Despite the breadth of the current political divide, it appears that there is at least one thing that all politicians can agree upon: energy sector cronyism. The only real dispute is over the preferred beneficiaries.
Under President Barack Obama, green energy subsidies were given out like candy. The failure of the solar panel company Solyndra is well-known, but the problem extends well beyond the shady loan deal and its half-billion-dollar cost to taxpayers.
Between 2010 and 2013, federal subsidies for solar energy alone increased by about 500 percent, from $1.1 billion to $5.3 billion (according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration), and all federal renewable energy subsidies grew from $8.6 billion to $13.2 billion over the same period. Congressional Budget Office testimony before Congress further reported that 59 percent, an estimated $10.9 billion, of energy-related tax preferences in 2016 went to renewables.
Subsidies have come down from their 2013 peak, thanks to the expiration of some of the post-financial crisis “stimulus” programs, but so-called green energy — solar in particular — still receives vastly higher subsidies on a per-kilowatt-hour basis. However, that didn’t stop the largest U.S. solar panel manufacturer, SolarWorld, from filing for bankruptcy earlier this year despite $115 million in federal and state grants and tax subsidies since 2012, along with $91 million in federal loan guarantees.
SolarWorld and fellow bankrupt manufacturer Suniva are now begging for even more government assistance, in the form of a 40-cent-per-watt tariff on solar imports and a minimum price of 78 cents (including the 40-cent tariff) a watt on solar panels made by foreign manufacturers. Without that help, a Suniva executive argued, the company would “go extinct.” So basically, these companies can’t compete despite all of the taxpayer dollars they’ve received and have petitioned the…