With India Building Solar Power Stations For 65 Cents per Watt, Suniva’s ITC Complaints Kinda Make You Want to Laugh (and Cry)

So in the world of solar there’s various different price structures. There’s cell prices, there’s module prices, and then there’s total system prices. The cells are the little bits that go into a solar panel. The module is the solar panel itself. And the system is the complete array of modules that’s been racked, packed, and assembled.

Solar Cells are Now Produced For as Little as 20 Cents Per Watt

In business, the best way to get the lowest prices is to do things en masse. The largest, most efficient solar assembly plants in China and Southeast Asia now produce solar cells for as little as 20 cents per watt. As of June 28th, solar modules from this region were going for as little as 33 cents per watt.

Low to very low solar cell and module prices are helping to enable a mass global construction of clean energy producing solar power stations that are either competitive with other fuels — or that just basically blow them away when it comes to price. And such high volumes of renewable energy construction around the world are providing some hope that humankind will be able to stave off the worst impacts of fossil-fuel spurred climate change. A greenhouse gas based of warming airs and waters that is already threatening keys species, putting Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in an existential crisis, and endangering the future of thousands of coastal cities as melting glaciers start to flood the world’s oceans.

Solar Power Stations For as Little as 65 Cents Per Watt

In the U.S., solar power stations now average about $1.10 cents per watt once all the cost of labor and construction is added in. For most instances, this price is competitive with highly polluting power stations like gas and coal. It’s about half the cost of nuclear energy. And solar prices are now also dipping below the price of new wind energy (which is also falling).

(GTM finds very low and falling prices for solar globally.)

In other regions of the world, solar energy is even less expensive. In the UK, Egypt, Mexico, China, and India, the cost of building a solar power plant is now $1.00 or less. A price which is now lower than the cost of a new advanced coal or gas power station. India, which boasts the least expensive construction costs for solar, can now build a renewable energy station for about 60 to 70 percent of the price of a comparable coal or gas plant at 65 cents per watt.

In this global economy, solar is now becoming cheaper than any other traditional source. It is also far cleaner than the other sources with the possible exception of wind. Solar has, by reducing costs so precipitously and by increasing access, become a game-changer both for the global energy market and for humankind’s prospects for reducing the considerable damage caused by fossil fuel based greenhouse gas emissions.

Subsidies vs Tariffs 

Enter Suniva, which is one of the world’s less efficient solar manufacturers. Based in the U.S., but majority owned by China, Suniva was unable to compete in a global market that produced solar cells for such low cost and high availability. This year, the firm filed for bankruptcy. The firm was unable to compete despite tariffs that the U.S. had already imposed on some solar panel importers. A set of tariffs that have already helped to make the U.S. solar market more expensive than other comparable markets. Tariffs that have arguably slowed U.S. solar adoption rates while doing little to actually protect less competitive manufacturers that would probably have eventually failed anyway.

The tariffs were, however, set in response to a legitimate gripe. Subsidies by China had probably created an unfair advantage for Chinese solar panel manufacturers. And these subsidies likely continue to generate advantages for such manufacturers in both China and in Southeast Asia. Subsidies that, in part, probably sped along Suniva’s bankruptcy and the approximate loss of 1.200 U.S. solar manufacturing jobs.

Suniva’s Selfish Suit Threatens to Wreck U.S. Solar Industry

Suniva’s response, however, is pretty overblown. One that threatens much of the solar market as it presently stands in the U.S. The corporation is asking for a $.40 floor on imported solar cell prices — which is basically double that of the lowest cost solar cell presently on the market. The company is also asking for a $.78 cent floor on import module prices — which is 45 cents higher than current lowest module spot prices. Such added costs would ripple through the U.S. solar production chain and would probably result in plant prices that range from $1.34 to $1.89 per watt. The reason is that the U.S. panel market is considerably dependent on imports and presently has few manufacturing plants that can produce cells and modules for prices low enough to prevent a big jump in industry-wide costs if Suniva gets its way.

(Evidence mounts that Suniva’s ITC case could sabotage the entire U.S. solar market. Image source: GTM.)

Such a jump in prices would result in considerable harm to the various solar companies that buy solar modules and build power plants, commercial and non residential systems by destroying a good deal of the present and rising solar demand in the U.S. This particular industry is now quite large and recent research by GTM indicates that as much as 66 percent of new construction could be halted if Suniva is allowed to so considerably distort the U.S. market. Ultimately, this risks the loss of thousands of jobs (not just the few hundred that have been lost in the manufacturing sector)– as much as 88,000 if the recent report by SEIA is correct.

So what’s the upshot? If Suniva’s suit goes through, it’s a big blow to both U.S. competitiveness and to our national responses to climate change. Chinese subsidies may, indeed, be distorting markets. But the solution that Suniva presents is basically to recommend drinking a hemlock that would kill off a big segment of the U.S. market while doing little to actually support U.S. solar manufacturing. Some jobs may trickle back as manufacturers try to meet the demand of a much reduced U.S. market. But the rest of the world will move on as incentives for U.S. manufacturers to improve dry up and as the home market itself contracts.

For the flip side of Chinese subsidies is that they not only subsidize Chinese solar manufacturing capacity, they also serve to advance a global energy transition through the mechanisms of direct investment and scaling. And there are so many larger benefits that the U.S. can take from the reduced pollution, increased secondary markets, increased competition, energy independence, and reduction of climate change based harms that are resulting from this major investment. The correct response is to meet investment and innovation with the same if we wish to reasonably compete. But the present federal administration appears to have completely lost sight of a better American future as it fights to regain the distorted ideal of an imagined past greatness.

Which is why Suniva’s ITC suit, in its present form, is at best short-sighted and at worst both selfish and broadly destructive.

Links:

Solar Costs are Hitting Jaw-Dropping Lows

PV Spot Prices

China-Owned US Solar Manufacturer Seeks Tariffs on Imports

Solar Industry Expects Loss of 88,000 Jobs in U.S. if Government Rules in Company’s Favor in Trade Case

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Trump’s Attack on Clean Power Threatens Livable Climate, Public Health, and Hundreds of Thousands of Energy Jobs

Decades of progress on cleaning up our dirty air took a significant hit on Tuesday, along with hopes for a livable future climate, when President Trump issued his Energy Independence Executive Order. Most seriously, the order attacks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Clean Power Plan, which requires a 32 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from existing power plants by 2030 (compared to 2005 emission rates.)  — Dr Jeff Masters

*****

Yesterday, Donald Trump, much like that famous Luddite Don Quixote, decided to go to war with clean energy. But unlike Don Quixote, Trump did so with full knowledge that he was also fighting to rob us of our best hopes of putting millions of Americans to work for clean air and a livable climate.

(Where would you want to live? Downwind of a toxin spewing coal plant, or near solar panels and wind turbines? Poor coal miners basically a set piece in Trump’s effort to save coal profits at the cost of the environment. Coal company CEOs have already signaled that the coal jobs aren’t coming back due to automation.)

With executive order #18 from his administration, he began to lay the groundwork to start to unravel Obama’s Clean Power Plan — which made a decent first shot at removing the worst U.S. polluters, prevented about 4,500 premature deaths each year (which is like preventing a pollution 9/11 every six months), promoted a jobs-growing renewable energy revolution, and put the U.S. on track to become a global leader in the fight to prevent some of the worst impacts of climate change.

