Talking Points for Thanksgiving Dinner

Published: Mon 24 Nov 2014
A blog entry by Christine Hertzog

Contributed by:

Christine Hertzog
Managing Director
Smart Grid Library

Christine Hertzog's Blog

We all have one – a family member or friend who faithfully regurgitates the weird combination of fiction and paranoia dispensed by the US-based news channel that is anything but “fair and balanced”. The US Thanksgiving holiday is approaching, and perhaps you’ll be sitting next to this loved one for the traditional dinner feast. Here are useful talking points that will help you set the record straight about two hot Smart Grid topics.

  • Renewables like wind and solar shouldn’t get subsidies, all energy sources should operate from a level playing field. Vehemently agree that there should be a level playing field for all energy sources.   Then note that the oil and gas industries received $447 billion in subsidies and tax breaks from US taxpayers since 1918, and it continues on to this day. The average subsidization of these two extremely profitable and well-established industries is more than 13 times greater than what is available to the combined renewables industries today. Therefore, a level playing field really means that either fossil fuels cease to get their tax breaks, or renewables should enjoy the same subsidies as fossil fuels. The elimination of subsidies for fossil and nuclear industries would amount to about $111 billion saved for taxpayers over the next ten years.

Highlight the jobs creation numbers from the renewables sector too. The wind industry has about 75,000 permanent jobs ranging from US-based manufacturing and installation to maintenance, sales, and marketing. The solar industry employs about 100,000 Americans on a full time basis. Add in geothermal, biofuels, hydro, and green building sectors, and that’s over 1 million clean energy jobs in the US alone.

There’s another compelling value proposition for renewables over energy sources like oil and gas. Price and supply certainty. Oil and gas prices exhibit regular price volatility, and have been subject to many supply disruptions – some deliberately caused and others resulting from natural catastrophes. The sun and wind don’t have a history of colluding to throttle back supply and drive up prices.

  • Remember Solyndra! If the conversation shifts to the bankruptcies of companies that received money from the Department of Energy’s Loan Guarantee Program, you can again agree that it’s a shame that these companies failed. However, even the most successful venture capital firms have some stinkers in their investment portfolios. Two recent studies of VC investments revealed that 65% - 68% of their investments were money-losing deals. In contrast, the Loan Guarantee program, which helps new technology projects and companies cross the chasm from promising solution to commercial market deployment is now making money for taxpayers, with a 98% success rate. Tesla Motors repaid its $465 million dollar loan 9 years early. A bonus talking point is to note that this program, designed to provide low-cost financing for innovations, was created during the George W. Bush administration.

There’s a convenient website where many additional talking points can be obtained thanks to the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE).   Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers!

Christine Hertzog
Smart Grid Library