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Congressman Tom McClintock

Representing the 4th District of California

The High Cost of Solar Subsidies

July 11, 2011

M. Chairman:  This amendment saves $166 million by relieving taxpayers of having to subsidize another year of handouts to the solar industry. 

Solar power is not a new technology.  Photo-voltaic electricity generation was invented by Edmund Becquerel in 1839 – more than 170 years ago.

And in more than 170 years of continuing research and development and technological advancement – not to mention untold billions of taxpayer subsidies – we have not yet been able to invent a MORE EXPENSIVE way to generate electricity.

Yet we’re perfectly comfortable telling our constituents that we’re taking another $166 million from their families this year to throw at this 19th Century technology for no particular reason than it makes us feel good.

Not only is this the most expensive way we have ever invented to generate electricity, it also adds nothing to our baseline power. 

Our electricity systems operate on an integrated grid, meaning that we have to constantly match the power going onto the grid with that coming off.  And since there’s no way to predict when a cloud passing over a solar array will immediately drop the output to zero, we have to construct an equal amount of reliable conventional power to back it up at a moment’s notice. 

In other words, for every kilowatt of solar power we add to the grid, we also have to pay to add an additional kilowatt of backup power.

If this technology was truly on the verge of a breakthrough – it would be the hottest thing on NASDAQ right now – and investors would be tripping over themselves to get a piece of the action. 

They are not.  And we have no right to take our constituents’ money and put it into yet another losing proposition.

We’re told the solar industry is making great strides in the marketplace.  That’s true.  But it is making those strides not on its own merit, but solely because we are hiding its true costs from consumers through massive tax subsidies that we’re borrowing from the Chinese. 

It is true that if you hand over $166 million of taxpayer money to certain solar corporations – those corporations will do very well financially.  But their government-funded windfall comes at the expense not only of the hard-working Americans who are the source of this largess – it comes at the expense of our ability to generate the most energy for the lowest price.

Perhaps it is human nature that the more we invest in our mistakes, the less willing we are to admit them.  But with the mistakes of the last 30 years now contributing to the bankruptcy of our country and the impoverishment of our people, perhaps it is time to tell not only the solar industry – but every part of the energy sector – get off the public dole, compete on your merit, and restore to consumers the accurate and unadulterated price signals they need to make rational choices in the marketplace.




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This amendment to H.R. 2354 (Energy and Water Appropriations Act) was offered by Congressman McClintock on the House Floor on July 11, 2011.