Trump’s latest move, yet one more promotion of policies harmful to the American people, drew fierce opposition. Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) called Trump’s actions “a declaration of war on American leadership on climate change and our clean energy future.” The states of California and New York, representing 20 percent of the U.S. population and more than 20 percent of the U.S. economy, have vowed to oppose Trump’s order even as they provide more funds for clean energy development. Ten senators from various states immediately asked Trump to rescind the order on account that it would do substantial harm to their constituent economies (which are rapidly moving to adopt clean energy). And the National Resources Defense Council and others have vowed to oppose Trump’s measure every step of the way in court.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said of Trump’s move:

“Today Donald Trump is shirking our nation’s responsibilities, disregarding clear science and undoing the significant progress that we’ve made to ensure we leave a better, more sustainable planet for generations to come with the stroke of his pen. Despite all the rhetoric, this order clearly proves that this administration is not serious about protecting jobs or the environment.”

And though Trump claimed that his attack on The Clean Power Plan was meant to help save jobs, the numbers just don’t add up.

(If you want to grow jobs in the U.S., replacing dirty energy with clean energy is a good way to do it. But Trump is doing just the opposite. Source: Political Economy Research Institute.)

As Trump favors coal over renewable energy, and since every dollar spent on renewable energy creates twice the number of jobs for every dollar spent on fossil fuels, his action will almost certainly result in job losses across the energy sector. In West Virginia, for example, many coal jobs have already been replaced by automation and even coal executives now say those jobs aren’t coming back.

Meanwhile, the Clean Power Plan would have provided West Virginia with the opportunity to diversify its economy, to shift away from dependence on dwindling coal jobs, and to add renewable energy jobs if it were to pursue building wind turbines or solar farms, for example. Replacing coal jobs with renewable energy jobs would add about 70,000 jobs to the U.S. economy as a whole. And switching fossil fuel generation to renewable energy provides a prospect of almost doubling the 2.2 million jobs in today’s energy sector. Attack clean power, as Trump has, and we risk losing that jobs growth.

(The cost of utility scale renewable energy is now dramatically lower than utility scale fossil fuels. Considering both cost and jobs growth potential, it’s nonsensical to attack renewable energy — as Trump just did. Image source: Solar and Wind Crush Coal and Natural Gas on Price.)

Attempting to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, therefore, threatens renewable energy jobs across America even as it promotes the continuation of dirty coal burning which is so harmful to both the health of American citizens and to the stability of our climate. If Trump were truly serious about helping West Virginia coal miners he would, as the Chinese have for their own ailing coal workers, provide substantial funds for training and assistance to miners who have lost their jobs. Trump has pushed no such bill.

Ultimately, the only people with the potential to substantially benefit from Trump’s attacks on the Clean Power Plan are the owners of coal mines and coal-burning power plants. But this action is little more than an anti-competitive, anti-capitalist policy of wealthcare for the wealthy industry investors and execs on the losing side of the energy transition. Trump’s action would, in effect, extend the life of these dirty plants and mines — securing profits for a few wealthy individuals for a few more years to come. But even this paltry ‘benefit’ would tend to fade as the superior economics of renewable energy out-compete coal as time moves forward. Already, solar is less expensive than existing coal-fired power plants. And wind energy has long been a competitive source on the basis of price.

paris-emissions-chart-columbia (1)

(The Trump Administration shows every intent of trying to put the U.S. back on a business as usual carbon emissions path. The Clean Power Plan would dramatically reduce U.S. emissions thereby also reducing catastrophic climate outcomes. Image source: Weather Underground and The Earth Institute.)

But the worst impact of the Clean Power Plan’s removal will probably be the locking in of an ever-worsening climate catastrophe for U.S. citizens and the people of the world. Already sea level rise is threatening key cities like Miami even as worsening droughts, wildfires, floods and storms are causing substantial harm from the Washington D.C. area through the heartland and on to the U.S. West Coast. But the climate change related impacts that we see now are minor and easy in comparison to the harm that is coming in the future if we fail to rapidly reduce carbon emissions now. And Trump’s policy is a set-back to those necessary carbon reductions that we can ill-afford.

So the obvious choice is clear. The Clean Power Plan is a big benefit to the U.S. economy and to the health and well-being of the people who live in this great nation. And fighting to remove it basically boils down to a madman tilting at the very windmills that will help to save us from a terrible future.

(UPDATED)

Credits:

Hat tip to Ryan in New England

Hat tip to Naturalfx

Hat tip to Timothy Thalen

Hat tip to Colorado Bob

How Job-Killing Republican Economic Philosophy Took Down the Twinkie

Let’s get this straight. Hostess was in trouble long before vulture capitalist hedge funds and equity firms came to roost over the carcass of one of America’s signature brands. The shift, by much of the American public, away from junk foods to more healthy nutrition, combined with Hostesses’ failure to diversify and leverage its brand put Hostess in a tough situation. But that didn’t kill Hostess. And it wasn’t the workers, whom hedge funds controlling Hostess blamed for the company’s downturn. It was the hedge funds and equity firms who decided their own enrichment was more important than responsibly transforming this iconic American corporation.

By 2009, Hostess had declared bankruptcy and was seeking a way to re-establish itself through changing and challenging market conditions. It was then acquired by the private equity firm Ripple Holdings and hedge funds Silver Point Capital and Monarch Capital. These firms then took company capital and credit that could have been used to diversify the brand and expand into new territory to instead enrich management through stock shares buybacks and through cuts in workforce benefits. In total, Hostesses’ 18,500 workers suffered through layoffs and three phases of pay and benefits reductions while executive compensation doubled and company development and competitiveness stagnated.

The equity firms holding Hostess were trying to force workers to endure another 8% cut in pay and a crippling 17% cut in benefits when, on November 9th, workers held a strike in an attempt to compel management to behave responsibly. Instead, equity and hedge fund holders of the company decided to break the company up and sell off its parts for even more profit. In the end, the vulture capitalist holders of Hostess blamed those they victimized — Hostesses’ workers.

But it seems that the equity firms and hedge funds now controlling Hostess can’t even play fair with the bankruptcy. Today the US Department of Justice filed suit against Hostesses’ vulture capitalist owners for increasing executive pay by another 75% — in essence, rewarding executives for taking the company into bankruptcy.

These executives and hedge fund managers are the very people Republicans are fighting to keep taxes low for. The so-called ‘job creators.’ These ‘paragons of industry’ who got rich wrecking an American icon and socking it to American families all at the same time. Likely, many of them feel entitled to pay no taxes for their looted spoils to the federal government who might actually do something useful with the money — like hire a scientist or a teacher. Just let these people do what they please, let them keep all the money they took, and everything will be great, republicans say.

See how well that worked out for the company that was Hostess and the people who worked there?

Links:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-hostess-seeks-bonuses-for-key-manager-in-liquidation-filing-20121119,0,22735.story

http://themoderatevoice.com/168438/twinkynomics-a-case-study-in-romneynomics/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/hostess-moves-to-liquidate-as-us-seeks-trustee-control/2012/11/19/46e98922-326d-11e2-92f0-496af208bf23_story.html

Obama Team Not Open to Carbon Tax? So How Best to Move Forward on Climate Change?

Today, White House spokesman Jay Carney at a press briefing told reporters that the Obama Administration would not consider a carbon tax to help reduce US carbon emissions. Carney stated:

“We would never propose a carbon tax and have no intention of proposing one. The point the president was making is that our focus right now is the same as the American people’s focus, which is on the need to extend economic growth, expand job creation.”

Carney then went on to talk about how the Administration was primarily focused on US jobs creation efforts and that any climate change measures would have to fit into the larger jobs growth and economy puzzle.

