Letter: ​Kelsey Crane, Fairfax

Editor: This week, Bloomberg News reported that a study by the US Department of Energy showed our current grid can perform with wind and solar power. A leaked draft of the Energy Department’s highly anticipated study on grid reliability finds that renewable energy doesn’t harm grid reliability; that market trends, not regulation, have driven the shift to cleaner, safer forms of energy; and that technology like energy efficiency and demand response are actually helping to increase reliability. These findings contradict statements made by high-level Trump administration officials—including Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who has raised concerns about the impact of renewables on the grid.

In the past few months, we’ve seen the Trump administration repeatedly risking public health by trying to move us backwards towards coal, slashing the EPA’s budget and tearing down limits on mercury, smog, and carbon pollution. Donald Trump put a politician who sued the EPA over a dozen times, and helped raise nearly $4 million from corporate polluters in charge of protecting our kids from pollution. Instead, we should be putting more funds into the EPA for programs like The Solar Training Network, which addresses a critical need for high-quality, local, accessible training in solar installation and related skills. This is smart policy that can support economic transition as coal is dwindling in supply, harming our environment, and no longer cost-effective.

This study from experts and President Trump’s own administration show his attacks on clean energy are unfounded— renewable energy does not threaten grid reliability. Trump administration allies, including the former head of Trump’s Energy Department transition team, are already scrambling to downplay the significance of this report because it demonstrates how their attempts at attacking clean energy are out of step with the realities of America’s electricity markets and how they operate.

Despite President Trump’s best efforts, the unstoppable shift to clean energy is already underway, driven by American states, cities, and businesses that see the economic opportunity climate action presents.

There’s a reason why the private market is trending toward clean energy like wind and solar—it’s safe, affordable, and reliable. When will Donald J. Trump catch up?

​Kelsey Crane, Fairfax

8 thoughts on “Letter: ​Kelsey Crane, Fairfax

  • 2017-07-20 at 8:42 am
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    Ms. Crane, can you explain why if solar and wind power are so totally awesome, and the cure for baldness, ingrown toenails, and our energy needs for, like, forever, have they needed billions upon billions of dollars in tax payer subsidies over the years, and do so to this day?

    I’ve been hearing for 45 years how solar panels just needed a “little help” to really take off. 45 years and billions of billions dollars later and they’re still on the government payroll. If they’re so great, then why do they need tax credits and direct subsidies? Why wouldn’t everybody have them?
    Can you answer that question Ms. Crane?

    • 2017-07-20 at 10:23 am
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      Hey Chris,

      That’s a common point we hear in the solar industry, and it’s of course worthy to discuss. I think it’s important to first note that fossil fuels are subsidized far more heavily than solar and wind, and have been for over a century. Just think about the history of the US, let alone the world, and try to imagine how coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear might have been propped up by federal funds, protection, and direct subsidies and programs from the government. We have even fought wars over minerals and deposits. To that end, an International Monetary Fund (IMF) study (quite a conservative group, btw) estimated that global fossil fuel subsidies are around $5.3 trillion annually. That’s a lot, and that’s just one year. Add in the social cost of carbon, which is the external costs associated with health impacts, etc., and that brings in another $200 billion in subsidies a year in the US alone. Before the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy office at DOE, there were the Office of Fossil Energy and the Office of Nuclear, which have spent tens of trillions on subsidies.

      Nuclear wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the government, it’s too expensive for the private sector. Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, was invented by the government, meaning our natural gas boom wouldn’t have happened. Many more examples of this.

      You’re correct that we’ve been subsidizing renewables a bit for a few years, moreso in the Obama era, but I think that’s perfectly reasonable to help spur market incentives in a market which has been unfairly dominated by fossil fuels for almost two centuries.

      It’s true that the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and federal R&D into reducing the price of solar panels has helped the industry a lot, but the industry would absolutely still exist without these, it just wouldn’t have grown as fast. Solar is now more cost competitive than coal, and equal to oil in many cases. Wind is even more cost competitive than that. If all subsidies disappeared today, the industry would still be okay, but it doesn’t have the lobbying power and global strength that the fossil fuel interests have to fairly compete. Just a simple reality.

