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The Koch Brothers Attack On Solar Energy

samzenpus posted about 7 months ago | from the there-goes-the-sun dept.

Power 769

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "The NYT writes in an editorial that for the last few months, the Koch brothers and their conservative allies in state government have been spending heavily to fight incentives for renewable energy, by pushing legislatures to impose a surtax on this increasingly popular practice, hoping to make installing solar panels on houses less attractive. 'The coal producers' motivation is clear: They see solar and wind energy as a long-term threat to their businesses. That might seem distant at the moment, when nearly 40 percent of the nation's electricity is still generated by coal, and when less than 1 percent of power customers have solar arrays. But given new regulations on power-plant emissions of mercury and other pollutants, and the urgent need to reduce global warming emissions, the future clearly lies with renewable energy.' For example, the Arizona Public Service Company, the state's largest utility, funneled large sums through a Koch operative to a nonprofit group that ran an ad claiming net metering would hurt older people on fixed incomes (video) by raising electric rates. The ad tried to link the requirement to President Obama. Another Koch ad likens the renewable-energy requirement to health care reform, the ultimate insult in that world. 'Like Obamacare, it's another government mandate we can't afford,' the narrator says. 'That line might appeal to Tea Partiers, but it's deliberately misleading,' concludes the editorial. 'This campaign is really about the profits of Koch Carbon and the utilities, which to its organizers is much more important than clean air and the consequences of climate change.'"

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Buggy whips? (5, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 7 months ago | (#46857621)

Seems like it is only a matter of time until coal power goes away. It will be a long time, granted, but in the next decade or two solar will get so cheap that the impact on traditional centralized generation will be quite severe. I guess they are watching what is happening in Germany with horror and realizing that is their future too.

Re:Buggy whips? (5, Informative)

mellon (7048) | about 7 months ago | (#46857629)

Actually, the real worry is the $20 trillion in stranded assets that the oil companies stand to lose if solar gets cheaper than carbon fuels quickly enough. So it's crucial that they keep their subsidies and prevent anyone else from growing through subsidies. This is a very real problem—it's not just some rich people being assholes, but rather some rich people who stand to become substantially less rich if things go the way they seem to be going.

Re:Buggy whips? (5, Insightful)

rmstar (114746) | about 7 months ago | (#46857685)

This is a very real problemâ"it's not just some rich people being assholes, but rather some rich people who stand to become substantially less rich if things go the way they seem to be going.

I thought the actual story was that if you or me dislike some policy we can go fuck ourselves, whereas if the Kochs dislike it, they get a real chance to change it.

An oligarchy indeed [slashdot.org] .

What I also find a little unsettling is that most commenters, including you, don't seem to think much of that power imbalance (or even be aware of it) directly jumping to the solar vs. no solar issue.

Re:Buggy whips? (5, Insightful)

MrNaz (730548) | about 7 months ago | (#46857701)

This is a very real problem

No, it's not really. The world has survived plenty of instances of entire technological paradigms becoming obsolete. Fossil fuels will become obsolete sooner or later, and the world will be better off for it. It's just a question of how long the elite (like the Koch brothers) can hold the welfare of the entire world hostage to their pointless shell game.

Re:Buggy whips? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857747)

Believe me, "the entire world" isn't doing much to stop from being held "hostage."

Re:Buggy whips? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857991)

It's a bit hard given that the oil industry is able to mobilize the major military forces to defend its interests.

Re:Buggy whips? (1)

Jawnn (445279) | about 7 months ago | (#46857955)

True enough - the world has survived such things, but countries whose dominance is closely tied to such things often fare poorly during and after such transitions. Unless the U.S. starts, pretty damned soon, to find an alternative to fossil fuels, it's economy is in for a beating, the likes of which few have scarcely imagined.

Re:Buggy whips? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857977)

The Anglo-American era is over, regardless of what happens to the fossil fuel industry.

Re:Buggy whips? (4, Informative)

the gnat (153162) | about 7 months ago | (#46858013)

Unless the U.S. starts, pretty damned soon, to find an alternative to fossil fuels, it's economy is in for a beating, the likes of which few have scarcely imagined.