Unfortunately, Carney seems to think that the notion of a carbon tax and economic growth are incompatible. A notion the 75 billion dollar and growing disaster that was Superstorm Sandy, an idea the 75+ billion dollar drought in the heartland, both well belie. A notion that the, ever-increasing, cost of fossil fuel extraction also drastically undermines. But Carney is, likely, just denying republicans and others who support low tax rates for the wealthy a way to transfer more of the tax burden onto middle and lower income Americans.

In recent weeks, it appears republicans were tinkering with the carbon tax as a means to increase the tax burden for working Americans while lowering it for the wealthy. And this is an effort to certainly be avoided. The problem lies in just how a carbon tax would be implemented. Would it be, primarily, a punitive tax on energy consumption? In such a case, it would almost certainly harm the prospects of working Americans, unless, of course, the taxes were re-invested in the economy in a way that benefited workers and middle class families.

With world climate agencies noting that civilization-wrecking climate impacts emerge if we burn just 20-30 percent of the world’s current fossil fuel reserves, it does, indeed, appear that a major disincentive for burning fossil fuels should be in the offing. And that such a disincentive would preserve the possibility of growth and prosperity, rather than undermine it.

If the Administration were to re-consider the notion of a carbon tax, they could very well employ such a tax in a growth neutral or even pro-growth fashion. In a way that didn’t harm working families, but helped. In such a case, the tax would not just be punitive, it would be an incentive. James Hansen’s tax and transfer plan would result in a carbon tax at the well-head or point of sale being directly transferred to individuals as a subsidy. The result would be, on the one hand, increasing carbon costs, and, on the other hand, money in the pockets of Americans incentivized to purchase low or no carbon fuels and technologies. The result would be a gradual phasing out of carbon based energy without an overall punitive impact to US growth. If transfer is an unsavory notion for politicians, then the money generated from taxes could be directly invested in renewable, zero-carbon, energy systems and in re-training programs for persons who may lose their jobs in high-carbon industries. Such programs would both create new jobs and reduce or eliminate losses from old industries.

The fact that such basic notions aren’t obvious is somewhat disconcerting. Loss of coal mining jobs, for instance, may be a forgone conclusion. But if these workers can be re-trained to work on wind and solar facilities, then the result is a net gain. Especially when you consider the fact that each renewable energy dollar spent results in three times the amount of jobs stimulus as each fossil fuel dollar spent. Such increases in labor may not result in the kind of concentrations of profits as the old oil and coal industries. But the effects of such wealth hoarding have already proven very damaging to the US economy as a whole.

That said, and to the Obama Administration’s credit, they may well be attempting to avoid maintaining lower tax rates on the wealthiest Americans through the vehicle of a carbon tax. And, in such a case, it is obvious why that kind of trade-off should be avoided.

However, if a carbon tax is off the table, there are a number of other measures that can still be pursued. Below are just a few examples:

Renew the Production Tax Credit

The first would be the immediate renewal of the production tax credit for wind and solar energy. Preferably, this renewal would be for a full decade. Such a long-term renewal would provide stability for the growing US wind and solar industries and spur investment in these key technologies, keeping the rate of adoption high. Growth in these critical industries would result in a powerful engine for generating new jobs.

Cut Tax Incentives for the Fossil Fuel Industry

Over 40 billion dollars in tax incentives have gone to the oil and gas industry. Yet the industry continues to produce record profits. Given this clear math, such incentives are entirely unnecessary and wasteful.

Provide Subsidy and Incentive For Smart Grid and Energy Storage

Thousands of jobs could be created through wise investments in both a smart grid and in powerful new energy storage technologies. Both will be necessary if we are to smoothly handle a growing portion of our energy coming from renewables. This powerful new infrastructure will serve as a mechanism to enhance economic growth for decades to come.

Establish a Climate Mitigation and Adaptation Fund

Set aside a portion of savings from winding down the war in Afghanistan, from levelized military spending, and from removing tax incentives for the fossil fuel industry for two purposes. The first would be for direct investment in critical new clean energy technologies (wind, solar, evs, low-carbon farming, new energy systems, economic and non-damaging carbon capture). The second would be for hardening the nation’s infrastructure to the potential new harms caused by climate change. Research into new farming techniques more adapted to a drier climate and deployment of more resilient coastal infrastructure are examples. Care must be noted that mitigation should receive equal or greater funding as it is impossible to adapt to the worst instances of human caused climate change.

Retraining Initiatives for New Industries

Provide funding for individuals who have lost their jobs to train in critical new industries related to mitigating climate change, responding to climate emergencies, and to adapting to a changing climate. Funds should be targeted to jobless college graduates and to workers who lose their jobs in fossil fuel based industries. A portion of this funding would go to establishing relationships with new industry players and facilitating employment.

Establishing Wind and Solar Energy Corridors in Farm and Fossil Fuel Country

Provide incentive for the development of alternative energy in areas where economies were previously dominated by fossil fuels. This diversification would result in economic resilience in these regions, providing a source of new jobs and added stability. Particularly critical is developing these new energy sources for the Appalachian region where workers have been victimized by exploitative coal barons such as Massey. Also useful would be the development of clean energy technologies in farming regions. The result would be the preservation of lands used for food production as well as providing a safety net for these regions in the event of extended harm to farming due to drought.

Use the EPA to Regulate and Reduce Carbon

Provide base-lines for carbon reductions from key industries via the EPA. Increase these base-lines over time. Use the EPA to provide efficiency standards for appliances, vehicles and other equipment. Push efficiency standards higher over time.

Provide a Fund For Renewable Energy Laboratories at the Nation’s Public Schools

Invest public money in incentivizing purchases of solar panels for public schools. Establish science curriculum at these schools that involve students directly in the management of the school’s solar energy resources. Teach the science of clean energy and environmental stewardship at these schools.

Provide and Maintain Tax Incentives for Home Owners and Businesses to Install Solar Panels, Purchase Electric Vehicles

Set aside monies that incentivize the installation of solar panels for US homes and businesses. Set aside and maintain similar incentives for electric vehicles.

Shut Down Dirty Coal Plants, Sell Public Land Coal, Fossil Fuels at Higher Prices

About 6% of US electricity production comes from old, dirty plants. Use the EPA to rapidly phase these plants out. Furthermore, many fossil fuel companies purchase mining rights for US coal, oil, and natural gas on public lands at a pittance. Increase the royalty payments required to access those resources.

Remove Regulatory Hurdles for the Installation of Wind and Solar on US Homes and Businesses

In many regions, the regulatory hurdles for installing wind and solar for US homes and businesses is punitive and prohibitive. Remove these hurdles to increase the rate of home owner and business new technology adoption.

Require that all New Homes and Buildings include Solar

Requiring that every new home and building in the US include solar energy systems would greatly enhance solar energy adoption in the US.

Require EV Recharge Station Installation for all New Streets and Parking Lots

Requiring that all new parking facilities and refurbished streets require EV charging stations would rapidly increase the adoption potential for US electric vehicles.

Set a Carbon Tariff on Goods Produced by High-Carbon Economies Coming Into the US

Set a tariff on goods produced by countries with high-carbon economies. Provide exceptions if those goods come from facilities that switch to low-carbon or zero carbon energy sources. Such a carbon tariff would help to leverage the US’s strength as importer to reduce global carbon emissions.

These are just a few initiatives that could be pursued that will incentivize US jobs growth while also resulting in the rapid deployment of high-efficiency and zero-carbon technologies.

