Solar Flim Flam and More Snake Oil

The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan once observed that we are all entitled to our own opinions, not just our own facts. Proponents of solar energy are long on opinions and pseudo-facts, just not real ones. What are some of those?

It is claimed that 2015 is “on a pace to be the hottest year the planet has ever seen”. Wrong! Satellite measurements since 1979 show that since 1998 global temperatures have not increased and today’s temperature is lower than in 1978. Going back thousands of years in geologic history shows periods that were warmer than today.

The claim about temperature is used to build a case for EPA’s recently issued Clean Power Plant rule that has been shown by independent analyses to be one of the costliest ever issued by the agency. Driving up the cost of coal and natural gas powered electricity generation translates directly into higher consumer prices both direct and indirect. The Clean Power Plant rule uses claims of illusory health benefits to justify these costs, which are a backdoor way to make solar power look more attractive.

It is not necessary to be an economist or public health expert to validate those conclusions about cost and benefits. First, Germany and some EU nations that have adopted policies to make big reductions in CO2 emissions. As a result, Germany has electricity rates almost three times higher than what Virginians pay. Second, ozone levels have declined about one third since 1980 and yet the incidence of asthma has increased. EPA is at a loss to explain how that can be the case.

Advocates of solar power claim that its cost is declining at a rapid rate and that “in Virginia solar energy can power the state 18 times over.” Those claims go beyond opinion and fall into the snake oil category. Bill Gates, who is no fossil fuel apologist, recently concluded, that the “current renewables are dead-end technologies” and that (t)he cost of decarbonization using today’s technologies is “beyond astronomical”. Google, which has invested over $1 billion in alternative energy, created at project several years ago—RE<C- to find a way to produce alternative energy more cheaply than coal. After four years, Google abandoned the project concluding that “renewables will never permit the human race to cut CO2 emissions to the levels demanded by climate activists.”

Solar power is not new technology. In the 1970s, when there was a belief that the world was running out of oil, energy companies like Arco made major investments in solar power. By the late 1980s, they had concluded that low cost solar energy was the like the horizon, it recedes as you approach it. Today, solar provides less than 1% of our power and is kept viable by generous subsidies that allow promoters to get rich on taxpayer dollars. If the claims of proponents were true, they would not be lobbying to keep their subsidies.

Professor Bruce Yandle in his book Bootleggers and Baptists, describes how political entrepreneurs wrap themselves in environmental aspirations—save the planet—as a way to enrich themselves at the expense of taxpayers and consumers.

Environmental advocates have been promoting a special interest agenda for decades by claiming that they were trying to save “our environment, economy, and future generations” from the ravages of global warming. This is pure advocacy. Well established facts demonstrate that global temperatures are not soaring and that there has been no, repeat no, increase in extreme weather events. In Congressional testimony in 2013, Climatologist Roger Pielke, Jr. was very clear on the extreme weather issue: “There exists exceedingly little scientific support for claims found in the media and political debate that hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and drought have increased In frequency or intensity on climate timescales of 30-50 years and longer either in the United States or globally”.

As John Adams said, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes…. (Ior) our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence”. The facts and evidence are clear, solar power is not ready to replace coal and natural gas for generating electricity.
This article appeared on the FuelFix website at

Partner & Fellow Blogs