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December 20, 2014

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Obama to defend green energy policy at Boulder City solar plant stop

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Leila Navidi

President Barack Obama arrives at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas on Wednesday, March 21, 2012, for an energy policy speech at a solar plant in Boulder City.

Copper Mountain Solar One

Copper Mountain Solar One and Eldorado Solar are seen on the left and Nevada Solar One on the right of Eldorado Valley Road off U.S. 95 in Boulder City on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Republicans have been pointing an increasingly accusing finger at President Barack Obama’s energy policies the last few weeks, blaming them for gas prices that have steadily risen to more than double what they were when Obama took office.

When the president kicks off a national two-day energy tour today in Nevada, he will be delivering the following retort: Not only are my energy policies great, but you love what they’ve done.

Boulder City’s Copper Mountain Solar 1 facility is the first of four energy backdrops Obama’s selected to highlight his administration’s multifaceted approach to energy development as he moves across the country. It is also the only solar facility on the short list, which includes tours of oil- and gas-drilling rigs in New Mexico, research and development facilities in Ohio, and a pipe storage yard in Oklahoma — where Obama plans to announce the construction of an oil pipeline to the Gulf of Mexico.

There are no similar project or policy announcements scheduled for the president’s turn through Boulder City; for Obama, the Nevada leg of the trip is about highlighting and defending a longstanding renewable energy policy he believes has been productive.

Copper Mountain Solar 1 is no ordinary photovoltaic power plant, even for Nevada, which ranks third in the nation for utility-scale solar projects. The nation’s biggest solar energy generator (the plant has a 58 MW production capacity), which was financed in part with $40 million worth of federal investment tax credits — “part of a set of tax incentives supported by the Obama administration that are helping move private investors off the sidelines,” the White House notes — was recognized by various industry rankings as the No. 1 plant in the nation following its completion in 2010.

The plant has also been roundly praised by Nevada political officials of all party stripes: Last year, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval said Copper Mountain “exemplifies my goal of making Nevada the renewable energy capital of the country.”

Operating company Sempra, based in California, currently has plans to build two more solar facilities with even bigger power-generating capacity on land adjacent to the current Copper Mountain site.

“Thanks in part to commitments we have made, renewable energy from sources like wind and solar is set to double in the president’s first term,” a White House official said Tuesday.

But while the Copper Mountain project is a successful example of how the president’s policies helped turn sunshine into positive energy production, it’s the president who now needs the helpful afterglow of Copper Mountain’s universal popularity to brighten his reputation — even on renewable energy.

Click to enlarge photo

Copper Mountain Solar One, a thin film photovoltaic solar facility off U.S. 95 in Boulder City seen Thursday, February 10, 2011.

Republicans haven’t just been questioning Obama’s contribution to the rising prices at the pump. They’ve also been questioning whether the administration’s focused investments in solar and other renewable energy industries have or really will translate into savings for the energy consumer or the jobs for the nation’s unemployed.

The promise of “green jobs” was one of the driving forces behind public reception in Nevada for the new energy economy, the image of which has been rendered most succinctly as a photovoltaic panel glistening under the hot desert sun. But by various measures, the numbers just aren’t meeting the size of expectations.

Renewable energy jobs are growing in number, but the number remains small: Fewer than 10,000 between 2003 and 2010, according to a study by the Brookings Institution.

Even Copper Mountain is tied to that trend. Though it produced 350 jobs at the peak of construction in 2010, there are only five permanent on-site positions today.

Neither have many of the promised fiscal benefits of investing in renewable energy been realized. According to a clean energy study released earlier this month by Sen. Harry Reid’s office, Nevada’s economy stands to gain more than $1 billion from the renewable energy projects that are already under way — Boulder City stands to gain $12 million per year from the Copper Mountain project alone — but in these early stages, prices of renewable-produced electricity remain high compared to carbon-fueled sources, and local municipalities, because of tax incentives, are not yet seeing a revenue return.

In Nevada, there’s more bipartisan support for a continued focus on renewable energy than in most states. Sandoval, for one, has focused on clean energy as a potential export industry for Nevada. Republican Sen. Dean Heller, too, has supported the development of renewable energy as a state industry as well as portfolio standards and certain tax credits to keep that development humming. But he has also questioned whether the government’s financial policies to support renewable energy — especially loan guarantees, which were the focus of last year’s Solyndra scandal — are entirely necessary.

Click to enlarge photo

Copper Mountain Solar One, a thin film photovoltaic solar facility off U.S. 95 in Boulder City seen Thursday, February 10, 2011.

More recently, Heller has been an extremely vocal critic of Obama’s energy policies vis-a-vis gas prices, though he has joined party colleagues more to decry the president’s lack of movement on the Keystone XL oil pipeline and support for a “cap-and-trade” system of allotting carbon credits than Obama’s specific proposals on renewable energy investments.

Heller has sought to tie his chief rival for the Senate, Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley, to Obama’s positions in those areas and use Berkley’s support for those presidential policies to blame her for rising gas prices, as well. Berkley, meanwhile, has accused Heller of favoring oil and sought to reinstate expired tax incentives for renewable energy by stripping similar incentives from oil and gas companies.

The president won’t be engaging in such a war of favoritism as Nevada’s two Senate hopefuls are on Wednesday: Solar is the topic du jour for the first stop only; the rest of his tour through the United States will, in fact, be dominated by conversations about oil, in which the president is likely to try to expand the current cries over gas prices into a broader conversation about the nation’s energy priorities.

Still, national Republicans are seizing on his solar summit in Nevada to try to paint him into another either-or scenario — despite the support of local Republicans for some of the very projects and tax incentive schemes the president will be highlighting.

