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A review of Florida Constitutional Amendment 4 — Solar Devices by James Lampe

As you consider your vote remember this is a Constitutional Amendment, and once passed the chances of changing it are slim and none.  Before we change the Constitution, shouldn’t the Amendment be clearly beneficial to most Floridians?  Unfortunately, the vast majority of Floridians will be hurt if Amendment 4 is passed.  The Amendment will raise electric rates and ad valorem taxes.  Vote NO on this Amendment.

amendment 4 ballot language

Summary:  This Amendment will exempt solar devices installed on homes or businesses from ad valorem taxes, until 12-31-2037.

First of all, homeowners who install Solar-Electric systems already get a 30% federal tax break!

This financial assistance from the federal government, has been around for years.  Secondly, Florida state government has helped by exempting “solar energy systems or any component thereof” from sales tax.  And now we have this amendment, a third gilded gift to prop-up the failing solar industry.

Nonetheless, let’s see how many people this Amendment will help.  A review of the US Census Fact Finder data on the table below, shows that 30% (2,166,215) of all Floridians live in “Rental Occupied” units, and therefore, no-one in that group would invest in solar-electric systems.  As shown in the “Owner-occupied” category, that leaves 4,986,629 potential customers.

amendment 4 survey

In addition, even if you own a house you may not be able to afford to invest in a solar-electric system.  People who own lower valued housing units valued at $50,000-$150,000, are not likely to invest $30,000 (cost estimate to buy, install, and connect a solar-electric system to the electric grid) for solar system.  So of the 4,986,629 total housing units, we can subtract 1,593,957 for the lower valued houses.  That gives 3,392,697 as the remaining moderate to higher priced housing units that would be the target market for solar-electric systems.

However, there are about 1,000,000 condominiums in Florida, whose owners would also be prevented/impeded from modifying or otherwise changing their common roofs, so the total possible number of housing units for solar falls to 2,392,697, or ~34% of all housing units.

With only ~34% of housing units available for solar-electric systems, how can this Amendment be considered fair?  Worse yet, many snow-birds and residents have mobile homes that are included the housing units, but there is no itemized number for them.  So the 34%, would be even lower if mobile home units were subtracted from the total number of units.

florida solar amendment

In 2015, the Nevada PUC changed the rules for “net metering,” which allows homeowners to sell their excess solar generated electricity to their utility at retail rather than wholesale rates.  But because that arrangement was too costly, the PUC changed the rule.

The Nevada scenario seems like a no brainer, but apparently there was enough grant money to make up for the losses, until one day when the math didn’t work, and the people in Nevada realized that the more electric generated by solar, the less profits the utilities collect.  The utilities need profit to pay staff to restore power after storms, sustain street lighting, and maintain the electric grid, etc.  In addition, utilities work on economies of scale, and their efficiency is reduced when customers convert to solar, because it costs more to generate a KW of electricity.

This Amendment is an obvious attempt by state bureaucrats to boost the heavily subsidized, yet nearly bankrupt solar industry.  It’s not fair or prudent, to let the state pick winners and losers in a free market economy, and we should not let this cronyism go unnoticed.

Vote NO on Amendment 4.

Super PAC Helping Elect Republicans Supporting a Conservative Clean Energy Agenda

CHARLOTTE, N.C. /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Conservative philanthropist Jay Faison today announced the formation of ClearPath Action, a new independent expenditure-only political action committee being established to help elect Republicans to public office and advance a conservative clean energy policy agenda for GOP lawmakers.  Faison is also the CEO and founder of ClearPath, a private non-profit foundation dedicated to accelerating conservative clean energy policy solutions.

“No one is currently providing enough support to candidates who embrace conservative clean energy principles and feel compelled to talk about clean energy as part of their campaign,” said Faison in announcing the effort.  “We’re forming this committee to make an impact, provide support, and help Republicans this election cycle and in future election cycles.”

“We know that Democrats are using clean energy as a wedge issue and we’re committed to fighting back and going on offense for the GOP,” added Faison.  “We don’t have to agree on climate change to agree that Republicans can support a conservative clean energy platform that provides energy security, creates jobs and boosts our economy, and reduces pollution.”

clearpat actionABOUT CLEARPATH ACTION

ClearPath Action is building a sophisticated campaign infrastructure with plans to help support multiple Republican candidates throughout the country in 2016.

For more information on ClearPath Action, visit www.ClearPathAction.org.