Since our economy is far less dependent on heavy manufacturing than it used to be, we're not in nearly as much trouble as other nations. Seen any satellite views of China recently?

Re:Buggy whips? (2)

Simon Brooke (45012) | about 7 months ago | (#46858017)

Actually, this is untrue. The world has never faced a technology which had the potential to take out the entire human ecosystem before. Fossil fuels certainly will become obsolete sooner or later - when 90% of the human population has died of starvation, they'll be obsolete. But it would be a much better thing if we could stop using them before we'd destroyed the atmospheric and ocean systems which we depend on for our survival.

Re:Buggy whips? (4, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 7 months ago | (#46857801)

You would think that the sensible thing to do would be to invest all company profits into developing solar and other renewable energy so that they could become the market leaders in providing it, thus ensuring that they remain relevant in the future. As usual though they seem to have left it far too late and the need to post a quarterly profit + growth makes any long term planning or strategy impossible. It's suicide, essentially.

Re:Buggy whips? (5, Insightful)

jonwil (467024) | about 7 months ago | (#46857887)

If some rich person becomes less rich because people no longer want the dirty polluting coal their companies extract from the ground, GOOD. If that means a bunch of people no longer have a job going down into a hole every day digging out that filthy stuff, GOOD.

Just like the motor car made the horse obsolete as a means of transport, there will come a time when mankind invents a technology (or technologies) that make the use of coal for generating electricity obsolete and that will be a GOOD thing for the planet.

Re:Buggy whips? (1, Informative)

deadweight (681827) | about 7 months ago | (#46858007)

It may be very good for the planet, but the miners that now have no jobs, have cars being repossesed, houses in foreclosure, and kids no longer able to go to college are not likely to be cheering you on. Hint: coal miners are not slaves. They WANT their jobs ;)

Re:Buggy whips? (3, Interesting)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 7 months ago | (#46857665)

What makes you think that? Germany's Energiewiende is a horror show of failures and disgusting cost overruns so far going so far as to actually provide direct proof for some of the claims in the story (after it was implemented, Germany actually started to have a concept of energy poverty, people who cannot afford electricity). Coal is about the only reliable and cheap source of power that we have enough raw materials for for several hundred years into the future that can be easily maintained or expanded as needed (other than nuclear which has a serious PR problem, which may have something to do with the same lobby).

Sad reality is that coal seems pretty safe today. For all the incentives, it's still far too good to pass on. They're likely trying to simply ensure that solar doesn't get any kind of foothold at all and going for very long term strategy here. It's just one of the ways that shows that US is indeed an oligarchy rather than democracy today.

Re:Buggy whips? (5, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 7 months ago | (#46857683)

Coal seems safe because the consequences are diffuse enough not to be noticed. A few thousand more people impaired by mercury exposure, a couple more hurricanes a year - but nothing you can point to and declare 'Coal did this.'

Re:Buggy whips? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857731)

Coal seems safe because the consequences are diffuse enough not to be noticed. A few thousand more people impaired by mercury exposure, a couple more hurricanes a year - but nothing you can point to and declare 'Coal did this.'

Just as you said: "nothing you can point to and declare 'Coal did this.'".
Except you just believe it did.

Re:Buggy whips? (5, Interesting)

imikem (767509) | about 7 months ago | (#46857823)

Sure, nothing happens when millions of years' worth of fossilized plants are combusted in the space of a few decades. 100% of that stored energy is converted to useful work, no CO2 is released into the atmosphere, no other pollutants like mercury and uranium either.

I don't have to "believe" anything. I took math, chemistry, physics along the way to an engineering degree. Anyone with even a solid high school education can do the math for themselves.

Re:Buggy whips? (2, Insightful)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 7 months ago | (#46857831)

You miss my point. Consequences of not having power are several orders of magnitude worse. Power has to be generated somewhere. And unless you have a perpetual motion machine, or invented functional fusion reactor (or a way to improve fission's reputation in the eyes of the public) we're pretty much stuck with coal.

