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July 27, 2014

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Tea Party scoffs at role of green jobs in economic recovery

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Sharron Angle speaks at a campaign rally Oct. 29, 2010, at the Orleans.

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Sen. Harry Reid speaks during a rally Friday at Orr Middle School in Las Vegas.

Sharron Angle has never been a champion of renewable energy. But in the last days of her campaign, her established disdain appears to have morphed into a call to dismantle the green jobs industry, one of Nevada’s few – and probably best – hopes of climbing out of the recession.

At her campaign rally Friday evening, Angle’s camp showcased a video featuring scenes of what the Tea Party has identified as Washington’s betrayals of the past few years, among them: the passing of the health care bill, the passing of the stimulus bill, and Obama’s signing a renewed Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia (which, as history buffs and adults over the age of 30 will recall, was actually the construct of Republican presidents: conceived of by Nixon, proposed by Reagan, and signed by Bush I).

Part of the montage was this unmistakable visual message: “Green Jobs: SCAM” – a full-screen shot that displayed the words in white against a dark green background, with the word “SCAM” appearing most prominently in the center of the screen.

With that, Angle’s espousing a line lifted straight from the Tea Party playbook: that investing in green energy has created no jobs, and should be stopped.

That could possibly be construed a reasonable argument but for one thing: in Nevada, it’s palpably untrue.

The idea that Nevada’s ticket out of the recession rides on an industry that has yet to come to its full fruition isn’t just a talking point for Harry Reid’s campaign.

To be sure, Reid’s influence has been the chief reason so many stimulus dollars and government backed loans have come to Nevada for solar panel construction, geothermal development, and energy transmission projects – all of which have and are expected to continue to create high-paying jobs that can’t be outsourced; not even to other states, much less countries.

Republicans and Democrats across the state have grasped onto Reid’s renewable gravy train as simply the newest way to do what Nevadans have been doing since the pioneer days – use the resources of the land to develop and deliver a product that’s in high demand across the country.

Green jobs investment is no longer a proxy debate about global warming, or the merits of “reduce, reuse, recycle” versus “drill, baby, drill.” It’s about pure state self-interest in the face of market-driven economics.

As states across the country dedicate themselves to achieve renewable energy standards in the coming years, several states – Nevada among them – have seen an opportunity to build a home-grown energy industry.

For Nevada, the customers are close by. California has committed itself to having 33 percent of its electrical energy come from renewable resources by 2020. That’s the most ambitious standard in the country, but #2 is also a close neighbor – Colorado expects its electrical production to be 30 percent renewable by the same year.

That creates, in effect, an open market. Nevada’s got no close regional competitor for large-scale renewable energy construction, not even from neighboring big-nuclear-power states – because nuclear fuel, though powerful, is still a non-renewable resource, and thus doesn’t help those states get any closer to their benchmark goals.

Nationwide, Nevada isn’t alone in its endeavor to answer the call for a new market, and create an industry that wasn’t there before. In North Dakota, Republicans have been some of the most vocal backers and boosters of wind energy, calling it a “smart growth” resource. North Dakota’s progress in wind energy has also benefitted from political infighting among its neighbors, that has hampered similar development in other, equally windy, Plains states.

Similar things are happening across the pond. Europe is probably the highest-concentrated area of energy-consuming states with almost no domestic carbon-fuel resources. It’s also the part of the world that’s the most advanced in terms of nuclear energy technology and production, and most dependent on its use.

But Europe is right now doing everything it can to get in on the green jobs revolution.

In the last two years, German firms have been buying up land in North Africa, to set up solar fields in the high-heat deserts of Algeria, Libya, and Morocco that they say could harness enough energy to power over two-thirds of Europe and Northern Africa by 2050. They plan to harness the sun’s energy in North Africa, and then run cables under the Mediterranean to bring that energy to Europe.

Even France, which covers almost 80 percent of its domestic energy needs from nuclear power plants, appears to have seen the renewable writing on the wall, leading it to similar investments in Morocco.

That’s food for thought in Nevada, where the sunshine and terrain are much the same, but where the candidates right now are bickering over what the best engine is to create energy jobs: invest in renewables, as Reid has done and wants to continue to do, or open up Yucca Mountain as a nuclear reprocessing site, as Angle wishes.

