Examiner Editorial: U.S. energy plan should not emulate Spain

In his campaign to increase renewable energy use in the U.S. by government fiat, President Barack Obama often points to Spain as a “green jobs success story.” Here’s the part of the story Obama doesn’t mention: If the U.S. follows Spain’s decade-long lead, we’ll need massive government subsidies to keep renewable energy companies afloat. Worse yet, each new green  job will come at the expense of at least two old jobs in the private sector, according to a blockbuster study led by Gabriel Calzada, economics professor at King Juan Carlos University in Madrid.

When Calzada and his team published the study, they were publicly denounced as unpatriotic for questioning their country’s “solar revolution.” But the Spanish government itself quietly admitted on April 20 that the growing deficit created by solar subsidies jeopardized the financial stability of Spain’s entire power industry. When the government was forced to reduce the subsidies by 30 percent and put a cap on new solar plant construction, “the whole sector collapsed,” Calzada said in an editorial board meeting with The Washington Examiner.

Without ever-increasing subsidies, Spain’s renewable energy industry simply is not economically feasible, he explained.

The Calzada study drew unusual criticism from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which objected to the methodology of the Spanish researchers. But Robert Murphy, research economist at the Institute for Energy Research, called NREL’s objections “contradictory and often downright silly,” pointing out that two different techniques utilized by Calzada’s team yielded identical results. “Where does NREL think the government’s money comes from, the Tooth Fairy?” Murphy asked.

Even after receiving the equivalent of $43 billion in subsidies, solar energy still accounts for less than 1 percent of Spain’s total electric output. But now residential electric bills are going up, and energy-intensive industries have begun moving their plants to Malaysia and Brazil to escape rising electricity costs and an increasingly unreliable power supply. Spain has the worst-performing economy in the European Union and, despite its massive support of renewable energy, remains the biggest violator of the Kyoto Protocol. Unemployment — including thousands of former green workers — hit 18.5 percent in July and is expected to be even higher next year.

This is the nation Obama wants the U.S. to emulate?

Spain’s failed experiment with renewable energy is a cautionary tale for American politicians who prefer to ignore the real-world costs of green energy subsidies. As millions of unemployed Spaniards can attest, diverting billions of tax dollars to alternative energy production methods that the market has already dismissed as inefficient is not the way to economic recovery or energy independence.

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