UPDATE:

It appears that the climate blogosphere is somewhat abuzz with outrage over Obama’s not supporting a carbon tax. There’s some good discussion on the issue here:

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/11/16/1206321/new-york-times-slams-obama-for-lame-flip-flop-on-economic-benefit-of-climate-action/

“Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” Romney Attacks GM in Final Days of Election; GM Defends Record From Romney Lies, Calls Them ‘Fantasy’

Before we get into the new morass of mud and muck dredged up by the Romney campaign and slung at the US auto industry, it’s important to establish a few facts. This effort is useful as the Romney campaign, with its almost daily distortions and flip-flops, has been the most fact-free bid for the Presidency of any election cycle in modern memory. Romney’s most recent smear campaign, waged against the US auto industry and, by extension, American workers, is just the newest in a daily stream of distortions, gimmicks, smears, and attempts to terrorize the US electorate.

First, in an op-ed to the New York Times entitled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” Mitt Romney, in his opening sentence, stated:

IF General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.

Coming into office and facing the worst economic decline since the Great Depression left behind by the Bush Administration, President Obama decided to act to save over 2 million American jobs by directly supporting the auto industry bailout. Though far less expensive than the TARP program to bail out the US financial sector, the auto bailout provided much more direct support to the US middle class by ensuring that auto industry and supply chain jobs were not lost and that key US industries did not collapse. Conservatives of every stripe immediately howled that such government intervention would result in an US auto industry ‘doomsday.’ And Mitt Romney added his voice to those claiming US automakers would fail if they accepted government assistance during the worst of times.

As the years passed, Mitt Romney and conservatives have been proven drastically wrong. The US auto industry has recovered. GM is again the number 1 seller of automobiles in the world. And the industry is in the process of adding US jobs and repatriating jobs from overseas. This dramatic success belies republican and Romney drama to the contrary. It shows that the leadership role Obama took to save the US auto industry is now beginning to pay off. And, most glaringly, it shows the deep, systemic, failure of the current, rigid republican economic ideology.

Meanwhile, the corporation Romney built — Bain Capital — is now preparing to dismantle a factory that manufactures sensors for the auto industry in Freeport Illinois and ship their jobs overseas. Nearly 200 workers at the Sensata factory which Bain bought-out will find their jobs outsourced to China before the end of this year. This is a result of the outsourcing and off-shoring legacy that Romney pioneered while head of Bain Capital. (See more about Sensata here.)

This dual narrative of Obama’s leadership and success combined with Romney still profiting from liquidating US factories and sending the jobs overseas has had devastating effect for Romney in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan who know all too well how damaging outsourcing and off-shoring have been to their economies. Loss of critical factories like the one at Sensata has resulted in the gutting of entire communities. Whole neighborhoods in Detroit are now ghost towns as a result of the kind of outsourcing Mitt Romney pioneered at Bain Capital. Some of these lost jobs may never come back, captured by 99 cent an hour Chinese workers and a country that is unwilling to establish laws to protect its own people from the abuses of vulture capitalists like Romney. China may as well have foisted a sign emblazoned ‘Robber Barons R’ Us.’ And, Romney, among many others, came flocking to exploit the slave wage labor there by dismantling US factories and sending them overseas.

Perhaps too late, Romney has realized how damaging these methods of employing equities firms and off-shoring practices to accumulate personal profit have become. But the realization appears to have now stuck with a vengeance. And, in typical Romney fashion, Romney is now waging a media campaign against the very business Obama was so successful in saving and that, since late 2009, has directly added thousands of US jobs.

The Romney campaign is now running a malicious and false advertisement claiming that Jeep plans to ship US jobs overseas to China. The ad comes as Jeep revealed plans to build two manufacturing plants in China over the coming years. But, contrary to Romney’s false assertion, Jeep’s China expansion is not coming at the cost of any US manufacturing. Unlike Romney’s Sensata, no Jeep facilities are being shut down. No workers are being forced to train their Chinese replacements, as Romney’s Bain is forcing Sensata workers to do so. In fact, Jeep and GM have pledged to take profits from the Chinese operation and use it to create more jobs in the US. It’s almost the exact reverse of the Romney model. Call it in-sourcing, or re-sourcing, or repatriating, or even re-shoring. But it’s definitely not the Romney/Bain model for outsourcing and off-shoring.

Since late 2009, Jeep alone has added over 4600 US jobs, showing, in fact, that Romney’s claims are patently false.

GM was quick to defend its record from Romney’s false attacks:

“We’ve clearly entered some parallel universe during these last few days,” GM spokesman Greg Martin said. “No amount of campaign politics at its cynical worst will diminish our record of creating jobs in the U.S. and repatriating profits back to this country.”

Crysler CEO Sergio Marchionne in an email to employees refuted Romney’s claims by simply laying out the facts:

“Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China,” Marchionne stated in the e-mail. “The numbers tell the story,” followed by specific investments Chrysler has made in Detroit, Toledo and Belvidere, Ill. “Those include more than $1.7 billion to produce the successor of the Jeep Liberty and hire about 1,100 workers on a second shift by 2013.”

The additional 1100 jobs are on top of the 4600 jobs Jeep has already added. In contrast, Romney’s Bain will, in the next couple months, send another 200 jobs to China. So the contrast couldn’t be more stark.

And the media is starting to pick up on Romney’s egregious assault of lies against the US auto industry and US workers. The Atlanta Journal Constitution recently called the Romney advertisements attacking the auto industry ‘economic terrorism.’ The Detroit Free Press has published this in-depth piece exposing Romney’s false claims. The conservative-leaning US News and World Report posted an analysis showing how the US auto expansion in China was helping to support jobs expansion at home. And FactCheck.org labeled Romney’s recent advertising blitz “flat wrong” stating:

“It’s misleading to suggest that Chrysler’s decision to expand into China will cost U.S. jobs — especially after the company has said it would have no impact on its U.S. operations.”

The fact-checking website noted a report from Bloomberg that Chrysler was considering “adding Jeep production sites rather than shifting output from North America to China.” Meanwhile Chrysler, in a dramatic refutation of Romney’s doomsday prediction for the US auto industry, just reported a third quarter profit of $381 million, up 80 percent from a year ago.

It seems likely that the Romney misinformation machine may have just bitten off more than it can chew. Considering the wide-ranging backlash taking shape from both the US auto industry and the broader media, it appears that Romney’s false attacks against GM and Jeep are about to erupt in his face. The US auto industry is firmly on its path to recovery, with each new report showing positive results. Further, the US auto industry is in the process of adding thousands of jobs here in America. Both of these points prove Romney dramatically wrong. Wrong in his ‘Let Detroit go Bankrupt’ op-ed and wrong now. Finally, these attacks only serve to call attention to Romney’s own record of sending US jobs overseas, the most recent example of which is Sensata.

Links:

http://www.freep.com/article/20121031/NEWS15/310310091/GM-and-Chrysler-Romney-is-wrong

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/19/opinion/19romney.html?_r=0

http://blogs.ajc.com/jay-bookman-blog/2012/10/31/gm-on-romney-campaign-politics-at-its-cynical-worst/

http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/rick-newman/2012/10/31/memo-to-mitt-romney-gms-success-in-china-is-good-for-america

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-34222_162-57542993/gm-like-chrysler-refutes-romneys-auto-industry-ad/

http://www.politico.com/blogs/burns-haberman/2012/10/gm-aide-romney-ads-part-of-parallel-universe-147753.html

http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2012/10/30/GM-Gap-between-Romney-ad-and-reality/UPI-56761351637557/

Presidential Debate Round #2: The 47%, 8 Trillion Arithmetic, A Binder Full of Women and an “Act of Terror”

Binders and fact checks and smears oh my!

