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Obama, Romney, and the Alternative Energy Lie

Modern Energy Roundup - October 4, 2012

By Jeff Siegel   

I'm not sure why I decided to watch the debate last night.

These things infuriate me.

The spin, the misinformation, the flat out lies – this stuff does nothing more than further confirm the reality that this nation is being led by school children and thieves.

Now I'm not going to get into a blow-by-blow review of the entire debate. Mostly because every few minutes I had to flip over to Family Guy for about 30 seconds in an effort to avoid bursting a blood vessel.

And I'm definitely not taking sides, because both did a fabulous job at spinning the truth and avoiding answering the questions honestly.

But since we do focus on modern energy here, I must weigh in on how this issue played out last night.

Obama Blew It

First off, let's not sit here and act like President Obama is the leader he pretends to be when it comes to facilitating the rapid growth of clean energy.

Although he talks a good game, if Obama really wanted to get serious about leveling the playing field and getting the US to take the lead in the new global energy economy, he would have made this a priority while the Dems were still running the show in Washington.

Instead, he ignored the dozens of easily passable pieces of legislation that could've further bolstered domestic manufacturing in the wind and solar space, rescinded the decades-long tradition of welfare checks for the oil, gas and nuclear industries and worked with individual states in an effort to come up with a fair and balanced approach on a national renewable portfolio standard that would've helped this nation strategically diversify its energy economy in a way that would have helped reduce carbon emissions, strengthen national security and create jobs.

This stuff could've been knocked out of the park in the first year. It wasn't. So when I listen to the President talk about all these grand plans for alternatives, I don't hold my breath.

What Romney Missed

As far as Romney's concerned, his parroting of the same old tired rhetoric, although with a fresh coat of spin, was exhausting to listen to.

Let's begin with the claim that the Obama administration ponied up $90 billion for “green” energy projects.

It's subtle, but using the word “green” instead of renewable, alternative or modern is an excellent way to trivialize the benefits of non fossil fuel-based power sources.

Beyond the $90 billion figure being wildly inaccurate, Romney chose to use this massive figure as a way to illustrate how much more was handed over to alternative energy compared to fossil fuels and conventional forms of power generation. But there are a few important facts the he deliberately neglected to mention about these subsidies.

While I'm no fan of subsidies for any form of power generation, it is dishonest to ignore the following truths :

  • As a percentage of inflation-adjusted federal spending, nuclear subsidies accounted for more than 1 percent of the federal budget over their first 15 years, and oil and gas subsidies made up half a percent of the total budget, while renewables have accounted for about one tenth of a percent. As analysts from DBL Investors point out, this is to say the federal commitment to oil and gas was five times greater than the federal commitment to renewables during the first 15 years of each subsidies' life, and it was more than ten times greater for nuclear.

  • In inflation-adjusted dollars, nuclear spending averaged $3.3 billion over the first 15 years of subsidy life, and oil and gas subsidies averaged $1.8 billion, while renewables averaged less than $0.3 billion.

Based on nothing more than a close look at the historical record, we know that from 1918 through 2009 ( 91 years), oil and gas companies received $446.9 billion in subsidies. We know that from 1947 through 2009 (62 years), the nuclear industry pocketed $185.7 billion. And we know that up until 2009, the renewable energy sector – not counting biofuels – has landed $5.9 billion.

That's the stuff neither side really wants you to see. Because if either side did, you wouldn't be reading about it here, likely for the first time.

Truth is, there's never been a free market when it comes to energy. The government has been picking winners and losers for decades. So the idea that this is something new and only pertains to renewables is a giant load of horse shit.

To further illustrate my point, take a look at these charts below, provided by the venture capital firm, DBL Investors. . .

chart1sub

chart2sub

Look, neither side is being honest about this. And quite frankly, you'd be hard-pressed to find any lawmaker in Washington willing to support an energy plan that's in the best interests of this nation's long-term economic and environmental sustainability. There's just too much special interest lucre for us to expect anything different.

So here's what I suggest. . .

The next time Romney and Obama take the stage for another debate, when they get to the energy stuff, change the channel. Family Guy is one of my favorite distractions, and I'm quite fond of House Hunters International, too.

Both offer about as much value and credibility to the conversation on an honest energy policy as anything that falls out of the mouths of these two partisan robots.

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Jeff Siegel on CNBC
Green Chip Stocks Editor Jeff Siegel, featured guest on CNBC's Green Week

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