Marco Rubio’s Recent Climate Change of Heart ‘Disingenuous’

ken fieldsNEW YORK, NY /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — In response to Marco Rubio’s recent campaign event in New Hampshire where the candidate appears to have made a climate change of heart and has called for America to be “number one in wind, and number one in solar, and number one in biofuels, and number one in renewables, number one in energy efficiency. Let’s lead in all of these things,” independent presidential candidate Ken Fields (pictured right) responded by saying:

“For someone who has so vehemently opposed any acknowledgement of the scientific consensus backing the evidence of human-caused climate change due to our planet’s reliance on fossil fuels, Rubio’s change of heart seems disingenuous at best. He has voted against energy efficiency and clean energy tax incentives. It’s hard to believe him.”

When pressed for further comment, Fields stated, “The recent and continued volatility in global oil markets should be evidence enough that energy security is not simply a matter of having and exploiting our own fossil fuel resources, but rather being completely independent of fossil fuels altogether.”

Fields officially launched his campaign last week on January 8th, 2016. His platform revolves around his slogan, “Greatness Must Be Earned” and to do great things, he has advocated the transition to 100% renewable energy for the country over the next 20 years. His policy plan includes, but is not limited to, creating the public and private mechanisms to encourage and nurture the financial markets to participate, a tax holiday for repatriated corporate capital that is invested in renewables and a carbon tax and dividend plan.

For further information on his policies and positions feel free to visit www.kenfields.net.

When Will the Presidential Candidates Debate America’s Energy Opportunity?

Presidential debates are supposed to cover the issues that will most affect voters.

In this respect, every Presidential debate so far has failed, because none have discussed America’s single greatest opportunity, an opportunity that can help solve 8 of our toughest challenges and “make America great again.” This is America’s energy opportunity.

America has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to combine American innovation, American resources, and American freedom to create American energy abundance and become the world’s energy superpower, overtaking Russia and the Middle East.

The question is: Will we seize this opportunity or will we squander it?

You’ve heard the expression “there’s no silver bullet” for our problems but America’s energy opportunity is a silver bullet.

Energy is a uniquely consequential issue because the energy industry is the industry that powers every other industry. By creating American energy abundance and becoming the world’s energy superpower we can tackle eight key challenges at once.

  1. Jump-start the American economy

    Our challenge: We have been mired in recession or near-recession for a decade—and without the energy industry it would be much, much worse.

    Our opportunity: The same industry that has kept us out of desperate trouble can bring us to new heights, by producing and selling energy around the world.

  2. Create millions of well-paying job opportunities

    Our challenge: It is difficult for many Americans to find jobs, in large part thanks to onerous restrictions on industry that have shut down many companies.

    Our opportunity: A ramp-up in the US energy industry would create millions of productive, well-paying jobs.

  3. Lower your cost of living

    Our challenge: The US cost of living has been going up for decades, and when the prices of energy goes up, transportation, heating, and electric bills place a large burden on American business.

    Our opportunity: Energy affordability can lower the cost of our direct energy bills, saving thousands of dollars a year—and, because energy is part of every industry, it can lower the cost of everything we buy and do.

  4. Increase our industrial competitiveness

    Our challenge: Due largely to onerous government policies, American manufacturing has declined for decades, leaving far worse employment opportunities for those trained for industrial jobs.

    Our opportunity: Energy affordability dramatically lowers one of the largest manufacturing costs, and combined with liberating industry from irrational costs, it can make America a manufacturing hub.

  5. Shrink the deficit

    Our challenge: America has a massive, ever-growing deficit and debt, caused by a combination of reckless spending and a sluggish economy.

    Our opportunity: Doubling American energy production is our easiest path to economic growth and increased tax revenues without tax increases; coupled with a commitment to cutting spending we can finally be on a path to solvency.

  6. Increase national security

    Our challenge: Nations around the world threaten us, and one major difficulty we have in dealing with them is their enormous influence in world energy markets, particularly oil and gas.

    Our opportunity: America’s energy leadership will give America and her allies energy security from Russia and the Middle East, protecting both economic stability and foreign policy leverage.

  7. Fight global poverty

    Our challenge: Much of the world is still massively impoverished.

    Our opportunity: Energy abundance will make it more affordable for countries to industrialize and in particular to alleviate one of the most crucial aspects of poverty: energy poverty.

  8. Improve environmental quality worldwide

    Our challenge: Environmental concerns are always crucial—we want to be as productive as we can be but also have a clean, healthy environment, which many say is impossible with fossil fuels, nuclear, and hydro.

    Our opportunity: Contrary to popular belief, the freedom to develop these sources won’t make our environment dirtier and our climate more dangerous, they will make our environment cleaner and our climate safer—because energy abundance dramatically improves environmental quality and climate safety.

