And when I say "we," I mean those hydraulic fracturing shale play companies and the "man camps" in the North Dakota Bakken, and the solar industry that is sending installers onto a rooftop near you to run your washing machine and dryer. Yet if all you've got to make your case is the same old "jobs" rhetoric, I say make a better case. Whether it's the right or the left, the pre-eminence of jobs is overdone. Sure, unemployment remains stubbornly high, but the "jobs" argument alone is a poor one as far as energy policy. If fracking is going to pollute our groundwater supply, then jobs don't enter into the equation. If a solar manufacturer is going to create 1,000 jobs for about two years before shedding all of them in a heartbeat, then that's a bad idea, too. Jobs are a byproduct of good ideas, and not vice versa. Sure, there's no such thing as a bad job -- heck, those people building Iran's nuclear missiles are probably happy about that project -- but just because there's no such thing as a bad job doesn't mean a job is the be-all and end-all of energy policy. Everyone interested in energy policy being built to last needs to go beyond this short-sighted bit of Peoria politics. 2. They're the enemy. In a recent New York Times op-ed, Paul Krugman made the case for solar energy and the coming of grid parity and even trotted out the most overused solar headline of all: Here Comes the Sun. The problem with Krugman's piece wasn't the fact that he piled on the already nauseating solar energy pun headline game that the rest of the press has been at for years, but that the ingredients in pro-solar argument were as bilious as the alleged fracking fluid content. More than half the article about why solar is going to be so great was about why fracking is so bad. The Krugman piece should have been called Here Comes One More Anti-Fracking Diatribe. Enough with enemies, I say. It's time for the energy sector combatants to put their "best foot forward" and in the same way that the crutch of jobs should be jettisoned, the case to be made, whether it's fracking or solar, should be on its own merits and not on the evils or shortcoming of the enemy. Consider this: President Obama's "Competitiveness Council" head, GE ( GE - Get Report) CEO Jeff Immelt needs the fracking industry to continue to thrive so GE sells its natural gas turbines, and GE needs the solar industry to continue to evolve to make good on GE's investment in its first solar manufacturing plant in Colorado,
Does that seem backwards to you as far as understanding the way energy generation works? Good, it was supposed to. Anyone who follows energy closely has heard this one before: solar and wind are intermittent sources of energy and can never replace baseload generation -- coal, natural gas or nuclear, for example. In 2011, this argument got its play after the Japanese Fukishima nuclear disaster. Some delirious solar sector fans thought they had just locked up the energy race, right before the baseload argument army marched back in with the fact that coal and natural gas would be the real nuclear disaster "winners." Yes, there is a difference between baseload generation and renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, which only work when the sun shines or when the wind blows -- and could require new energy storage technologies to work more like baseload. Yet the environmental movement probably has a point when it says baseload is bull, or at least in part a convenient game of strategic misdirection foisted on a gullible public by the dirty coal and nuclear lobbies. Must it be either/or? Apparently in energy, it must be, but it shouldn't be. The environmental lobby goes too far, as do dirty coal and nuclear. And let's go back to GE for a moment, which is building natural gas plants to work on a hybrid basis with intermittent sources of energy. Look at
That's right, it wasn't just White House "pet project" Solyndra that was up to
Here's some news for you (sit down first, please): They're just in it for the money when it comes to renewable energy, too! That's capitalism folks. If the solar crash of 2011, the LED energy efficient lighting crash of 2011, and the electric car battery maker crash of 2011 -- to name a few examples of all the great renewable energy capital markets ideas that went south in a hurry this past year -- show us anything, it's that rhetoric about long-term secular adoption trends and the more hazy "social good" argument don't have any place in an IPO filing, and often will crush your investment portfolio when held for the long-term.
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