Re:Buggy whips? (3, Interesting)

nojayuk (567177) | about 7 months ago | (#46857875)

You can point to, for example, the Aberfan disaster and say "Coal killed a hundred kids" or to the death toll from coal mining and transport year on year and say "Coal killed these workers" (China proudly announced the death toll from coal mining had fallen below 3000 per annum a couple of years back. It used to be a lot higher). That's on top of the mercury, cadmium, radon, sulphuric acid fumes, dioxins, beryllium, arsenic and the thousands of tonnes of other toxic wastes spread through the atmosphere and over agricultural lands and deposited in rivers and oceans every year which kills and maims people who don't work with coal directly. But nuclear power is worse somehow.

Re:Buggy whips? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857915)

1: Centralia.
2: Unusable wells in most of Pennsylvania due to the tainted water table.
3: Mine tailings and large toxic areas.

"Coal did this." And the secondary effects of burning lignite coal (the cheapest and most polluting type, which is what most places burn) are just starting to get felt.

Re:Buggy whips? (2)

MrNaz (730548) | about 7 months ago | (#46857711)

Coal is about the only reliable and cheap source of power that we have enough raw materials for for several hundred years into the future

If we continue burning coal at the current rate, civilization as we know it will not exist several hundred years in the future.

Re:Buggy whips? (3, Insightful)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 7 months ago | (#46857843)

Civilization as we know it will likely not exist several hundred years in the future regardless. We can't keep consuming the way we are, and we'll run out, causing us to change the consumption model.

Heh. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857775)

You sound like a shill from the German coal industry. Do they pay well? Where do I apply?

Re:Heh. (5, Insightful)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 7 months ago | (#46857865)

Shills from coal industry in Germany talk about German Energiewende like about manna from heaven. They're massively building up coal and firing up all the old plants as much as they can becuase of it and raking in massive profits.

If I could be seen to be shilling for anything, it's not shutting down fission in Germany and replacing it with coal, as Energiewende has basically done.

Re:Buggy whips? (2)

rasmusbr (2186518) | about 7 months ago | (#46857815)

I guess they are watching what is happening in Germany with horror and realizing that is their future too.

You mean Germany's record high lignite consumption? Yeah, that is truly horrible. Lignite is actually considerably worse than coal in terms of CO2 emitted per kWh produced.

Using locally produced solar energy in a northern area that sees peak energy usage in the middle of winter is not really a good idea, unless you have a storage system that can store solar energy for 6+ months so that you can use the summer sun to heat you in winter.

It doesn't have to supply all our power (5, Insightful)

sjbe (173966) | about 7 months ago | (#46857909)

Using locally produced solar energy in a northern area that sees peak energy usage in the middle of winter is not really a good idea

They don't use air conditioning in Germany? Solar isn't going to fix every problem but even if it can solve just part of the problem then it remains a good idea. Why would you not want to use relatively clean solar energy for at least those times when it is available? The only credible argument against solar power is an economic one. No it will not be able to supply all our power needs but neither is any other single source of fuel. They all have drawbacks of one sort or another. What seems abundantly clear however is that any technology that allows us to reduce use of fossil fuels at reasonable economic cost is a good thing.

There is this stupid tendency here on slashdot to dismiss partial solutions to any problem as unworkable. Solar does not have to supply all our energy needs to still be a good idea. The economics of it still need to make sense but there is no principled reason why it should not be a significant part of the energy supply equation.

Coal (sadly) isn't going away (5, Interesting)

sjbe (173966) | about 7 months ago | (#46857833)

Seems like it is only a matter of time until coal power goes away. It will be a long time, granted, but in the next decade or two solar will get so cheap that the impact on traditional centralized generation will be quite severe.

I hope you are correct but I think you are being wildly optimistic. Coal isn't going to disappear anytime in the next 40+ years baring some unexpected technological breakthrough. The US and China have HUGE amounts of coal and can get to it relatively cheaply. Solar will not catch up on a cost basis without continued subsidies for an unclear amount of time. Coal has an economic advantage because power plants that utilize coal are not required to pay the full economic cost. Even the cleanest coal plants are able to dump significant amounts of pollutants into the environment without any economic direct consequences. To level the playing field coal will need to be required to account for these costs and I don't really see that happening in any reasonably foreseeable configuration of political leadership in most of the world. There simply are too many people making too much money from fossil fuels for that to be likely to occur.