(Interestingly enough, John McCain, one of nuclear energy’s biggest boosters, was also headlining Angle’s campaign event at which the “Green Jobs SCAM” video was shown. McCain has complained in the past that Reid’s insistence on keeping Yucca Mountain nuclear-free is holding up plans to expand nuclear development.)

As an industry-in-development, Reid’s plan does depend not so much on government dollars as government guarantees, so that corporations wanting to build the plants that will produce renewable energy can get the optimum low-interest loans necessary to break ground on shovel-ready projects. That’s been Reid’s role thus far: to make sure the pipeline for development stays open from Washington’s end.

There’s a far more existential crimp in Angle’s plan. A critical piece of nuclear reprocessing is the cooling mechanism, usually done with water; one of those non-renewable resources that Nevada has in very short supply. In her mid-October debate with Reid, Angle suggested an alternative: liquid metal.

The process she’s referring to is known as “pyroprocessing” – which like the name suggests, is supposed to be a higher-temperature way of rendering spent nuclear fuel innocuous. While the idea gained some traction as a concept earlier this decade, and a few U.S. patents were issued for designs, the practice soon fell out of favor in the industry, and is barely in use worldwide – even though several countries reprocess spent nuclear fuel.

The best hope for resuscitating liquid metal plants appears to be if “Generation IV” reactors ever come online; but those aren’t expected to be anywhere near ready for commercial construction before 2030.

To be fair to Angle, she in her own, uttered words, has never gone further than to call green jobs “designer” jobs: it’s just that the video her campaign is airing to its supporters displays a full-screen “Green Jobs SCAM” graphic over a picture (much like the words-and-images mockups for things like “Cash For Clunkers” that precede it).

But to be fair to the industry, we’re not talking about jobs that don’t already exist in limited, industry-opening numbers, or demand an advanced technological degree. It may take scientists to design the factors of renewable production, but it takes manufacturing factories to build the products, and maintenance workers to keep them running – a modern blue-collar (make that green) economy.

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  1. That Tea-Set...
    "GREEN JOBS"???
    How awful!!!
    The Republican/Tea Party mantra;
    "I can't see the forest for the trees!"

  2. There is so much misinformation in the article it is hard to know where to start:

    "That creates, in effect, an open market. Nevada's got no close regional competitor for large-scale renewable energy construction, not even from neighboring big-nuclear-power states -- because nuclear fuel, though powerful, is still a non-renewable resource, and thus doesn't help those states get any closer to their benchmark goals."

    What about the 1,000 MW Project in Blythe California and the 500 MW (?) projects in Arizona or the very large wind projects in Colorado. The fact is that every state in the region is attempting to develop their own renewable resources. They have the same strategy as Nevada and larger internal markets for electricity. Nevada's internal markets will be saturated very soon.

    Green jobs investment is no longer a proxy debate about global warming, or the merits of "reduce, reuse, recycle" versus "drill, baby, drill." It's about pure state self-interest in the face of market-driven economics.

    Wrong. It is about subsidies (see Blythe California $1.9 million); property tax abatements; and set asides (legislated renewable energy requirements that are paid for by ratepayers)

    "But to be fair to the industry, we're not talking about jobs that don't already exist in limited, industry-opening numbers, or demand an advanced technological degree. It may take scientists to design the factors of renewable production, but it takes manufacturing factories to build the products, and maintenance workers to keep them running -- a modern blue-collar (make that green) economy."

    Wrong. Exactly how many green jobs are not subsidized in Nevada?

    "morphed into a call to dismantle the green jobs industry, one of Nevada's few -- and probably best -- hopes of climbing out of the recession."

    Wrong. If we are reliant on green jobs to climb out of the recession, we are in deep deep trouble, far deeper than I supposed.

  3. Did I miss any?

    As an industry-in-development, Reid's plan does depend not so much on government dollars as government guarantees, so that corporations wanting to build the plants that will produce renewable energy can get the optimum low-interest loans necessary to break ground on shovel-ready projects. That's been Reid's role thus far: to make sure the pipeline for development stays open from Washington's end.

    As I recall the Blythe Project in California is get $1.9 billion in subsidies ($6 billion project). The result will be 400,000 in property tax revenues for Riverside County (chump change).

    Can anyone name one project here in Nevada that has gotten a loan guarantee? I think that transmission line did but I have not heard of any others. (perhaps someone can educate me on this)

  4. @aireweare

    I hope you weren't putting water heater jackets on the gas water heaters. That would void the warranty of almost any gas water heater installed since 1990.