Our politicians should be seizing all 8 of these opportunities. Instead, they are squandering them.

We can only create American energy abundance if we are free to choose, produce, transport the most abundant, affordable, reliable forms of energy—including hydrocarbons, nuclear, and hydro power.

Unfortunately, the Washington establishment has attacked every single one of these sources of energy abundance.

Instead of protecting the freedom to choose the best forms of energy, they are anti-choice and pro-subsidy.

Instead of protecting the freedom to produce the best forms of energy, they are anti-drilling and anti-mining.

Instead of protecting the freedom to transport energy where it is needed, they are anti-pipeline and anti-export terminals for coal, oil, and gas.

Instead of protecting the freedom to innovate in energy, they are anti-innovation in the most promising types of energy technologies, such as nuclear and fracking.

Washington could be making us into an energy superpower. Instead it is making us into an energy pawn.

How can we change course? We need to give our politicians an ultimatum: seize America’s energy opportunity—or lose our vote. That’s why I created a simple website, America’s Energy Opportunity, with an ultimatum you can sign and send to your elected officials.

If we do this together—by the hundreds, by the thousands, and ultimately by the millions—then our politicians and candidates will no longer be able to ignore America’s energy opportunity. And they just might seize it. Let’s demand that they do.

Disclosure: America’s Energy Opportunity has no affiliation with or funding from any party, industry, campaign, PAC, or other special interest. Its (very small) budget is entirely financed by my organization, the Center for Industrial Progress.

As always, if you’d like to suggest a new guest for Power Hour, or have me appear on your show, you can send me an email at support@industrialprogress.net, or just reply to this one.

RELATED ARTICLE: “The Economic Effects of Immediately Opening Federal Lands to Oil, Gas, and Coal Leasing,”

“Green Banks” Will Drown in the Red by Jonathan Bydlak

Why does federal spending matter? There are many reasons, but perhaps the most fundamental is that free markets allocate resources better than governments because markets rely on price instead of politics. Many industries show this observation to be true, but the emerging field of “green banks” offers perhaps one of the clearest recent examples.

A green bank is a “public or quasi-public financing institution that provides low-cost, long-term financing support to clean, low-carbon projects by leveraging public funds…to attract private investment.” Right now, only a handful of green banks are scattered across Connecticut, California, New York, Rhode Island, and Hawaii.

Free marketers rightly doubt whether public funds should be used to finance private startups. But regardless of where one stands in that debate, the states’ struggles serve as a valuable testing ground for future investments.

The State of Connecticut operates under a fairly significant budget deficit. California has been calculating its budgets without taking unfunded pension liabilities into account, and it’s gambling with its ability to service its debt. New York continues to live beyond its means. Rhode Island’s newest budget does little to rehabilitate its deficit spending addiction, and, despite having a balanced budget clause in its state constitution, Hawaii has a pattern of operating at a deficit.

In fact, a state solvency report released by the Mercatus Center has each of these five states ranked in the bottom third of the country, with their solvency described as either “low” or “poor.”

This all raises the question of whether these governments are able to find sound investment opportunities in the first place. Rhode Island couldn’t even identify a bad investment when baseball legend Curt Schilling wanted $75 million to make video games about something other than baseball!

Recently, though, there have been calls to extend the struggling green banking system to the federal level. Mark Muro and Reed Hundt at the Brookings Institute argued in favor of federal action in support of green banks. Somewhat paradoxically, they assert that demand for green banking institutions and the types of companies they finance is so strong that the existing state-based green banks cannot muster enough capital to meet demand.

Wherever there is potential for profit and a sound business plan, lending institutions are likely to be found, willing to relinquish a little capital for a consistent and reasonable rate of return. So where are the private lenders and other investment firms who have taken notice and are competing for the opportunity to provide loans to such highly sought-after companies and products?

Even assuming that there is demand for green banking services, recent experience shows that a federally-subsidized system would likely lead to inefficiency, favor trading, and failure. For instance, the Department of Energy Loan Program is designed to facilitate and aid clean energy startup companies. Its portfolio exceeds $30 billion, but following a series of bad investments like Solyndra, Inc., new loan guarantees have been few and far between. The program has already lost over $700 million.

Even the rosiest measurements do not show particularly exciting returns from this system. The Department of Energy itself estimates that over the lifetime of the loans it’s guaranteed, there exists the potential to see $5 billion in profit. However, those estimates also depend on the peculiar accounting methods the DoE itself employs.

