Wednesday, December 21, 2011

And Then There Were Three (Less)

The green energy industry, in particular the solar energy component of that industry, now has three fewer participants than it did just a month ago as BP Plc. has bid it a long, last goodbye. It did so voluntarily citing 'continuing global economic challenges'; this unlike two German competitors who were recently forced into liquidation by the realities of the free market and the global economy.

Solon SE and Solar Millennium, the latter of who received a $2.1 billion grant of free US taxpayer money, are no longer producing solar cells due to oversupply in the market (too little demand for an overprice product) and price pressures (falling retail prices the result of too little demand.)

It must be understood that the solar energy industry itself has recognized that it is woefully inefficient. But, in the convoluted thinking of a government driven benevolent economy, this is a feature and not a bug. It brags that it requires the most workers per megawatt of power produced than any other energy source. See how long Denny's stays in business using a "more cooks in the kitchen than anyone else" business model. Of course, that is only part of the problem. Not only is the production and installation of solar energy components more expensive than its green and not-so-green energy sisters, once the solar components are built and installed at an industry high labor cost, the energy produced is both intermittent and dependent upon even further subsidized transmission lines to bring the energy to market.

There simply is no way for these companies to make a free market profit pursuing a highly inefficient energy solution and selling it to the world for multiple times the cost of fossil powered energy. The only way a solar energy company can stay in business is by having its solar cell division carried along by other divisions that are hugely profitable (a course of action BP is no longer willing to pursue,) by perpetually preying off of taxpayers through the benevolence of planet saving politician pimps (which was the preferred route of German owned Solar Millennium,) or by choosing the path of the Chinese--compensating workers with poverty inducing wages and coupling that with a willingness to market dump products at a loss in order to dominate the industry.

We can complain all we want about China's emerging dominance in the solar panel market, but why? Economics has dictated that solar energy will not for many decades be anything more than a small niche market within the energy industry as a whole--and it will only reach profitability if its products are severely overpriced. (A price, incidentally, that only benevolent US and EU governments have been willing to pay.) Large scale profitability can be reached only if American families are forced to endure poverty inflicting prices for such heinous acts as warming up cans of soup (a food we should all get used to eating at least twice a day should solar energy ever be forced on us) or huddling around the dim family light bulb in order to read Al Gore's latest work of fiction. Americans will not voluntarily make such sacrifices--a development that the Obama administration has duly noted.

What we have here is a trade off in living standards. On one side is the American consumer who must endure a lower living standard to pay the exorbitant price of a failed energy policy, while on the other is the Chinese worker who must work for poverty sustaining wages in order to deliver a communist-blessed product to market against all economic common sense.

We must have one or the other for an existent solar energy industry. Me, I'll take the side of the energy loving American consumer and the over-stretched American taxpayer and hope that the Chinese people don't suffer overmuch for my greed.

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