The distinction is that state-sponsored ditch-digging does not necessitate higher energy prices, which chase other, largely manufacturing jobs to less hostile environments. But windmill and solar panel schemes did chase, e.g., European steel jobs to India and other exotic locations like Carroll County, Kentucky (North American Stainless, owned by Spain’s Acerinox). In short, you can make windmills from steel, but you won’t make steel using windmills.
Why the mandates? As the Institute for Energy Research found, despite receiving 100 times the subsidies of oil and gas, those favorite energy sources of the left (why might that be?), wind and solar, still can’t make it.
Federal Subsidies for Renewable Power Compared to Other Generating Technologies
While these are some of the more direct subsidies that wind and solar receive, there are many others at both the federal and state level, such as the accelerated depreciation mentioned above. The EIA did a study comparing the federal subsidies received for electric generation by fuel type for fiscal year 2007. ["Federal Financial Interventions and Subsidies in Energy Markets 2007", Table 35 (pdf)] They found that wind and solar received almost 100 times more in subsidies than oil and natural gas plants on an electricity production basis. Total federal subsidies for electric production from wind power were $23.37 per megawatt hour (in 2007 dollars) and for solar power were $24.34 per megawatt hour, compared to 44 cents for traditional coal, 25 cents for natural gas and petroleum liquids, 67 cents for hydroelectric power, and $1.59 for nuclear. These subsidies include the federal production and investment tax credits, but do not include accelerated depreciation (a five-year tax write-off) and state subsidies. Energy subsidies are paid for by consumers and tax payers; they are not free.
All of which Spain (and Obama’s other model Germany) learned, but Obama refuses to, even if we can safely assume he was told this by his sudden abandonment of directing us to Spain’s or Germany’s experience as his model after their truths were exposed. By now deciding against telling us what model he is following, he believes he can keep from us how it turned out there, and will turn out here.
It is almost as if our president wants the comparisons to Jimmy Carter. Claiming that taxpayer-funded solar power is the way of the future is about as good a way to guarantee them as any. Even Jon Stewart is mocking Obama for recycling failed plans of the past. But this isn’t funny any longer.