American Elephants


Being President is a Lot Harder Than Obama Expected. by The Elephant's Child

It’s so hard to get things right!  The Obama administration program to promote energy efficiency in American homes appears to have met insurmountable resistance from financial regulators who are worried about its effect on residential mortgages.

Under the program, known as “Property Assessed Clean Energy” (PACE), the obligation to repay the government loan remains with the home, transferring to a future owner if the home is sold.  Because PACE financing is a s so-called “first lien” on the property, if the home lands in foreclosure, mortgage lenders do not have first call in pursuit of repayment.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac left the program’s future in doubt in May, when they sent lenders a notice that they do not accept mortgages that are subordinate to other loans.  Fannie and Freddie dominate the market for home loans.  Federal financial regulators have made clear that they are also uncomfortable with PACE loans that take first priority.  No final decision has been announced.  The Energy Department is seeking protection for homeowners who have already taken on PACE Financing.

The program is “emblematic of President Obama’s effort to build the economy by reducing reliance on fossil fuels.” Well, there’s the problem, right off the bat.  The plan was to provide loans for such improvements as solar panels or new windows, and then allow homeowners to repay the money over many years through surcharges on property tax bills.

On February 17, 2009, President Obama and Vice President Biden toured the solar array at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in Denver, Colorado.  The solar panels that they inspected will take 110 years to pay for themselves.  The particular panels they saw are expected to last for 20—25 years.

The government has begun telling municipalities to think of other ways to use the millions in economic stimulus funds that had been set aside for this green initiative, officials said.  Just be sure to spend it, I guess.  No possibility of returning it to taxpayers, instead of the slush fund.



Promises, Pork, and Partisan Politics. by The Elephant's Child

On Friday President Obama was wrapping up a two-day swing through Missouri and Nevada, delivering a speech on clean energy that could give a boost to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is in a difficult fight for re-election.  On Friday, he gave a speech at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas combining policy and politics.

He called on Congress to expand a clean energy tax credit that could pay off in Nevada, where Harry Reid is behind in the polls.  Obama told his audience that a $5 billion increase in “clean energy” manufacturing tax credits could generate nearly 40,000 jobs, some of them in Nevada where 14 percent unemployment undermines Reid’s argument that his position as Majority Leader pays dividends to his state.

Reid, bucking for a fifth term, has been pushing hard for solar energy investments in Nevada’s hot climate.  More sober analysts point out the experience of Spain, where every green energy job cost over two jobs in the regular economy because of the increased cost of energy. European governments are getting out of the “green energy” business as fast as they can, it has been a financial disaster for them.  Britain is still home to true believers, and their economy is still in the tank.

In an interesting coincidence, just hours before Obama arrived in Nevada to hold a fundraiser for Reid, the Departments of Energy and Interior joined Reid in announcing a new “Solar Demonstration Zone” in Nevada where new solar technologies can be tested and developed.

I’m sure it was just coincidental.  It would be tacky to use taxpayer money to buy an election for a supporter, wouldn’t it?



Another Rant About Wind Energy! by The Elephant's Child

On a hot day, and there have been quite a few of late, particularly on the East Coast,  Con Edison officials were preparing for the highest demand for power for New York City that they had ever had to supply.

The temperature was expected to reach triple digits across the city by the afternoon.  The Con Edison forecast was for 13,450 megawatts, a surge they claimed — with their fingers crossed — that they were prepared for.

Elsewhere in the country, the world’s largest wind farm is the Roscoe Wind Complex in Texas.  It covers 100,000 acres, has more than 625 turbines, and at full capacity generates 781.5 megawatts of power. [Note that wind farms do not achieve “capacity”].

So all a green-energy economy for New York City would need to run on wind, is a wind farm about the size of Delaware. [Note that there’s not much wind during hot spells — one reason why it’s so hot].

Wind farms always talk about their “capacity,” which means what the turbines could produce if and when the wind is blowing at just the right speed, which is at best, occasional.  Texas has a glut of wind companies, but a lack of transmission lines.  But there also must be 24/7 backup by conventional power plants for all the times when there is no wind blowing.

A wind farm the size of Delaware.  Imagine!  Sigh.




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