Last night’s Presidential debate, round #2 of 3, was nothing like the first. A fiery and compassionate Obama took firm command of the forum from the start and, with few exceptions, dominated the debate with clarity and candor. In direct contrast, Mitt Romney seemed lost in a tangle of the misinformation web he’d spun for himself.

47% vs the Outsourcing Pioneer

Obama set the tone by immediately calling Romney out for his 47% remarks, illustrating clearly that character is what you are in the dark or, in this case, what you are in a locked room full of millionaires and billionaires. He also returned frequently to the subject of outsourcing, rightly labeling Romney an ‘outsourcing pioneer’ and alluding to the offshoring activities Romney first innovated at Bain Capital. Activities the company Romney founded is continuing to implement (see Sensata).

Sketchy 8 Trillion Arithmetic

Obama also was quick to hold Romney accountable for the tax policy his campaign website says he’s running to implement. During the debate, Romney frequently denied the assertion that his tax cut would cut rates for top earners. Almost as frequently, he said that he wants to lower rates on the middle class. These debate ‘faux pas’ (nice word for lies) directly contradict information put out by his own campaign which still states Romney seeks an across the board 20% tax cut, including a very large and lucrative cut for top earners and very small and piddly cuts for the middle class.

Obama, rightly, ignored Romney’s false claims and continued to debate based on the facts, rather than attempt to muddle around in the smoke Romney was producing in prodigious quantities all evening long. Obama re-asserted the Arithmetic showing how Romney’s across the board cuts, when combined with a 2 trillion increase in defense spending and a 1 trillion dollar extension of the Bush tax cut f0r the wealthy, would blow another 8 Trillion dollar hole in the deficit on top of the debt already piling up from the lingering remains of Bush’s failed policies. (Failed policies the republican Congress has continued to enforce through its vow to Grover Norquist never to repeal.)

Binder Full of Women

In perhaps the most bizarre exchange of the night, Romney, when asked about how he would help women gain a more equal footing in the workplace, hearkened back to a time when his management team had no women. In his, disproven by facts, anecdote, Romney claimed he produced a ‘binder full of women’ from which to select female candidates for positions in the management staff which, Romney admitted, was largely composed of men. Reaction to this comment from women has been shrill and this particular Romneyism seemed to especially grate against the sensibilities of most women who rightly felt subtly insulted and objectified.

What is interesting to note about this particular Mitt-tale is the fact that the ‘binder’ he refers to was produced by a political organization called Mass-GAP which noted the dearth of women holding leadership positions in Massachusetts. So Romney wasn’t responsible for the recommendations of these women, it was produced by a political organization concerned about the lack of women in leadership. However, to Romney’s credit, he did appoint women from the Mass-GAP list so that fully 42% of the positions held at the start of his administration were women filled. But the story doesn’t end here. Romney apparently only filled positions which he thought were unimportant with people from the Mass-GAP program. In addition, the number of women holding positions within Massachusetts government, overall, declined by 3% during the time that Romney served. Hardly a stunning record of someone attempting to appear to care for women’s jobs.

What was most glaring, however, was his failure to mention the Fair Pay Act and, instead, rely on a mostly untrue and bumbling anecdote. I would venture a guess that women aren’t as concerned about a President picking women from a binder for cabinet positions as they are about equal access to jobs and access to a fair compensation at work. And though representation in the cabinet is important (Obama has appointed many women to these positions including political rival Hillary), what is more important is that those visible values fill out in larger society.

Obama noted he supported The Fair Pay Act and spoke for minutes passionately about the role of women in all aspects of American life. No binders. Just  policies to help women. Even more importantly, Obama alluded to women’s rights which would likely come under fire during a Romney Administration. Two Supreme Court justices and a VP nominee who has lead a crusade in Congress to overturn Roe could very well spell an end to women’s reproductive rights in our country. In addition, Obama pointed out that Romney’s past statements about ‘ending Planned Parenthood’ was another assault on women’s freedoms and access to family planning services. To this point Obama rightly noted that it’s not just about women, it’s about families too, a point that appeared lost on Romney.

The ‘Act of Terror’

Perhaps the most poignant event in the debate occurred when Romney began to assert that Obama had failed to identify the Libya attacks as a terrorist incident. This line of attack follows the presumptuous rhetoric that republicans and Romney have followed ever since the Benghazi Consulate was over-run. The day after the attacks, Romney held a press conference accusing the Obama administration of ‘failures.’ This political capitalism has also included a number of, rather fake, teary eyed speeches about those lost in the attacks. Romney’s overplaying of these speeches has lead family members of deceased security and diplomatic personnel to publicly ask Romney to stop using their family members deaths as political props. And though Romney appears to have toned down the rhetoric on diplomatic service member’s deaths, he has continued to presume that the Obama Administration is entirely responsible and at fault for these attacks, making bald and outrageous assertions before any evidence is produced.

Obama rightly called out Romney for his politicization of American deaths saying in a sharp tone that invoked all the power of the Commander and Chief of US forces: “It is offensive!”

And it is, this smarmy politicking over the deaths of Americans, this failure to stand behind American government’s effort to get to the bottom of the terrorist attacks, and the blatant betrayal of US forces by a party who only seems to care about political gain. But Romney continued up this dark path of demonization and unsupported claims. In his, not the first, allusion to misinformation produced by Fox News, Romney glommed onto the false claim that the Obama Administration didn’t recognize the Benghazi incident as a terrorist attack until two weeks afterward.

In reply to this skewed claim, Obama noted that he held a speech in the Rose Garden about the attacks, claiming that he stated ‘no act of terror would go unpunished.’ Romney refuted the President directly, saying the President said no such thing. Crowley, who appeared to be well prepared to deal with the issues in this debate, had a transcript of the President’s speech on hand and confirmed, to audience applause, that the President had indeed said what he claimed and that Romney was making an incorrect assertion.

Revelation of the Least Truthful Presidential Bid in Modern Memory

This direct fact-checking of Romney’s false statements and visible deconstruction of his entirely political and self-serving rhetoric seemed to crystallize the public’s view of Romney last night. Romney has been accused on all fronts, from Newt Gingrich to Ron Paul, from Rick Perry to Rick Santorum and, finally, to Obama himself, as running a dishonest campaign. He has visibly contradicted himself and changed positions on key policies time and time again. His campaign staff famously labeled this tactic ‘etch e sketch.’ And the informed public seems to view what Romney says as general ‘malarkey.’

But the malarkey reached a new level of ugliness when Romney began to make up stories about diplomatic security forces in Benghazi and official US response to attacks there. His self-serving rhetoric directly harmed the families involved even as it undermined ongoing government efforts to determine the attacks’ cause, reduce risk of future attacks, and care for the bereaved families of those who were lost. Further, republican efforts to de-fund diplomatic security were entirely off the radar as Romney and republicans used every trick in their attempt to turn the Benghazi attacks into a political silver bullet aimed at the President.

This ‘ugly lie’ grew and took a life of its own. Endlessly parroted by right wing outlets, the political right engaged in a war of words to degrade and denigrate US diplomatic forces. And this act and abetment by a politician running for the highest political office in the land is unforgivable.

What we witnessed last night was the unraveling of that extraordinarily damaging lie. This event is likely to send deep fractures through the Romney campaign, through the republican party itself, and to those billionaires, like the Kochs and the Murdochs, who have done so much harm to the American people. It is not the end to their ‘Castle in the Sand’ empires, but it may well be a sign of the start of their disintegration. (The final blows will come from the rising tide of climate change itself, but that is a subject for another article).

