American Elephants


Sometimes, In His Rush to Scold Us, President Obama Becomes Oblivious to His Own Contributions by The Elephant's Child

Do not read the following if you have just taken a swig of coffee or another beverage:  From David Bernstein at the Volokh Conspiracy at the Washington PostPresident Obama:

“I understand that we’re in the middle of an especially noisy and volatile political season. But at a time when our politics are so polarized; when norms and customs of our political rhetoric seem to be corroding – this is precisely the time we should treat the appointment of a Supreme Court justice with the seriousness it deserves. Because our Supreme Court is supposed to be above politics, not an extension of politics. And it should stay that way.”

David Bernstein wondered if Obama is oblivious to his own contributions to this corrosion particularly with regard to the Supreme Court:

To take one prominent example, President Obama famously attacked the Citizens United case in his State of the Union address in 2010. Many observers were troubled by the president’s lack of decorum in not just taking such a harsh swipe at the Supreme Court—something that no president had done with such vigor for over seventy years—but in doing so with the justices sitting in front of him. The justices were barred by protocol from objecting in any way, and had to sit there quietly like children while the president scolded them. That’s no way, many critics argued, to treat a coequal branch of government. Not only that, but the president claimed that Citizens United “will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections.” Justice Samuel Alito, agitated that the president inaccurately suggested that the case allowed foreign corporations to spend money on American elections, mouthed “not true.” Later that year, Obama senior adviser David Axelrod declared outright, and in an outright lie, that beneficiaries of Citizens United such as the “benign-sounding Americans for Prosperity, the American Crossroads Fund” are “front groups for foreign-controlled companies.”

As Josh Blackman points out in an extensive survey:

Very few Presidents have spoken about pending Supreme Court cases after arguments were submitted. Even fewer discussed the merits of the cases. Only a handful could be seen as preemptively faulting the Justices for ruling against the government. President Obama, however, stands alone in his pointed and directed arguments to the Supreme Court [while cases are pending]. He has compared the Court invalidating the individual mandate to Lochnerism. He has chastised the Justices for only being able to invalidate the IRS rule [on subsidies to federal Obamacare exchanges] based on a “contorted reading of the statute.” To the President, the Court “shouldn’t even have” granted certiorari. Striking down the mandate would have been “unprecedented” and invalidating the IRS Rule would “unravel what’s now been woven into the fabric of America.” While we can debate the propriety of these comments, and ponder whether or not they have an effect on the Court, the 44th President has set a new precedent for ex parte arguments.

Bernstein adds : Remember. what ever you do, don’t politicize the Supreme Court.



As The Sun Sinks Slowly in the West, So Does the Solar Industry by The Elephant's Child

sun_and_sky_02
Back in 2010, President Obama hailed a Spanish Company, Abengoa, saying its new solar technology would supply tens of thousands of American homes with renewable power, and create local employment.

Since then the Spanish company has built two American plants, one in Arizona and one in California, which supply electricity to more than 160,000 homes based on the capacity of the solar thermal plants. Remember that “capacity” is what the plants would provide on perfectly sunny days, and ignoring clouds or rain.

It appears that Abengoa got overambitious, and saddled with debt from its expansion, is scrambling to avoid what would be the biggest bankruptcy in Spanish corporate history. Abengoa’s American projects in Gila Bend, Arizona, and Barstow, California, still have around $2 billion in outstanding loans guaranteed by the United States government. The plants were partly financed by $605 million in federal grants and tax credits, besides the federal loan guarantees. The New York Times adds:

“The whole reason Abengoa Solar had to get the guarantee from the government is that no private lender thought the risk was worth it,” the Institute of Energy Research, a prominent renewables critic that has received financing from the oil industry, said in 2011.

Do note the NYT phrasing, and the “oil industry” link doesn’t seem to lead anywhere at all. Abengoa has legal problems as well from shareholders and creditors, with claims of misleading investors, and against individual executives. The company lost $1.3 billion last year and paid employees late.

They’ve also done projects in Central and South America. In 2007 they established the world’s first commercial solar thermal power plant on the outskirts of Seville. That year their stock hit a record high of €7.39 a share. In November, the share price had fallen below 40 euro cents. It’s now hovering around 71 euro cents.

Meanwhile up north in Maine: from Bloomberg:

Despite long winters, a famously foggy coastline and relatively few solar panels in operation, Maine is emerging as a pivotal U.S. state for determining how consumers will pay for power generated by the sun.

U.S. solar installations have boomed more than 10-fold in the past five years, driven in part by a policy known as net metering that requires utilities to pay their customers for extra solar energy from rooftop panels. That’s lowered consumers’ monthly bills, and also cuts into revenue for utilities that still must contend with their own fixed costs — spurring conflict between traditional power companies and solar providers.

The permanent problem with the sun is that sunlight is diffuse. The major greenhouse gas is water vapor, which we recognize as clouds. especially here on the Northwest coast where there is not a speck of blue sky today. Note the lovely photograph of the sun at the top of this post, and — the extensive clouds.

US solar installations have increased by 10-fold in the past five years driven by a federal policy  called net metering that requires utilities to pay their customers for extra solar energy from rooftop panels. That has lowered customers’ monthly bills, but the utilities still have their own fixed costs, and it cuts into their revenue.

Maine has proposed replacing net metering with a system that lets utilities sign 20-year contracts with residential solar customers. And instead of paying the retail price, as called for under current policies, utilities would pay rates set by regulators.

Because this is the Twenty First Century, as we are so frequently reminded, the greens are sure there is a technological fix just around the corner, and energy storage will cease to be a problem. But every known rare earth has been tried and found wanting.

Elon Musk’s Tesla Powerwall is meant to be a daily use battery. Tesla has announced prices of $3,000 and $3,500, but that does not include the inverter, and with installation it comes to $7,340. It requires about 7.5 kilowatt hours to charge the Powerwall, providing about  5.4 kilowatt hours of power once charged. The Institute for Energy Research found that it would require a payback period of 38 years which is almost 4 times the warranty period of 10 years for the Powerwall. Even if solar power were used to charge the Powerwall the payback period would be 31 years. The obvious problem is that for home use, we require electricity most when the sun has gone down.

The government’s idea was that by stimulating greater consumer demand with subsidies, production would increase and costs would go down, but in the meantime the industry believes that solar is a complete non-starter unless utilities are forced to pay extremely unrealistic prices for solar energy produced by households with solar panels. It’s not just Maine, even in sunny Nevada solar requires huge subsidies.

Progressives are sure that the government can just order utilities to charge less for their services, much like ObamaCare just assumes that hospitals and doctors can be forced to accept less payment for their services and all will be well. Most of the problems with our frighteningly large national debt and yearly deficits are due to the fact that Progressives just don’t understand the free market at all. They only understand the pursuit of power and an ever-larger government.




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