      In a couple decades, everybody will have some form of access to them. Just look at Germany, China, or India. It’s a reality that just doesn’t exist in most of the US, but it will. California is already at 13% of their electricity mix.

      https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/may/18/fossil-fuel-companies-getting-10m-a-minute-in-subsidies-says-imf

      https://www.forbes.com/sites/energysource/2012/04/25/the-surprising-reason-that-oil-subsidies-persist-even-liberals-love-them/#d2a9a4832792

      • 2017-07-20 at 5:59 pm
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        Ms. Crane, just look at your own linked article. There is great misunderstanding about the “subsidies” that big oil supposedly receives. Allowing manufacturers to deduct their costs immediately rather than depreciating them over time is hardly what any average person would call a subsidy. And as the article states, other manufacturers get that same benefit.

        As to the other oil subsidies, they are really handouts to certain interest groups (heating oil for poor) as opposed to the poor. Feel free to provide the same funding to heat poor families homes via solar (they would receive less BTUs because solar/wind are more expensive) and see if the politicians and effected families agree.

        But how can you suggest that market forces are at play in shifting the sources of energy (true statement) and then complain about Trump deregulating the energy market. It shouldn’t matter.

        And how can you complain about the “dwindling” and “cost [in]effective” coal. If this is really true, you needn’t worry.

        And how can you suggest solar/wind are “reliable” when, by definition, they cannot support a base load? Only nuclear, nat gas, hydro or coal can do that.

        All this shows is that George W. Bush was correct. He increased funding to basic research on renewable fuels so that eventually market forces would result in a natural conversion. He resisted efforts at artificial quotas and energy trading schemes that would enrich the connected politicians (Gore made $100M’s off these racketeering schemes). That is how a capitalist society advances. And that is a good investment for the government to make. Everyone now gets the benefit from that fundamental research.

        Why don’t you spend more time advocating for solutions that will speed up the process (gov’t backing utility companies who finance home renewable equipment)?

  • 2017-07-20 at 2:05 pm
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    Thank you for the thoughtful reply CJ. What a refreshing change from the blathering rote talking points we so often encounter on this issue. If more people were like you — could evenly discuss and debate the issues, rather than screaming “Denier” and steadfastly clinging to their pseudo religion, your cause might be better understood.

    While I believe your numbers and time frames are inflated, please know that I oppose ALL tax payer subsidies, on every thing from fossil fuels, solar, milk, sugar, electric cars, cheese, to the environmental disaster known as ethanol. If a product or service is so good, then market demand will sort it out.
    Why should anyone have to pay millionaires and billionaires our tax money to support their latest fad hobby, or their $100,000 electric car? It’s obscene, and if more working folks fully understood how much of their tax money is poured into these schemes, when we have to borrow just to build a road, a school, or a fire station, there would be trouble.

    “Because they did it, we should too” is not an excuse anyone would tolerate from their kids. Likewise it shouldn’t be accepted in this case. Solar and wind power run on subsidies — as disappointing as that is, it’s the truth. In the case of solar, remove the 45 years of tax payer subsidies, and our landfills would be suddenly overwhelmed by masses of Chinese Communist (slave labor) made panels, with their toxic innards.

    I’m supportive of anything that provides cheap power. We live in the 21st century. We need the power. A reasonable person can gasp that on bright sunny days solar has a part. Just the same, a reasonable person can also grasp that in the winter with reduced angle on the sun, and sometimes days with no sun at all, we need fossil power plants.

    I’m glad you think the solar industry could survive without subsidies. That would be really great. We agree on that. All subsidies should be ended, and let market forces pick the winners and losers rather than tax-payer funded pay outs to one percenter campaign contributors. A assure you Cj, Millionaires and billionaires have exquisite fossil fueled backup power systems for their homes. And they’re laughing their way to the bank with part of our tax money.