Closing Statement: The Eloquence of Obama Returns

At the end of a debate that, often, seemed to balance on the edge of a knife, Obama reclaimed his oratory eloquence to deliver this impassioned final appeal to the American people.

Barry, I think a lot of this campaign, maybe over the last four years, has been devoted to this nation that I think government creates jobs, that that somehow is the answer.

That’s not what I believe. I believe that the free enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity the world’s ever known.

I believe in self-reliance and individual initiative and risk takers being rewarded. But I also believe that everybody should have a fair shot and everybody should do their fair share and everybody should play by the same rules, because that’s how our economy’s grown. That’s how we built the world’s greatest middle class.

And — and that is part of what’s at stake in this election. There’s a fundamentally different vision about how we move our country forward.

I believe Governor Romney is a good man. Loves his family, cares about his faith. But I also believe that when he said behind closed doors that 47 percent of the country considered themselves victims who refuse personal responsibility, think about who he was talking about.

Folks on Social Security who’ve worked all their lives. Veterans who’ve sacrificed for this country. Students who are out there trying to hopefully advance their own dreams, but also this country’s dreams. Soldiers who are overseas fighting for us right now. People who are working hard every day, paying payroll tax, gas taxes, but don’t make enough income.

And I want to fight for them. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last four years. Because if they succeed, I believe the country succeeds.

When my grandfather fought in World War II and he came back and he got a G.I. Bill and that allowed him to go to college, that wasn’t a handout. That was something that advanced the entire country. And I want to make sure that the next generation has those same opportunities. That’s why I’m asking for your vote and that’s why I’m asking for another four years.

Links:

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/OTUS/2012-presidential-debate-full-transcript-oct-16/story?id=17493848&page=11#.UH75A4ZWIfw

http://blog.thephoenix.com/BLOGS/talkingpolitics/archive/2012/10/16/mind-the-binder.aspx

7.8% Unemployment and Falling: So Why are Republicans Selling Another Economic Decline?

Confidence. It’s a funny game, isn’t it? And the most prominent con-game going on right now is this endless selling of economic decline.

‘The economy is bad,’ we hear. ‘The recovery wasn’t fast enough,’ they say. ‘Obama failed’ — and that’s the real message they want you to believe. They want you to believe that you’re miserable, things are terrible, and that the person to blame is Obama. They want you to believe that things are as bad as … well… as bad as four years ago.

Perhaps the clearest illustration of this illusory sales pitch was when its very premise was threatened by a drop to 7.8 percent unemployment, putting a cherry on top of the strongest sustained jobs growth since 1984.

These rosey facts led GOP magnates like Rick Satelli and Jack Welch to assert there was a ‘government conspiracy’ to fudge the numbers. And since employment figures are as closely guarded as US nuclear weapons codes, these assertions were quickly proven to be what they were: preposterous.

It’s a chancy game, this selling of recession. Because the sales pitch itself creates a certain amount of damage. If people believe it, it suppresses economic confidence. It prevents people from buying. It may prevent some from seeking a job they would otherwise qualify for. It creates a kind of sense of malaise so poisonous to a post-recession expansion.

Yet this selling of recession hasn’t only been verbal. It has been legislative. Every bill that would have actually resulted in jobs creation has been blocked by republicans in Congress for the past two years.

Benjamin Feinblum summed up how these blockages keep happening in his recent report after the Republicans blocked a jobs bill aimed at helping veterans coming home from war find work:

The method Republicans have used to block all jobs legislation in the past two years is the same. A jobs bill comes up, it is filled with positive things for the economy, Republicans filibuster debate, this shields them from having to make floor speeches on why they don’t want tax breaks for small businesses… etc.

Why? Well, if the economy recovers too strongly before an election, Republicans will lose power.

Futhermore, republicans have engaged in a direct assault on America’s best hope for a new growth industry — alternative energy. At every turn we hear attacks on solar, wind, renewables and, most of all on the Chevy Volt. This has even caused some defections in the ranks of republicans. For example, Bob Lutz has been deriding republican-led attacks on the Volt ever since the vehicle launched in December of 2010:

Yesterday Forbes published an op-ed piece from GM’s former CEO, Bob Lutz defending the Chevy Volt and calling on certain right wing media outlets to focus on telling the truth, rather than concocting lies. One wonders after reading his piece whether the Republican Party believes in that Communist strategy that the ends justify the means? — Torque News

We know republicans would have preferred to let GM go bankrupt, as Romney once advised. Now they attack an American innovation marvel. One that is leading an electric vehicle charge that could break the back of fossil fuel dependence and spur the American economy to new growth all in one go. Just last month, nearly 6000 electric vehicles sold in the US. Given these numbers, it appears that EVs are taking off even faster than their predecessor, the hybrid. Meanwhile, US alternative energy production has doubled since Obama took office.

Sadly, the sales pitch of ‘recession’ continues. In just this past week’s debate Mitt Romney chided Obama for investing 90 Billion in green energy. That 90 billion included the stunning success the Volt is now becoming, in spite of a right-wing media assault. That 90 billion included a doubling of US renewable energy production. That 90 billion helped to support hundreds of thousands of jobs in places like Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, Texas and New Jersey. That 90 billion helped to indirectly support 8.5 million jobs that result from alternative energy — a number three times higher than that supported by fossil fuels for each dollar spent (Business Week).

Yet all Romney could say for this emerging American revolution? Solyndra. The cherry picking of one failed company in a wave of overall success. I suppose Romney could have thought of better use for that 90 Billion? Funneling it into a 5 trillion dollar tax cut for the rich, perhaps? Or, maybe investing it in ‘nation building’ overseas, as he mentioned recently in a foreign policy speech at VMI. But, under Obama, that money, instead has been invested in nation building at home.

7.8 percent unemployment and falling… Stock market doubles. It looks like a little nation building is making things better. Far better than when Bush left office at 7.8 percent unemployment and rising at the rate of 750,000 jobs lost each and every month.

So what’s Romney’s big beef with building up America for once? Why keep bashing her?

I don’t know if republicans, overall, are good or bad people. I suspect that they are good, just misled by misinformation and succumbing to that all-too-human failure of believing that the ends justify the means. But, just like Mitt Romney, they seem to be decent folk employed in the bad work of short-selling America. And it is this bad work that is so very unhelpful and destructive. The defending of tax cuts that aid in the shipping of jobs overseas. The defending of the dominance of the oil, gas and coal industry, which staunches future energy development, jobs growth, and prevents the tackling of the farmland-destroying menace that is climate change.

What this reveals is that republicans have taken the cynical approach of hurting America in the hopes that it will aid them in the regaining of power. This ‘conquer America’ strategy through a systematic damage to America’s prospects would be something expected from a foreign power seeking to undermine America’s status for the advancement of its own. But it is a terrible betrayal for such a policy to be leveled against America by one of its own political parties. One that prides itself on its patriotism.

For republicans, it is best to learn that, sometimes, it is better to lose for the right reasons than to win for the wrong ones. For winning the wrong way often results in a short term gain at the expense of a later consignment to the dust-bin of history — not to mention the terrible damage that occurs along the way.

Message to Romney and republicans: stop doing bad work. Stop selling America short. Stop selling recession in the midst of recovery. Stop assaulting the new industries that will create the new jobs. Stop attacking American innovations like the Volt. Stop holding back legislation that helps people find work and helps build jobs. Stop making it harder on farmers and the people who tend to the engines of democracy — the hard-working people of America. Stop hurting us. Stop hurting America.