Solar is advancing relatively fast but it's no panacea and absent some energy storage breakthrough it's of limited use when the sun isn't shining. We should definitely advance solar as far as it will take us but it's not going to solve the entire problem alone. Same issue with wind. Very useful but difficult to predict availability on short time scales. Nuclear fission is current the only non-fossil fuel power source we have with sufficient generating capacity to serve as a base load in place of fossil fuel sources in places not blessed with hydro or geo-thermal close by. Obviously fission carries its own set of problems which are well known.

I guess they are watching what is happening in Germany with horror and realizing that is their future too.

Germany is spending a LOT of money to subsidize solar. It's unclear whether this is economically sensible though I do hope that their experiment proves a success. However there are (too) many here in the US who regard that sort of subsidy as blasphemy and will do everything they can to fight it. The fact that many of these same people will ironically support subsidies (both explicit and implicit) for fossil fuel production will never come up because they are supported by that industry.

Re:Buggy whips? (3, Informative)

Illserve (56215) | about 7 months ago | (#46857903)

Actually what is happening in Germany is a not an entirely rosy picture for the renewables industry. Their energy prices have been spiking, while simultaneously CO2 emissions have been increasing as a consequence of their new policies.

As evidence of the uncomfortable position that German is now in, their Vice Chancellor is reported to have said :

“The truth is that the Energy U-Turn (“Energiewende”, the German scheme aimed at pushing the “renewable” share of electricity production to 80 % by 2050) is about to fail”
“The truth is that under all aspects, we have underestimated the complexity of the “Energiewende”
“The noble aspiration of a decentralized energy supply, of self-sufficiency! This is of course utter madness”
“Anyway, most other countries in Europe think we are crazy”

Unfortunately my German is too rusty to confirm this for myself, but here's the video feed if anyone is interested in seeing it:

http://www.1730live.de/sigmar-... [1730live.de]

Re:Buggy whips? (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 7 months ago | (#46858033)

It will be a long time, granted, but in the next decade or two solar will get so cheap that the impact on traditional centralized generation will be quite severe.

No, the future will be fusion reactors. I suspect the coal industry is likely behind the lack of federal investment in that industry as well.

I'm assuming here... (5, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 7 months ago | (#46857623)

...that you disapprove just as much of Michael Bloomberg (another billionaire that spends a lot of money trying to influence politics) when he decides to buy a "grass roots" effort as you do when the Koch Brothers try to do so?

Or does the choice of cause mean that one billionaire trying to influence politics is worse than the other billionaire trying to influence politics?

Re:I'm assuming here... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857689)

Buying influence in politics is bad enough without people trying to make scientific issues political.

Re:I'm assuming here... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857941)

Buying influence in politics is bad enough without people trying to make scientific issues political.

Is that you Al Gore?

Re:I'm assuming here... (1)

ohieaux (2860669) | about 7 months ago | (#46857707)

Damn, where are my Mod Points today? +1

Re: I'm assuming here... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857733)

You really showed that strawman who's boss.

Re:I'm assuming here... (4, Insightful)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 7 months ago | (#46857773)

Rich guys attempt to influence industry dear to their hip pockets.

In other news, the damage from these abuses of democracy could be mitigated with some sane campaign contribution reform legislation.

Yes, wealth will always have more than its proportionate share of say, but it gets worse if you leave it alone to fix itself.

Re:I'm assuming here... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857805)

Or does the choice of cause mean that one billionaire trying to influence politics is worse than the other billionaire trying to influence politics?

You are pointing out two problems with the U.S.A. here: the first problem is that low taxation, inheritable business empires and riches and lots of exceptions make it possible for billionaires or ultra-rich people to emerge as a class on its own who have millions of times the resources at their disposal as the working class does, obviously without any remotely proportionally justifiable personal merit of themselves.

The second problem you are pointing out that politics in the U.S.A. are organized in a manner where you can influence the lawmakers by throwing money at them, and do it quite legally so. In addition to the lawmakers being in the pockets of the ultra-rich, in addition the media are also under control of the ultra-rich.

The consequence of that is that even where nominally democratic structures are still in place, they are controlled by big money interests.

As long as the rich people are given control of the law- and news making processes, there is no factual democracy in place.