  5. "Sharron Angle has never been a champion of renewable energy. But in the last days of her campaign, her established disdain appears to have morphed into a call to dismantle the green jobs industry, one of Nevada's few -- and probably best -- hopes of climbing out of the recession."

    Wrong. Angle cannot personally dismantle any industry. Now if reducing the generous subsidies means dismantling that suggest more issues with the economic viability of the industry than her capacity to dismantle it with a set of box wrenches and a blow torch.

  6. If you elect Sharron then we'll have 2 worthless senators from Nevada. her AND John Ensign.
    Don't elect Sharron just because you don't like Harry Reid. I'm no fan of Harry but Sharron is scary and a real nutjob.

  7. @PGelsman:

    What do we have now?

  8. @Tolerant:

    Yes, it is sunny and the wind blows most days in Nevada. The wind resources in this state are not particularly good. The cost according to the Review Journal is between 9 and 10 cents just to generate and not deliver the electricity to your home. Second, the conventional generation needs to be installed to provide electricity at times when the wind doesn't blow. So you pay twice for the wind and the gas plant to back it up.

    The 1000 MW solar plant will provide the equivalent of 250 MW at about 14 cents per kilowatt hour. A new gas plant produces electricity at 6.4 cents per kilowatt hour. See California Energy Commission report on the project ($billion/ 2,100,000 MWh per year * 20 years.

    If I took the $1.9 billion subsidy, I could build 200 homes at $200,000 each at a total cost of $40 million. If I taxed the homes at $2,000 each per year I would create the same tax revenue as the Blythe plant each year.

    If I paid the occupants of the houses (2 per house) $100,000 per person or $200,000 per household per year for 20 years or a total of $800 million to do nothing, I would have housed, taxed, and paid very good wages for a total of $840 million. More jobs than the solar plant. I have also saved the treasury $1 Billion that could be used for schools, highways or other purpose.

    The remaining $4 billion could be used to build and fuel modern gas fired generation of 1,000,000 or net generation of about 700 MW depending on the operation of the plants. There is no net economic gain, only loses.

  9. Tony why not work on checking my math. The solar boondoggle is creating jobs, it is taking jobs. I can save money and produce electricity with natural gas generation, which is very clean for a lot less than the solar plant. The 1000 MW translate into 250 MW, which isn't squat in the real world all for $6 billion which is a lot of money in the real world.

  10. BTW--if the price of natural gas were to triple, generation from the gas plant would still be cheaper (not much), but still cheaper than the solar plant. This will bankrupt this country.

  11. Doesn't the publisher of the Sun have a pecuniary interest in a wind turbine company?

  12. @skerlahdee

    I think the Dems were lining up for tax cuts for everyone (or at least they were before the Congress took its election recess). Pelosi was getting an earful from her own members about this one.

    Can someone with Democratic credentials verify or refute my statement?

  13. I don't disagree with using solar panels to generate electricity in fact I think it is a good idea. What I do disagree with is funding two Chinese companies that will employ only 1300 when there are over 170,000 unemployed in this state. That is not a good return on a huge investment coming right out of your pockets.

    We have been sold a bill of goods and there is no way green jobs will do nothing more than get us deeper in debt. Since this is being done at tax payer expense and when our electric bills double no one is going to be happy about that. By the way since the government has decided to go green look at the sky rocketing prices for solar equipment"

  14. Comment removed by moderator. Personal attack.

  15. The thought of nuclear energy companies flooding shadow orgs like American Crossroads with Hate Harry cash is repulsive. They don't care about you, me or Angle, they just want Harry gone to dig their claws into any Yucca Mountain profit that can be had once he's gone. And then WE'RE the one's stuck with Angle for SIX years.

  16. Even Republicans George Schultz and Arnold Schwarzenegger have condemned the Koch Brothers, Valero and Tesoro for their attack on the "green future." It is working now, in the USA, China, Japan and Europe. Sure the first cars were in many ways less convenient than horses. Hard to find fuel, they would break down and were expensive. As time goes forward the new technology will replace the old.

    I'm glad MSNBC is dispatching top reporters to Nevada to stop a dark era of Ensign and Angle that will destroy Nevada for years to come.

