Apples to Apples: Solar and Wind less costly than Coal and Oil

The following is a guest blog by Tom Rooney of SPGsolar. 

CoalEveryone knows solar and wind power are more expensive than oil and coal.

Everyone except the National Academy of Sciences.

So they put it to the test: They found coal and oil and natural gas are artificially cheap because they impose health and financial and environmental costs that all of us pay for — above and beyond the price. Whether we know it or not.

Whether we like it or not.

Sounds kind of like a subsidy, doesn’t it? It’s exactly like a subsidy.

Apples to apples? Solar and wind are often less expensive than coal and oil.

The Academy estimates that coal and oil drain $130 billion in hidden costs out of our economy. Coal is subsidized to the tune of 3 to 13 cents per kilowatt hour of energy – about 25 to 100 percent of what you pay for power.

The report comes just in time — right after the biggest energy disaster in this country’s history.

And right before a campaign to reduce support for alternative energy which some say requires subsidies and is more expensive than fossil fuels.

Coal and oilPeople like Republican functionary Christopher Horner, whose new book proclaims that renewable energy will “bankrupt” this country and is a “declaration of war against America’s most reliable sources of energy—coal, oil, and natural gas.”

Or the usually reliable Wall Street Journal editorial writer Stephen Moore, who says renewable energy such as wind and solar is a plot between Big Government and Big Labor.

Before I became a card carrying member of this conspiracy and the CEO of a solar energy company, I studied for an MBA at the University of Chicago. There I was lucky enough, on many occasions, to meet the inspiration for many solar skeptics – America’s greatest economist Milton Friedman.

More than just a libertarian icon, Friedman just wanted to know what things cost. Not their price, their cost.

You do not need a Nobel Prize to see the freshman mistake of those who say wind and solar are too expensive to compete with coal and oil: They confuse price with cost.

But still we hear that coal and oil and natural gas are cheaper. Which is like the guy who throws garbage over his neighbor’s fence, then brags about free trash disposal. But really, someone else is paying for it.

The Academy said it was too complicated to estimate the largest hidden cost of energy — the price we pay in sending our best and bravest into harm’s way to guarantee our supply of foreign oil.

You want to put a price tag on that? Go ahead. Just make sure the number starts with a T. And if you throw your garbage over the fence, count that too.

—- Tom Rooney is the CEO of SPG Solar (SPGsolar.com).

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