As long as Americans care more about who is sleeping with whom as a moral compass rather than who is paying money to whom for things that utterly should not be connected by any monetary link, they will live in the system they deserve. The problem is that the rest of the world did nothing to deserve the consequences of the unmitigated systematic rampant corruption of the U.S.A. and its interest-focused government.

Re:I'm assuming here... (1)

wezelboy (521844) | about 7 months ago | (#46857919)

You were supposed to say 'George Soros" not "Michael Bloomberg'. At least get your right wing talking points right.

Re:I'm assuming here... (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 7 months ago | (#46857951)

I really hate this strawman (it usually comes up with the name "Soros" however) because it is so wildly off base. I don't care WHO is buying influence in politics.. it just shouldn't happen. These people should not be able to lobby anyone they can't vote directly for. They have representatives in Congress just like I do. I don't care what they are for, it warps the idea of representative government.

I think the Kochs gets brought up so often, though, because their politics is so destructive to our country and our economy. Because of the massive amount they funnel into organizations and individuals we are unable to do anything as a country that is for the common good. The entire labor movement is estimated to be around a 10th of the Koch brothers money, and there is no comparison or balance. And that's BAD in a system that thrives on balances.

Re:I'm assuming here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857953)

Or does the choice of cause mean that one billionaire trying to influence politics is worse than the other billionaire trying to influence politics?

Of course it does. Monied interests buying political power is inherently problematic but it should be obvious that some influences are worse than others. If someone's influencing things in a way that might lead to a Cholera outbreak then that's got to be a bigger problem than if their influence has no particular negative consequences. No opinion on Michael Bloomberg compared to the Koch Brothers, don't know enough about either.

being against subsidies.... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857627)

So its an attack on solar energy because they're against energy subsidies? This title is misleading.

Re:being for taxes.... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857675)

its an attack on solar energy because they're against energy subsidies? This title is misleading

Your post is a lie, the article made it clear that they are pushing for a tax on electricity produced by solar power.

Re:being against subsidies.... (5, Informative)

thaylin (555395) | about 7 months ago | (#46857677)

They are not against energy subsidies, they are against renewable, and in particular solar, subsidies. They love their own subsidies, which means the title is very correct.

Re:being against subsidies.... (0, Flamebait)

Vaphell (1489021) | about 7 months ago | (#46857735)

Bullshit, in this they are against stupid laws trying to handwave the economic reality because "hurrr durrr green energy!!".

These subsidies for solar mean higher prices for everybody else. Solar users using 0 net energy and getting retail prices for their output are a net loss and it's not like maintenance and protecting the grid from sudden surges in panel output is free.
Think about it, they are using the grid as their personal battery for $0 which would set them back thousands of dollars otherwise, drawing and pushing energy when it's convenient. All the baseline capacity, all the gear required to stabilize erratic flow - it's all on the energy company and the solar users don't pay for it in their bills, dirty peons who can't afford teslas and panels on the roof do.

Re:being against subsidies.... (4, Insightful)

thaylin (555395) | about 7 months ago | (#46857829)

How do they mean higher prices for everyone else? There is no evidence to support that claim.

Solar does not typically use net 0 energy, and they do not get retail prices, they get wholesale prices, and then still have to pay retail for the energy they use at night, meaning they have to use much less energy in the evening, than during the days, to be able to have a net 0.

In addition since they only get wholesale prices the energy companies are making money off of the energy that the customers generate.

Lastly even if a customer is net 0 there is no evidence that they cost other individuals a penny.

So the person spewing the bullshit seems to be you

Re:being against subsidies.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857879)

You appear to feel that when an individual produces something, they are entitled to lower payments for said product than when it is produced by a company.

Re:being against subsidies.... (1)

Wild_dog! (98536) | about 7 months ago | (#46857885)

Are solar users using zero net energy? I haven't seen that this is the case for most people I know with solar.
They also use energy. I think there are few who actually produce more energy than they use.

During the day, their solar arrays add energy to the grid when the need for energy is the highest so it seems that those with solar arrays are providing a service by supplying energy to the grid when energy use is at peak.
Then, at night solar users pull energy off of the grid. But it comes at reduced rates since they added energy to the grid all day.