And to Americans tired of this endless selling of recession, the sandbagging of US jobs progress, the destruction of emerging US industries, and the failed policies that caused our terrible recession in the first place: you have both the ability and the opportunity to remove these republicans in Congress and to prevent them from holding the White House again this November. Who knows, perhaps the time is right for a voter revolution against a harmful party, that acts so much like a foreign power, occupying our golden shores.

Links:

http://www.torquenews.com/1075/bob-lutz-defends-volt-calls-republicans-be-truthful

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/business/2012/10/unemployment-plummets-78/57640/

http://www.policymic.com/articles/11510/senate-republicans-block-another-jobs-bill-face-backlash-from-american-public

Are Renewable Energy Sources Set to Outcompete Fossil Fuels?

A flurry of news reports heralding a new oil and gas age for the US glosses over a dark and difficult to deal with fact. The cost to extract both of these non-renewable resources is increasing. Tight oil and gas fracturing, claimed to be an energy savior for the US despite a plethora of problems including well casing leaks, contaminated water supplies, methane leaks, surging investment costs, and high costs to bring the fuels to market, are expected, by many sources, to be the ‘new future.’

In short, the ‘new future’ looks a lot like the old past, but much more expensive and coming on the heels of a long string of global warming impacts. For gas, the cost of the tight sources is over twice that of traditional wells, costing around $5 to extract a unit of tight shale gas. For oil, tight shale supplies require as much as $90 dollars per barrel to produce. These high costs are nearly twice as much as the often derided and vilified ethanol, which requires $50 dollars per barrel to produce without subsidy.

But the massive oil and gas marketing campaign to put out renewable energy’s electric fire continues apace. This week showed a flurry of glittery and optimistic oil and gas reports coupled with the typical volley of hit pieces aimed at everything that replaces oil from the Chevy Volt to your friendly neighborhood wind farm. The usual suspects all repeated their shrill and desperate chant of ‘the Volt is dead’ a month after Volt sales reached new records and costs to produce each vehicle were dropping fast as sales numbers increased.

Misinformation painting the Volt as uneconomic was belied by these numbers and a recent report showing that the Volt only costs consumers 3 cents per mile to drive. A regular ICE vehicle at $4 per gallon gasoline and 30 miles per gallon fuel efficiency costs 13 cents a mile to drive, more than four times as much. How does the Volt achieve such a feat? Get rid of as much oil input as possible and move to a, far more efficient, battery and electric motor configuration.

Perhaps these lower costs are the reason owners rank the Volt highest in customer satisfaction.

The Volt is dead! Long live the Volt!

But despite all the positive attributes of this powerful, new American technology, a large section of the media is now bent on killing the vehicle. At every success a new negative spin is generated. For example, as the Volt broke sales records last month, hundreds of blogs and articles parroted the fact that GM was offering discounts on the car as a sign of weakness. The same papers and blogs, many months before, criticized the Volt for being too expensive. So which is it? Similar negative information has been spewed about wind, solar, and biofuels. The only solution heralded by these ‘news’ sources appears to be fossil fuels, whose rather large and long string of negatives these news sources wholly ignore. Which ultimately begs the question, who pays the check?

Attempts at fossil fuel dominance and public opinion shaping ranged long and far throughout traditional media and in politics. Overall, it was a typical, banner week for the increasingly rickety fossil fuel based economy. But despite all this misinformation which one blogger recently to compared to the reign of ‘the Dark Lord,’ there were a number of glimmers of hope peaking out through all this misinformation.

As mentioned above, Chevy recently discounted its revolutionary Volt by as much as 10,000 dollars or offered leases for $299 (not $159 as claimed in the misinformation media), spurring new sales and raising the possibility that total Volt sales would reach 30,000 by end of September. Overall, this is far better than the earlier launch of the, equally derided and vilified at the time, Toyota Prius during its first two years. In addition, even as prices for the Volt are going down, quality is going up. The EPA estimated battery range for the vehicle has climbed from 35 miles to 38 miles resulting in a combined average mileage of 98 mpg. This gives most Volt users about 1000 miles of travel between fill-ups which means savings on top of savings for owners.

In addition, US alternative energy coming from solar, wind, and geothermal, as a percentage of electric power, has grown from 3% to 6% within the last four years. Total alternative energy from electric power adding in hydro-electric and geothermal is now over 15%, more than nuclear energy as a proportion of electricity generation. And since the primary contributor to greenhouse gas emissions is electricity generation (coming from coal and natural gas generation and extraction), this leap in alternative energy capacity is a help in dealing with the problem of climate change.

Perhaps most important is level costs and falling prices. Wind and solar energy are very stable energy sources, making it easy for investors to predict outcomes. Not so with natural gas, which is one of the most volatile energy sources available, making it a baby for those who love to game the market. And as time has gone forward, costs for wind and solar continue to drop. Wind is now less expensive than everything but the least expensive natural gas plants. And solar is now less expensive than new nuclear energy and combined cycle gas and coal plants that could be retrofitted for carbon capture at even greater prices. In fact, over the past 18 months, the cost of solar panels has dropped by 65%, leading to a boom in panel sales around the world and in the US even as modest subsidy support for the new energy sources may be withdrawn.

The same can certainly not be said for fossil fuels. Natural gas is driving some companies to the edge of bankruptcy due to the rising cost of extraction and a glut on the market, caused, in part, by rising alternative energy usage. In addition, oil just saw its most expensive year on record. And people are beginning to awaken to the vast external costs and harm of coal use, with opposition to new plants rising in the US and around the world.

Across the globe, countries are taking notice of the alternative energy sea change. During a period this spring, Germany produced 50% of its energy from solar panels. That number is expected to rise to as high as 70% by next year. And as one of the only bright lights in Portugal’s ailing economy, it has managed to install enough renewable energy to make up 45% of its entire electricity grid. Going forward, this energy capital will help to stabilize and improve an otherwise troubled economy by reducing its dependence on imported fuels. Similar stories are being told across Europe and in places in the US. North Dakota produces 20% of its electricity through wind. California and Texas are following suit.

A view of the total installed capacity for US wind energy can be seen below (As of August 2012, the number broke 50 gigawatts installed, a 3.1 GW addition in just 8 months!).

The EU has installed 100 gigawatts of wind capacity and China boasts over 60 gigawatts of installed wind energy capacity. In total, nearly 50 gigawatts of new wind energy capacity will be installed during 2012. Solar energy is now surging to catch up, with total solar energy installations to reach 30 gigawatts in Germany alone this year. The US now boasts 6 gigawatts of solar energy and growing and the world is now adding nearly 30 gigawatts of solar energy capacity each year. This combined installation of 80 gigawatts wind and solar each year is a significant leap forward for alternative energy and is starting to prove its ability to outpace fossil fuels as a primary energy provider.

A sad fact is that, without the harmful media and political campaign being waged by US oil, gas, and coal special interests, the US could be even further along in developing domestic energy sources independent of foreign influence or climate damaging pollutants. Recent opposition to the production tax credit by oil money soaked republicans in Congress now threatens thousands of US alternative energy jobs and will likely further slow development of wind and solar energy production capacity within the US. This removes a key feed-in to US manufacturing and cedes more leadership to competitors overseas — primarily Europe and China. But the republicans, who run on the false mantra that they believe all ‘government subsidies are bad,’ never saw a fossil fuel subsidy they didn’t like and are fighting tooth and nail to keep the oil and gas industry’s incentives of 40 billion dollars intact even as they campaign on expanding subsidy support to this already subsidy bloated industry. But the republicans have been unable to stop what is a growing US and world-wide trend, only delay it, much to the harm of their native country.