This problem is apparent in other government sectors. For instance, determining how much profit the federal government makes off of student loans depends on who is asked. Some say none, while others say it’s in the billions. Gauging the economic impact or solvency of government programs is notoriously difficult, and different methods can yield what look like very different results. Add to that the consistently uncertain nature of the energy market, and profits are hardly guaranteed.

Examples abound of wasteful federal spending, and the growing green technology and renewable energy industry is no exception. The DoE Loan Program has already faced issues that go well beyond Solyndra: Abound Solar, a Colorado-based solar panel manufacturer, was given a $400 million DoE loan guarantee, only to later file for bankruptcy, potentially costing taxpayers $60 million. The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, a 175,000 unit heliostat array in California, received a $1.6 billion federal loan and, because it failed to produce the amount of power estimated, was forced to later request more than$500 million in federal grants from the Treasury Department. A recent Taxpayers Protection Alliance study showed that risky investments in heavily subsidized solar energy could even lead to a bubble similar to the disastrous 2008 housing bubble.

Those who want to expand the government’s role in green banking likely want to see more clean and renewable energy reach the consumer market, and a lot of people probably applaud that goal — but the real question is whether the proposed means can reliably achieve that end. A wise manager with a solid business plan can find investors who will willingly take a chance. Considering the struggles of several states, trusting the federal government to build an even bigger system would exponentially increase that risk.

In contrast, the market offers opportunity to entrepreneurs in the green technology and renewable energy industries. For instance, GreatPoint Energy, a company specializing in clean coal, successfully went the route that other companies do: Design a product or service, find investors, and compete in the marketplace.

SolarCity, a California-based and publicly traded corporation of over 2,500 employees, entered the industry before many government loan programs were established. Thanks to a sound business model and subsequent horizontal and vertical expansion, it has become a leader in the industry. SolarCity’s success, however, cannot be touted by the Department of Energy’s Loan Program, which declined to invest in the company, leading SolarCity to try — and succeed — in finding private investment.

If GreatPoint or SolarCity had failed, only those who willingly participated in the startup would suffer the consequences. The issue with green banking — and indeed government “investments” more generally — is that taxpayers are not party to the negotiations but are the ones ultimately on the hook for failures.

In absolute terms, these billions of dollars are a lot of money. But in the grand scheme of government spending, the amount of money invested in green banks and renewable energy production is relatively small. If Social Security is the Atlantic Ocean, and wasteful defense appropriations are the Mediterranean, then green energy investments fall somewhere in the range of the Y-40 pool: easily measurable but certainly not insignificant.

Your odds of drowning may be smaller in the pool than the ocean, but that doesn’t make the drowning itself any more pleasant. The federal government is already under water; adding new liabilities on the hope that politicians can guess the future of energy is merely a step towards the deep end, not the ladder out.


Jonathan Bydlak

Jonathan Bydlak is the founder and president of the Institute to Reduce Spending and the Coalition to Reduce Spending.

Global Coal Use Growing Faster Than Any Other Energy

Over the last decade, global coal use grew by 968 million tonnes of oil equivalent. That is 4 times faster than renewables, 2.8 times faster than oil and 50 per cent faster than gas. That’s hardly justification for a requiem.

As Master of Oxford University’s Baillol College in the second half of the 19th century, Benjamin Jowett once submitted a contentious issue to a vote among Baillol’s dons and was displeased with the result. “The vote is 22 to 2. I see we are deadlocked.”

enegy sources global

Jowett was determined to ensure that empirical facts were not going to deny him the result he wanted.

When it comes to the coal industry, environmental campaigners and fellow travellers in the media are busy wishing away facts that don’t suit their arguments.

‘‘The end of coal’’ was the tag­line for a Four Corners’ “analysis” of the coal sector last night. It was Episode 14 of Series 3 of the Four Corners’ critique of the mining industry.

Consistent with the established practice, the conclusion of the piece was predetermined and the narrative arranged accordingly.

Facts were in short supply, wishful thinking was not. A trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation, which funds activist groups and co-funded the development of an Australian anti-coal strategy in 2011, was wheeled out as an objective observer.

So the release of BP’s 2015 Statistical Review of World Energy in recent days is timely. Although BP is no friend of coal, the report provides an objective analysis of developments in global energy.

Let’s test some of the anti-coal crusaders’ claims with some objective facts.

First, it is claimed that coal is a dying energy source and its use is being phased out. Not so. According to the BP Review, over the decade to the end of 2014, coal use grew by 968 million tonnes of oil equivalent. That is 4 times faster than renewables, 2.8 times faster than oil and 50 per cent faster than gas. That’s hardly justification for a requiem.