    Nevada is the center for politics, which can't be bad for business. Harry Reid helped get Nevada the early primary.

    Nellis has solar and so does Clint Eastwood's restaurant.

  17. One of the "green" projects being touted is the wind-turbine parts plant. Reid made a big deal out of that.

    How many of you have forgotten that it is a joint venture with China? Why did Reid support that deal instead of finding a way for it to be an all-American project?

    It's bad enough (and a significant factor in our economy problems) that almost everything we buy is already made in China. The thought of getting our paychecks from them, too, should be thoroughly repulsive.

  18. The liberal news bias is on full display in this article! Yes, "green jobs", in a small way, will have some impact on the unemployment picture. But, after the construction phase, the workers will be on the job market again. Furthermore, the miniscule gain in green jobs will be dwarfed by the number of PERMANENT jobs which will be lost when the liberals in DC shut down the coal mining and power generation industries! (yes, this is in their play book). This move by the libs to eliminate the burning of fossil fuels in our country is a HUGE MISTAKE! It will further cripple our ability to compete with the burgeoning economies of China and India. We need to get some sanity back in DC. The libs have to go!

  19. Right now green energy jobs destroy more jobs than they create - it takes more money to invest in Green energy than it produces in value. In other words, the money invested could have been used elsewhere to create more jobs and more value for Nevadans.

  20. @pmontg53

    Sharron Angle- when you look in her eyes,just like Charles Manson...
    Can you trust that ?

  21. "Green Jobs" are like the Ethanol industry, they can only survive with massive goverement infusion of cash. These may be profitable at some future date but currently they cost more than they generate. The technology is lagging behind in many case to the expectation and promises they make. Solar, Wind, Ethanol and other pipe dreams assiste in the production of energy but areas where they might be beneficaial won't allow them to be build in their back yard. At present the ethanol industry has take food off the tables that we used to export to the rest of the world and raised our fuel prices. The benefits have been lost in the beautratic shuffld and to no avail as for as the enviroment is concerned. Wind has killed migatory birds and caused other problems that are currently being investigted. Solar takes massive amounts of water to produce the steam

  22. How much of our immigration problem stems from the government subsidies for corn grown for ethanol affecting the price of corn in other countries, driving a migration of former farmers here, instead so they can hope to find work?

    Energy policy needs to be better thought out than it has been so far.

  23. Why isn't this article in the editorial section?

    Sounds like Karoun is very very very worried that Reid is going to lose.

  24. Mr. Lamy,

    You don't get it. Spending $1 to get 50 cents worth of economic benefit is waste. Creating 1 green job at the expense of 2 regular jobs is waste.

    Right now the Green movement is a movement of wealthy white people (more white than the Tea Party) that wants to waste money to feel good about themselves. Its not even clear that their policy prescriptions even save the environment at this time (see High Speed Rail and Electric Cars)

  25. PS. Mr. Lamy

    Wasted capital and human labor to unproductive or less productive sectors of the economy slow economic growth and retard wealth creation. This results in slower technological growth and fewer possible solutions to tomorrow's problems.

    In other words, you want to save today's problems at the expense of our ability to solve future problems.

  26. The home solar thing is criminal. It essentially gives people money paid by other ratepayers to subsidize a home solar system.

    This is just the beginning--the utility has to pay you their costs (generation distribution, and transmission-the retail rate) for the excess power this system produces. This is subsidized by ratepayers.

    If you install such as system on your roof, you also only pay for the electricity you use and the not the resources necessary to ensure that the grid is there to provide full service when it rains, or it is dark. All of these costs are paid by the public.

    Oh, you want a tax credit, someone pays for that too.

    How about a property tax abatement?

    Get the greens off our backs.

  27. Turrialba,

    I think your argument can be addressed quite easily simply by adjusting the "buy-back" rate to account for the cost of the grid.

    That way, when pulling energy from the grid a person would be paying normal rates, and when feeding energy they would be only receive credit for the energy itself while effectively paying the utility to transport it for them.

    There is nothing inherently wrong with home solar production. This is really a non-issue other than working out cost details.

  28. @ boftx

    It is not just the buy back rate, it is the back up service. Essentially, the solar user with the net meter gets full requirements service 24/7 and only pays a portion of the true cost/value of this service when he/she uses it. This is more than a cost detail, it is a huge subsidy, which if eliminated would seriously undermine the economics of the solar system.