(Romney and the republican strawman, Solyndra, on campaign trail together)

The renewable energy boom in the US has also led to a benevolent side effect — an increase in US manufacturing, installation, and alternative energy service jobs. Overall, green energy supports three times the number of jobs when compared to fossil fuels. As a result, more than 8.5 million people work in an alternative energy or energy efficiency related profession, according to Business Week. Look at the map below to find the nearest wind energy component manufacturing facility. Most likely, it is in a city or state near you:

All these facts combine to make the alternative energy sector a growing challenge to the established fossil fuel special interests. And, for this reason alone, we are likely to continue to see a stream of misinformation and demonization of the alternatives coming from fossil-fuel associated sources. But the next time you hear someone say the words Solyndra in a political context, bash wind or solar, or demonize the Volt, it’s important to know where that message originated — those casting their lot with the dirty, dangerous, and depleting fossil fuels.

Links:

Romney’s Plan For 12 Million Jobs — Take Credit for the Work Done by Obama

During an arguably well-delivered speech at the Republican National Convention, Romney, unfortunately, served up a number of glaring whoppers. The first was his making light of an increasingly real, damaging, and dangerous climate crisis. This bald denial of an event affecting farmers all throughout the heartland was just the first of many statements that don’t quite jibe with facts, reality, or even decency.

Unfortunately for both Romney and the rest of us, Romney’s climate change denial was only his first fault. His second error had to deal with, not making light of a serious problem that needs addressing, but with attempting to do nothing and take credit for the hard work of others. In his speech, Romney claimed that his administration would create 12 million jobs. On its face, it sounds like an ambitious plan. But let’s take a little time to analyze this promise.

The sad, sorry, rough truth is that world economic conditions aren’t so hot when it comes to jobs. We have a number of powerful corporations ranging the globe searching for ever-more-productive workers for an ever-decreasing relative wage. The net effect of this endless flight to lower paying jobs is a world-wide pressure on all middle class and, for that matter, living wage jobs. Pervasive corporate worker exploitation on a global scale has made it increasingly difficult for people to find decent-paying jobs since the 1980s.

This growing jobs crisis reached a boiling point during the great recession when states began to adopt austerity programs. These programs drastically cut the number of decent-paying government jobs available. Now workers were faced with the tough reality that even governments weren’t likely to provide nearly as much in the way of worthwhile work. Austerity resulted in a geological shift in the employment market that drastically reduced the pool of living wage jobs. And it is, perhaps, ironic to note that the same corporations and political forces pushing lower wage market jobs were the same forces pushing for austerity in many countries, including the US.

The net result is that economic prospects, unless you’re the modern version of a robber-baron, aren’t so hot globally.

The US has been somewhat insulated to this hard reality through the efforts of President Obama. He pushed a stimulus program that was vital in reducing jobs losses and in restoring the opportunity for job creation. He has recoiled against republican efforts to force austerity on the United States. As such, he has preserved many well-paying jobs that would otherwise have been cut. However, since republicans dominate the House of Representatives and hold most US Governor’s seats, they have been successful in cutting public service rolls at the state and federal level. Less firefighters, teachers, researchers, police officers, and scientists means less decent-paying jobs available. A college graduate with a science degree might be forced, instead, to take a minimum wage, bad benefits job at Staples, for example.

But despite these political pressures and the predatory corporate practices resulting in an extremely adverse world jobs climate, Obama has managed to push through a number of policies that stabilized the US jobs situation. His first efforts stopped jobs losses at the rate of 750,000 per month during the last days of Bush. And his next efforts began the hard work of creating new jobs in an extremely adverse political and economic climate. These efforts resulted in a .84% increase in jobs so far throughout his administration. This increase, ironically, is equal to the percent of US jobs lost under Bush’s second term. It is more than the jobs created under Bush’s first term. It is also more than the number of jobs created under Bush senior or even the number of jobs created during the second term of Eisenhower.

After the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and in the current terrible world jobs climate, this work amounts to serious heavy lifting. But looking forward, the real benefit of Obama’s jobs policies becomes even clearer. According to a recent report by Moody’s Analytics, over the next four years 12 million jobs will be created in the US. This is the more positive jobs climate Obama worked so hard to establish. And even if no further policy measures are implemented to create jobs, according to Moody’s, those 12 million jobs will be there.

And this, at last, brings us to Romney. It seems that climate change isn’t the only thing he and his fellow republicans are in denial of. It appears he’s in denial of the plain fact that Obama’s job creation policies actually worked. But his denial isn’t so deep as to disallow a cynical attempt to steal credit for the Obama Administration’s successes. This action is similar to that of a middle level corporate manager who waits for an enterprising employee to make a breakthrough and, essentially, steals his idea. So we can see where Romney’s corporate experience is starting to ‘shine through’ during this election process. But stealing an idea from a standing President isn’t so easy as from a victimized employee. The facts, as we have noted, are plainly visible for all should they care enough to look.

As for Romney’s so-called jobs ‘policy?’ According to fact checkers it is nothing short of a vague list of notions that don’t amount to any solid position at all. Nothing more than advertising and posturing mascaraing as serious political action. The Romney paper was so lacking in substance that analytic organizations had no means to score it for potential jobs created or lost. In short, it’s a puff paper.

So what, in the end, is Romney’s jobs policy?

Do nothing. Set America adrift. Take credit for other people’s work.

Why Would Congress Cut a $1.6 Billion Dollar Subsidy to Wind and Still Subsidize Oil to the Tune of $40 Billion?

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It seems that every year or so a matter of national urgency comes up for debate in Congress: a rather inexpensive incentive for the critical wind industry called the production tax credit. This incentive aids an industry that creates tens of thousands of US jobs even as it helps to mitigate the ongoing climate change crisis currently impacting the United States.

In all, the production tax credit cost the US government $1.6 billion last year. It paid that money back tenfold in new jobs created and in carbon emissions prevented. In short, this small sum is helping to solve the climate change crisis that this year may cost America as much as $100 billion from combined drought and other extreme weather damages even as it helps to solve our economic crisis.

Often, wind opponents argue that if wind must receive subsidies to expand, then it is not economically viable. But considering the fact that all major energy sources receive a degree of subsidies and incentives, this argument is, in itself, nonsensical.

Oil, for example, is a major beneficiary of US subsidies. And, for years, it has operated under the illusion of being an ‘economic energy source.’ Now, a decade of high prices has made a mockery of this claim. And over the same period, more than $40 billion has been spent in subsidies and incentives for this dirty, dangerous, and depleting oil. But high oil prices have managed to ensure one thing: that oil companies themselves end up making record profits. In this case, shoveling money at already highly profitable oil is like shoveling more fuel onto a climate change fire. Onto a depleting energy source that is bound to cost more and more as the years wear on. In essence, we are spending taxpayer money to damage our economy while simultaneously enriching the companies that do so.

Republicans in Congress, who seem determined to kill this tax credit for the wind industry should think on the job losses, and the further damage to America via the vehicle of climate change, such a repeal would cause. They should think on their often hollow claims of reverence to the spirit of freedom. One they are allowing the oil barons to crush through the force of political and market dominance. These same republicans have often given lip-service to job creation. Now they have a chance to allow an actual job creation measure to pass. Given past performance, one is not too hopeful this will occur. But should they block the production tax credit, they should pay for their failure. For they would harm America’s energy security, her ability to create jobs, and the climate security which is vital to maintaining her Agricultural prominence.

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