“President Obama is back in Nevada talking about renewable energy rather than how he will reduce Nevadans’ pain at the pump or help them find a job,” Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement Tuesday. “Nevadans deserve solutions from their president, but they’re only hearing excuses and seeing their tax dollars wasted on the president’s pet projects.”

The president’s supporters, however, believe this is a moment for Nevada to shine on a national stage and cement the promised clean energy future that can be fully realized only in a future much longer than the stormy election season.

“The opponents of renewable energy will continue trying to derail Nevada’s and the nation’s efforts to build a cleaner and safer energy future,” Reid wrote in a Sun op-ed Tuesday. “Nevada’s work to take advantage of its renewable energy resources does not come without risk, but we cannot turn away from clean energy and miss our opportunity to strengthen Nevada’s future with a victory in clean energy.”

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  1. Why is there so much hatred for POTUS (President of the United States) Obama. I don't get it. Please don't tell me it's all about politics. There's something else and I can't pint my finger on it.

  2. Worse than Bush.
    Less transparency.
    Further erosion of civil rights.
    More killing and wars.

    Didn't hate Bush because he was white, don't hate Obama because he is black.

  3. The question is: 4 years later, are we any BETTER?

    Have those responsible for all the creative profiteering on WALL STREET been prosecuted for their crimes? NO, and they are continuing the same path that led to the crash! This President is NO better than any of the others. Our Constitutional freedoms and liberties continue to be assaulted and even taken away from us, NOT going the direction of strengthening and empowering citizens in the United States of America.

    Our national budget is UNresolved, and political gridlock and posturing has brought our country to a standstill....hardly productive!

    We the People, the Voters, share in that blame and share in that problem. At this point, it will take a revolution to turn things around and get our nation back on track. And the People have got to want that and DO that.

    Yes, Mr.President, the sun shines and the wind blows, and the underground springs heated water here in Nevada, as does complacency, apathy, and corruuption. If you believe green energy for Nevadans so adamently, then put the learning about it in our children's hands in our schools! Equip Nevada's schools with educational units providing hands-on materials and quality instruction on green energy and tool our youth towards careers related to the green energy movement in our country!

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  4. Obama can defend his incompetence all day long, the American people are catching on. Even the ideological left who will likely stick to their agenda are starting to admit that right or wrong, this is not the person to carry it out. They are starting to see that when someone who is all theory and no experience, all cattle and no hat is at the helm failure is only a matter of time.

    The only question is will we learn soon enough to not reelect him. Unfortunately for the county, Obama more than any president since Lyndon Johnson and to a worse effect hired all his ideological friends and fellow academic do nothings that the damage is greater to a faster degree, it may take a decade or more to repair the damage if at all. Some may be permanent and cannot be undone.

    Fortunately, because of this accelerated, obvious and cataclysmic damage to our constitution, government, economy, world economic and political standing there may be enough who seen the end to get him out of office despite a non-unified field of unlikely candidates.

    Were national politics not so personally damaging for (most/those not of candidates given a pass dispute their obvious lack of qualifications) families and candidates, and so expensive, the opposition might have been able to muster a better slate of potential office holders. Most of the folks we could all get behind were scared away from the thought of running.

    Anyway, Obama and his lemmings in the administration, like Secretary Chu for example, can defend his foolish blind rush to throw money away on ventures not ready despite global evidence the time is not here yet while destroying our current capacities has hopefully awakened enough to stop his march to socialism, dictatorship by committee and the collapse of America into just another second or third world failure.

  5. Hey Joe Lamy. Finite? When did the earth STOP making oil?

  6. So I take it all of this energy Nevada is creating means CHEAP or free power bills, right?? lol

  7. You can't argue facts with those on the extreme right.

    As noted by many we are producing more oil now than we did just 10 years ago and consumption is lower, but those on the far right refuse to acknowledge that truth.

    Speculators are driving the cost of oil up as irresponsible politicians are saber rattling about invading Iran, but simple minded people prefer to blame the president.

    One clown went as far as to dump on Obama's daughter for taking a trip to Mexico.

    They argue about the pipeline creating jobs not realizing that oil is marked to be sold to China, and the pipeline will eventually be built.

    They argue green energy is a failure but would rather hand billions to an industry that is making huge profits. It takes time for technology to develop, but that is a concept not easily grasped by those on the fringe.

    The extremists are attempting to turn us back to the 19th century writing new Jim Crow laws, creation in school laws, anti religion laws, anti women laws or anti "anything we don't agree with" laws.

    The president was absolutely correct in saying some of you belong to the Flat Planet Society.

  8. RefNV - "Obama had majorities in both the house and the senate his first two years yet failed to cut the deficit in half as promised."

    You forgot to add the fact that those first two years had the highest number of filibusters, ever. Include secret holds on appointees and a host of other tactics stalling the president and congress.

  9. rusty57 - "With the delay to permitting and reduced drilling on federal lands, down 11% last year, i again speculated that the price of oil would go up maybe?"

    Apparently facts don't matter to you, do they? Under Obama oil production in the U.S. is higher than it was in the last eight years. Importing foreign oil is down amd American consumption is down.

    Murdoch's Wall Street Journal and Koch-Fueled Cato Agree: "It's Not Obama's Fault That Crude Oil Prices Have Increased

    How obvious is it that oil prices, set on a world market, are all but impervious to government policies? So obvious that even Rupert Murdoch's WSJ and the Koch-fueled Cato Institute feel compelled to make the case.

    Wall Street Journal: "U.S. gasoline prices, like prices throughout the advanced economies, are determined by global market forces. It is hard to see how Mr. Obama's policies can be blamed."

    Cato Institute: "Is President Obama responsible for spiraling price of gasoline? Republicans say yes, but the facts say no."