  • 2017-07-20 at 4:07 pm
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    Well that clears it up Chris- since you oppose all subsidies you can continue railing against renewable energy, while you enjoy your subsidy laden carbon fuels of choice which you believe to be better. Don’t you get that since these other very costly fuel choices are heavy subsidized (most of which would be politically impossible to remove) it’s only leveling the playing field by subsidizing renewables?

    Oh, there’s that free market fantasy you always come back to along with the ‘why can’t we all get along when I’m blathering nonsense’ shtick. Dude, the free market won’t touch nuclear power without governmental guarantees.

    Get it through your Army educated right wing radio corrupted noggin dude- there ain’t no free market in energy. It’s all subsidized. Wishing otherwise is fantasy.

    You’re right about one thing. cjn0901 did write a thoughtful response. You called his information ‘inflated’, referred to people “clinging to their pseudo religion” while continuing to spout the “blathering talking points” you claimed to dislike. I’d be surprised if they engage you again.

    People get tired of indulging your willful ignorance. I personally am getting too old and cranky to bother worrying about the ‘thoughtful reply’ you like to get all hard about.

    I’ve said it before to you and I’ll say it again. Pot, meet kettle. Don’t expect me to be kind about your blatant hypocrisy and/or willful ignorance.

  • 2017-07-21 at 5:29 pm
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    I’m getting too old and cranky myself AFF. I look forward to partying with you. You always bring some powder to the fire. The Mr. Niceguy stuff has never done much for me.

    You’re right: None of these subsides will ever go away. Way too much taxpayer money to hand out. But don’t expect me to sit here and read “green energy” propaganda,without calling it out. Ain’t happening.

    If you want to stroke a $7500 dollar check to Richie Rich so he can buy a new Tesla, more power to ya. Open your own check book, not mine. If you want to stroke a nice check to billionaires, to help pay for their solar array, again, use your own money, not ours.

    I’m clear: no subsidies for anything. The only hypocrites I see are the millionaires and billionaires who suck up our tax money so they can tell everyone at their Napa wine party they’re “green” … after stepping off their Gulfstream. I’m not letting self-righteous know nothings lecture me about my carbon footprint, ever, ever.

    Thanks for the tip about not being a nice guy AFF. It’s something ponder.

  • 2017-07-24 at 4:01 pm
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    Nice deescalation Mr Manthos- I mean that genuinely. Further riling is easier than deescalation. I believe you when you state a desire for more productive political discourse. I like real conversations too and I’ve never been a fan of sugarcoating. You piss#d me off when you called Malcom Baldwin … whatever it was, while asking for civil discourse in political conversations.

    If you (and I hope you do sometime) sat down or just spoke with Malcom I think you’d find him a very reasonable thoughtful person who wants to serve his community and who would offer you a different perspective on some complicated topics. It’s easy to dismiss a person who spent their professional life in the EPA as an envio-weeny (or whatever) but it’s not that productive if you want genuine conversations with your neighbors (which, by my old school LC metrics you are/were. Remember how back in the day we were kinda divided by RT 9 and RT 15? Those north of 9 played on different teams? I still think of Lovettsville/ Waterford/ Taylorstown as the same ‘hood) I digress .

    I can’t say I’m a big fan of a dude buying a Tesla getting a 10K tax credit. I can’t say I’m a big fan of some fat cat getting a huge tax break to set up a solar array on his vacation home. I try not to focus on what I believe to be the exceptions. Just the other day I was volunteering parking cars and a guy rolled in with a Chevy Volt. We started up a conversation, I drove it a little. Electric cars might be a part of our future. They might not, but I’m willing to give the new technology a lift and give guys who are willing to try such, a break.

    By supporting tax credits on renewable energies I’m again, only wanting to level the playing field. In a perfect world carbon style energy would pay its’ true cost, but it doesn’t. So I think of myself as I would if I lived in Cuba and was trying to keep an old car together that’s currently only running in reverse. I could hold out for a new transmission that ain’t coming, or I could tinker with the transmission that I have available and try and get one of the forward gears working. Shoot, I’d settle for second gear and try to modify the clutch to handle it, as that result would be better than no forward gears.

