of this green technology has been worked on for quiie awhile and hasn't proven itself.

  10. Following is another opinion, granted by oil execs which you will discount, by I also discount your report from MSNBC.

    "Mr. Nichols of Devon said that current Gulf of Mexico reserves are eight times greater than initial estimates made before production began. That means, he suggesed, that unexplored U.S. offshore oil and gas resources are likely a lot bigger than decades-old geological surveys suggest."



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