This is all negotiated into the rates one receives.
Seems to me that in this instance the power companies just want to discourage people from getting solar arrays by being allowed to add a nice hefty tax to solar users. If they were having problems with maintaining infrastructure for solar users, why not just adjust the buy-back rate???
This to me looks like a special up-front tax make people think twice before installing solar. Nobody wants to install solar and then have energy bill go up too. Especially, when solar users are providing free energy to the energy companies for some reduced rates on the energy they are using.

Re:being against subsidies.... (1)

JavaBear (9872) | about 7 months ago | (#46857969)

I can only speak for Denmark, but the wind and solar producers get only about 1/3 of retail for the power they put on the grid. In times where they consume, they pay retail for what they receive.
The power companies apparently make a lot of money on this asymmetrical exchange.

Re:being against subsidies.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857975)

Bullshit, in this they are against stupid laws trying to handwave the economic reality because "hurrr durrr green energy!!".

Non-green energy has externalities which are not directly attributable to the producers of that energy, which makes its price inconsistent with its true costs.
Things like increased health costs on the population affected by, say, coal plant smoke are borne by society as a whole. There are also other factors which are more difficult to put a price on, but affect society as well: sound pollution, destructive mining of otherwise green land, climate change, and so on.

This is why green energy subsidies make sense. It's a way for society to balance those costs somewhat and in a way pay for a better life.

But I don't know why I'm even replying to you. Your "hurrr durrr green energy!!" comment says everything about your position and your willingness to change it, not to mention the level of your maturity.

Re:being against subsidies.... (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 7 months ago | (#46858003)

I'm replying to a -1, but it has to be said...

you need to look up how much subsidies oil gets before you make that argument again.

Can we not have this political bullshit on /. ? (1, Insightful)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 7 months ago | (#46857631)

Everywhere I go its the democrats whining about the evil billionaires giving money to the republicans and republicans whining about the evil billionaires giving money to the Democrats.

Shut the fuck up.

You're both getting big donations from billionaires... stop pretending like they don't have their own interests and axes to grind.

Re: Can we not have this political bullshit on /. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857643)

^this.

Re:Can we not have this political bullshit on /. ? (1)

Skater (41976) | about 7 months ago | (#46857661)

They used to have an entire section for politics, then it would be easy to remove those stories from the feed. This, for inexplicable reasons, is filed under "Hardware".

Re:Can we not have this political bullshit on /. ? (1)

Wild_dog! (98536) | about 7 months ago | (#46857893)

That is a fantastic idea Skater!!!

Re:Can we not have this political bullshit on /. ? (4, Insightful)

Typical Slashdotter (2848579) | about 7 months ago | (#46857709)

This piece is by the New York Times editorial board, not a politician. Would you propose no one talk about the power of money in politics, just because it affects both parties? I, for one, would prefer that people talk about the corrupting influence of money on the political process whenever it occurs, so that, maybe some day, enough people will be fed up with it to do something about it.

That doesn't mean I support a politician with big money backers using the fact that his opponent accepts campaign contributions as a cheap ad hominem, however, but that's not what this is.

Re:Can we not have this political bullshit on /. ? (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 7 months ago | (#46857877)

NYT editorial page is a fine place to talk politics. Slashdot isn't.

Re:Can we not have this political bullshit on /. ? (4, Insightful)

MitchDev (2526834) | about 7 months ago | (#46857809)

Ban political contributions altogther, beginning of solving the problem.

Re:Can we not have this political bullshit on /. ? (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 7 months ago | (#46858021)

Political contributions don't need to be banned... they need to be limited to just candidates that the person (PERSON, not CORPORATION) can legally vote for.

Re:Can we not have this political bullshit on /. ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857855)

I have a better idea. The parties involved are irrelevant. Billionares shouldn't be able to buy political influence millions of times greater than an average voter. Financial contributions should be limited.

Re:Can we not have this political bullshit on /. ? (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 7 months ago | (#46857943)

stop pretending like they don't have their own interests and axes to grind.

Of course they do - the entire point of politics is to buy influence and take money from other people to serve your interests.

But, in this case I wonder if they do have a point (or not). I *know* that the Koch brothers are dicks - they sued that one guy who did a parody Koch press conference for violating their imaginary property, or some nonsense like that, but does net metering really raise the electric rates for seniors? If it's true, that's something we should know about.