Second, investors are not walking away from coal. Yes, some universities and some funds have decided to divest some of their stocks in fossil fuels. That’s their prerogative. But the overwhelming majority have not and will not divest of coal stocks. Sure the share prices of coal companies fall during a commodity downturn due largely to oversupply. So do the share prices of oil companies and grain producers when prices fall in those sectors.

The empirical evidence suggests that interest in the sector from lenders and investors remains strong. One of the anti-coal movement’s own groups, Bankwatch, has complained that global financing for coal mining rose to $US66 billion in 2014, up from $US55bn in 2013 and a 360 per cent increase from 2005.

The third claim is that renewable energy is capable of replacing fossil fuels, including coal.

Not likely. In 2014, if the world had relied on renewable energy like wind, solar and biomass for primary energy, then the world would have had just 9 days of heat, light and artificial horsepower.

Fourth, campaigners claim that coal has no future in a low emissions world. Not true. New generation technologies are slashing CO2 emissions from coal fired plants by as much as 40 per cent. These high efficiency low emissions plants are being rolled out in China, Japan and elsewhere in Asia. And the first large scale carbon capture and storage coal plant in Canada has slashed its CO2 emissions by 90 per cent. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has estimated the cost of meeting global reduction targets will be 138 per cent higher without the deployment of carbon capture and storage.

The campaigners also claim that major consuming nations are turning away from coal. But the International Energy Agency predicts that China will add 450 gigawatts of coal fired power over the next 25 years. That’s 40 per cent larger than the entire US coal fleet. As the International Energy Agency has predicted, “China will be the coal giant for many years in the future”.

Energy starved India is also expanding its coal use and is expected to become the world’s largest coal importer in the next decade. The anti-coal crusaders are confused when it comes to India, which, by the way, still has 300 million people without access to electricity.

Their intellectual callisthenics are driven largely by their opposition to the Adani project in the Galilee Basin, which will export high-quality thermal coal to India.

First the campaigners argued that India’s power needs could be supplied by renewable energy. Really? Wind, solar and biomass accounted for 2 per cent of India’s energy needs in 2014. That’s about one week of India’s primary energy needs.

Read the full post

Higher Gas Prices Add to Economic Slump

Courtesy of the Heritage Foundation:

Unemployment is at 8.3 percent. The economy is sputtering at 1.5 percent growth. Food prices are rising due to drought conditions across the country. And gas prices are up again, pinching Americans’ summer budgets. It is past time for the President and Congress to pursue smart policies that would put us on a path to relief.

According to AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report, the current national average for regular is $3.66 per gallon. That’s up 28 cents per gallon from a month ago, and July had its biggest price jump since AAA started tracking prices in 2000. To see the average for Florida click here.

There are many factors affecting prices that we cannot control—worldwide tensions, especially in the Middle East, can drive up oil prices. Global demand, especially from China and India’s rapidly growing economies, continues upward.

But after three years of adding regulatory hurdles and blocking exploratory access and development, President Obama’s policies are helping keep prices higher than necessary.

If the President truly wanted to lower gas prices, he would work to increase supply. But when given the opportunity, he has done the opposite. He turned down the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada. His Administration has made it even harder for companies to explore and extract domestic energy resources by canceling, delaying, or withdrawing a number of lease sales for exploration and development. Meanwhile, huge swaths of federal lands have been put off limits for energy exploration.

Domestic refinery outages have had a recent impact on gas prices. Two of the factors holding back domestic energy production are regulatory red tape and litigation—and these, we can do something about. As Heritage’s Nicolas Loris notes:

Environmental activists delay new energy projects by filing endless administrative appeals and lawsuits. Creating a manageable time frame for permitting and for groups or individuals to contest energy plans would keep potentially cost-effective ventures from being tied up for years in litigation while allowing the public and interested parties to voice opposition or support for these projects.

We don’t have to stand still. Congress could alleviate the energy crunch in 10 different ways by taking action on things we can control, like restrictions on oil shale development and offshore drilling.

One of the most common objections is that increasing domestic oil production takes too long and would not impact the market for at least a decade. The longer people make this argument, however, the longer it will take. The sooner we make investments in domestic energy, the sooner those benefits will be realized. And with some serious reforms, some of this oil can reach the market in much less than a decade.

Gas prices aren’t under the control of any one President. But Americans shouldn’t settle for policies that restrict oil exploration, refining, and production and artificially drive prices higher.

MORE FROM THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION:

High Gas Prices: Obama’s Half-Truths vs. Reality

President Obama’s 10 Worst Energy Policies