    It’s easy to focus on the guy who says he green and uses a personal Gulfstream. I don’t want to give him tax credits for using solar, but I do want some help for guys like you and me who are trying to break ourselves (okay, maybe myself) from having to buy my power from the man on his terms. I want to help those guys and if the price for doing so means someone who flies in their personal jet while drinking Fiji water gets the same savings so be it. I try not to get upset by the waste, because if there’s one thing as sure as death and taxes, it’s waste.

    Just as it’s easy to find people we’d consider undeserving of our (very limited to non existent) social safety net. I could focus on the ahole sucking off disability, but I can’t make myself blind to the many around me who genuinely need help because of the few jerks.

  • 2017-07-26 at 4:40 pm
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    AFF, Indeed. I do desire reasonable conversation with anyone who challenges of my views. Those people are becoming harder to find sadly. Not due to me being so smart, that’s hardly the case, rather, there’s acute lack of knowledge and rational thought process. People on both sides used to be able to debate, consider, and modify their thoughts. Not anymore.

    You’re right. I don’t know Mr. Baldwin. I can’t recall what term I referred to him, but if it upset you, now I understand you better, and offer my apology. I have no reason to doubt you, but know my impression of him. He reminds me of an aunt’s second husband, who shows up to the family reunion; attempts to square everybody away while trying to portray he’s a super genius compared to everyone else, and if we all would just think like he does, the world would be better off. Nobody likes a know-it-all. We both know the type. It’s my impression. If it’s wrong, then it’s wrong. Wouldn’t be the first time I was completely wrong about something.

    I know well the inter-county divisions/lines/tribes. (I even played for Waterford one year). I know what a gift it was to grow up in LoCo in the 70’s and 80’s. It just kills me to see what we have become.

    I’m a conservationist AFF. I consider litter on our roads an abomination, so I help keep my dirt road clean. I protect the waters. I participate in the annual bird count by giving access to my place. I’m a birder myself. I’m a habitat freak. I leave standing dead timber because I know how vitally essential it is for wildlife. I know every bend and ripple on Goose Creek from the Fauquier county line to the Potomac. I was raised in old log cabin up in Stumptown before the parents moved us to an old barn south of town. My people have never occupied a footprint that wasn’t from the 1800’s.

    I had my Ecology flag lunch box and bought into the line about the coming Ice age back in the 70’s. I was in the game. And then, the entire conservation movement started to change, just like their story about now it was “global warming” and certain death was upon us if we didn’t believe hook, line, and sinker the high priests of the corporate cult of environmentalism. That’s exactly what it turned into. And as they changed, so did the EPA, and every other government agency with anything to do with the environment. It was no longer about protecting the land, water, and critters – it was suddenly about power, control, and money. Always money.

    Hear me out: It’s all one big fat scam now. A scam to blind people to reality. A scam to take our tax money, and dump it into their next big scam. They don’t care about the environment, they don’t care about the land. They just want the money and the power to control you and me, and pocket some cash while they’re at it. They brainwashed a generation into believing their crap, even though it keeps changing. Just like a cult. Just like the hucksters who claim the end of the world will happen on July 30th, so send them money. Our electric cars are so great, we have to pay people tax money to buy them. Our view-scape crushing windmills are so great, we have to use tax money to build them, even as they slaughter hundreds of thousands of birds and bats every year. But hey… Some envriotwit on the Upper East Side feels better, because they were scammed into paying triple or more for the electricity because somebody somewhere told them it was generated by renewables….. somewhere.

    When folks figure out what a scam they’ve been sold, there will be trouble. I hear ya about helping out the guy with the volt. Bu he’s not the one making the big bucks, it’s the establishment, and its millionaires and billionaires robbing the rest of us blind with government forcing the rest of us to go along and pay for it. And they send people like the author above to lecture me about the environment? I’m not buying, and they’ll always get push back from me. People need to wake up and actually analyze the lies and the graft.

    Sorry for being long winded AFF. As I’ve told you before, I appreciate your contributions and critiques. They’ve made me reconsider more than once.

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