I understand that reverse metering is the same, cost wise, as buying wholesale power at retail, so it's more expensive power. If all the power were bought that way, at current rates, the purchase price of grid power would be higher - I think that's a given.

But, it's not that simple. The only reason the retail rates are what they are is to include to costs of the current generation model, which includes coal, light water reactor, and natural gas plant costs. At the same time, power companies offer efficiency rebates because they would rather not spend money on building new plants to meet demand, so solar benefits their desire to reduce demand by some amount, and that reduction has value to them. Do the Koch numbers include this?

There are more complications: solar doesn't run at night. Peak demand is during the day. Baseload is not covered by existing solar. We need new storage technology (that's what's holding me back). The grid could be re-imagined as a peer-to-peer co-op. The existing delivery charges count on directionality to maintain the power lines. Group net metering sets pricing like the costs are consolidated when they're not (except when they are). A smarter grid could use solar to reduce power outage costs. There are many types and scales of solar, both today and on the horizon. Maybe it makes more sense to dump excess solar power into bitcoin miners and trade it back with one layer of abstraction. Money today is not the same as money next year (time value - who wants to predict 20 year interest rates?). etc.

The analysis is complex, and would probably take an academic economist's team a year to develop a model. The answer may depend on which factors one considers as likely, timescales as relevant, and technologies as feasible. And that's before we even ask the regulators which kinds of technology they deem to be permissible in their ultimate wisdom (I can haz 3000' solar tower plz?).

I bet the Kochs and I would put different weights on those variables, but it's still a question that's worth knowing the answer to. I wouldn't mind seeing some Koch money go to fund a thorough study so they could "prove their point" as long as they release their data and methods.

Re:Can we not have this political bullshit on /. ? (1)

L. J. Beauregard (111334) | about 7 months ago | (#46857949)

Both sides are bad so vote Republican

I for one would be quite happy to see GEORGE SOROS! banned from contributing to the Democrats if it meant the hundreds of other billionaires couldn't contribute to the Republicans.

Re:Can we not have this political bullshit on /. ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857971)

Why can't we dislike both. The "establishment," so to speak? Just because one criticizes one party doesn't mean that they embrace the other. I like some things the Rs stand for, I like some things the Ds stand for. I despise some things each do as well.

Fox can be thanked for framing discussions in the terms of one party line over the other. I'm sure it was presented earlier, but Fox loves to stir up shit storms.

Greedy douchebags. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857633)

America is being made worse by what the rich choose to fight.

They're more interested in protecting their own (sizable) wealth than they are about the future of humanity, the environment, or anything else.

These assholes should be suspended over the smokestack of a coal plant for about 6 months.

Re:Greedy douchebags. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857769)

And if the masses of humanity started to vote with their dollars instead of waiting for a government solution these things would work themselves out quickly despite the dickering of the rich. But no.... Instead we have to hear that it's all the fault of the rich and the poor buy on the street has no choice in the matter as he sputters along in his 3 ton SUV buying up goods made by "the rich" at Walmart.
 
I'm sick of hearing it. It's like watching a fat guy cry about his weight while he shovels fries and big macs down his throat, washing it down with a supersized extra thick milkshake.

I love Hugh Pickens (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857635)

He's just so good at slipping false presumptions into his summary writeups... "the urgent need to reduce global warming emissions," for example.

Go suck a dick, Hugh...

Help! (5, Funny)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | about 7 months ago | (#46857647)

Where is Captain Planet when we need him?!

Re:Help! (1)

Ogive17 (691899) | about 7 months ago | (#46857755)

EARTH!

Re:Help! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857821)

*I think I'm supposed to name one of the other "elements" here* LOL

Re:Help! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857873)

With the solar powered plane with VTOL. Solar is awesome!

Re:Help! (3, Funny)

jbeaupre (752124) | about 7 months ago | (#46857939)

He's right here: http://www.funnyordie.com/vide... [funnyordie.com] .

"Don't summon be again unless you are ready for that pain!"