  29. nvrbl

    I have no problem with solar, I just don't want to have to pay the subsidies.

    Produce a cost-effective solar project and this discussion goes away. If folks want to pay more for solar--great--don't make me pay the freight for them.

  30. Not everything is about money. There are far more important things that are our concern, for instance the planet we live on.

    Now, I dont necessarily buy into the govt version of climate change, in fact I believe it is a racket, but if we do nhothing because there is no money in it, what exactly are we teaching our kids?

    People like PRG have their priorities on display for all to see$$$$$$$$$$$

    We have a perfect oppurtunity to bounce back with innovative technology even if it starts out as a loss. We can find comfort knowing that we are laying the foundation for a tecnologically advanced, naturally harmonious future in which we live in balance with our environment instead of against it. How would the trees survive if they consumed more energy than was available?

    The problem with politics is everything is reduced to dollars and cents (not sense). There is far more value in this universe than just frikking money. Just go north and look at the stars.

    Meanwhile all you political douc@bags that insist on everything being a discussion on money and buisness. This birds for you.

  31. Joe: you are a poet. This is good.

  32. Turriabla,

    Let's look at it this way.

    Presumably NV Energy receives subsidies of one form or another. If so, I'm sure they know exactly how much they get per kw hour delivered.

    It might be practical, given the new meters, to deduct that amount, if less than the rates charged, from what solar users would receive for selling back.

    Rather than try to block solar, it would be better to speak up about what you think is wrong and find out if it can be addressed.

    There is one approach that might address your concern, but I have no idea how practical it is. That would be for NE Energy to *reduce* the rate charged to other users based upon the percentage of power is supplied by home solar. They could still charge the home producers a "transport" fee, and other rate payers could see a small break in theory.

    Obviously someone much more familiar with what actually goes on with the rates than me needs to explain the problems involved.

  33. Jim:

    Bear with my poor math for a moment. The problem is as follows:

    If I use 1,000 kilowatt hours per month--my bill will be about $126.39.
    $8.00 is a basic service charge everyone pays to have service.

    About 45 cents of each dollar is a variable cost. My use goes down Nevada Powers cost goes down--dollar-for-dollar.

    The other 55 cents is for largely fixed costs- power plants, transformers and wires. All of this is necessary to support every customer and some taxes and fees.

    When a solar customer goes with a net meter--that 55 cents has to be made up by someone, otherwise the Nevada Power will go out of business. The value is to provide back up service on demand anytime the solar rack is not producing. The cost of this is about $65 per month. These costs get paid by ratepayers at some point.

    Why should I not only subsidize the solar system, but also the back up power?

    A solar customer should pay at a minimum the $8 dollar customer charge (they do) and the $65/month or $73 per month flat fee. When the customer uses electricity, they pay on the energy costs or about five or six cents per kilowatt hour.

    The economics of 5 cent electricity are tough to overcome for a solar system. This isn't economy is just the opposite.

    As a regular customer I have to subsidize the system (several thousands of $$ per installation, plus about $700 per year in fixed costs. These systems are not going on low-income houses, but the low income customer pays all the same. Hardly fair. Looks like a tax--a very regressive tax.

  34. This is just a simple illustration of the problem. The utility should only buy at energy cost and sell at energy cost.

    The customer should pay full the cost to provide fixed costs of full service whether they actually use it because the investment is in place to provided instantaneously on demand.

  35. Turrialba,

    I don't disagree with your feeling that you should not have to subsidize homeowners with net meters. But rather than disallow it, find a way to remove the subsidy.

    I will grant that it will entail finding commissioners and other government officials who wish to give rate payers a fair shake. (Please, I know how stupid that sounds.)

  36. The subsidy can be taken care of by charging customers for cost to provide service. It isn't hard and requires no special meters or anything. Just slap the right price on it.

    Joe, you are right about the whole house efficiency--it is far cheaper than renewable energy systems slapped on the roof, and provide the greatest savings when energy use is highest. The concept of energy services providers has been around for ages. Right now the low income weatherization folks do the blower door test and sealing, but is there a market or providers in the market place?

  37. Fossil fuel, as pushed by the libertarian Koch Brothers does create more jobs: in the cancer wards, out at asthma inhaler manufacturing plants, and for grave diggers...Has a solar plant every blown up and killed 11 employees?