See if you can guess... (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about 7 months ago | (#46857649)

Which Koch brother is this? [youtube.com]

Re:See if you can guess... (1)

just_another_sean (919159) | about 7 months ago | (#46857779)

All of them?

Re:See if you can guess... (1)

taiwanjohn (103839) | about 7 months ago | (#46857851)

LOL, pretty much... except for Bill Koch, [villagevoice.com] who seems to be the "albino" among his black-sheep kinfolk... perhaps not quite as awful as the other two. ;-)

Need a Venn Diagram (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857657)

Need a Venn Diagram for the subsidies that the Koch brothers oppose.

Draw a large circle, and write "government subsidies of any kind" in it. Then, draw a larger circle around it, and label it "subsidies that the Koch brothers oppose.

Yes, the Koch brothers oppose solar subsidies, because they are subsidies.

It is also disingenuous to say they want surtaxes on solar. While it may be true, the context is that there are surtaxes on other forms of energy, and they want a level playing field.

This is a very bad summary.

Re:Need a Venn Diagram (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857717)

yeah, coal and oil don't receive subsidies. very, very true. *cough* very expensive *cough* military *cough* campaigns *cough* 100's of trillions *cough*

Re:Need a Venn Diagram (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857781)

yeah, coal and oil don't receive subsidies. very, very true. *cough* very expensive *cough* military *cough* campaigns *cough* 100's of trillions *cough*

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is the disingenuous nature of the anti fossil fuel group on display. They literally believe that the US military is a tax subsidy for oil, that road congestion is a tax subsidy for oil, the fact that oil companies aren't being penalized for you burning the oil (I.e. CO2) is a tax subsidy for oil.

It makes you wonder about the strength of their position when they have to use lies and deceit to support it.

Oh, bonus: the "tax subsidy" is measured in multiples of world GDP. No surprise, this is standard lunacy from them.

Re:Need a Venn Diagram (1)

Cenan (1892902) | about 7 months ago | (#46857819)

It makes you wonder about the strength of their position when they have to use lies and deceit to support it.

Says the oil lobby?

Re:Need a Venn Diagram (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857889)

Nice strawman. Doesn't address the point: if their position is rational, then why are the anti fossil fuel groups espousing these lies and deceit about trillions of dollars worth of nonexistent "tax subsidies" for fossil fuels? If they are correct then they should have plenty of logical arguments to support their cause without resorting to falsehoods.

Then again, this does presume rationality among the anti fossil fuel groups...

Re:Need a Venn Diagram (4, Insightful)

Ash Vince (602485) | about 7 months ago | (#46857867)

Need a Venn Diagram for the subsidies that the Koch brothers oppose.

Draw a large circle, and write "government subsidies of any kind" in it. Then, draw a larger circle around it, and label it "subsidies that the Koch brothers oppose.

Yes, the Koch brothers oppose solar subsidies, because they are subsidies.

It is also disingenuous to say they want surtaxes on solar. While it may be true, the context is that there are surtaxes on other forms of energy, and they want a level playing field.

This is a very bad summary.

But that is stupid. The whole point of putting surtaxes on non-renewable forms of energy is that they are non-renewable so by using them today you are storing up costs for the future when they are gone. The problems can be to do with having to mitigate the effects of more CO2 in the atmosphere or with them simply running out but either way we know there will be a cost down the line, so since government will ultimately have to foot the bill either way they impose a tax to mitigate that (in theory anyway, even if they do then spend it on some other crap).

With solar power however the energy gained is absolutely free at the point of generation. If you don't put a solar panel in the way then that solar energy would have just contributed to warming the planet when it hit the ground underneath. This is (or should be) the main reason why no tax is paid on energy from solar. Maybe you should even get a tax-rebate for using solar to generate electricity as the energy you generate would normally have contributed to global warming as it hit the ground and heated it. (ok, I studied years of physics so know this is a stretch but I still think it a net benefit, however minute)

I can understand (although I do not agree with, we need to encourage more solar use, not less) the idea of putting a small tax on solar panels themselves as they are quite polluting to produce, but once they are built they actually do far more good for the planet than bad, unlike all the fossil fuels the Kock brothers make their money from.

What? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857901)

So your position is that the Koch brothers are for improved fairness in taxation by imposing new taxes on emerging industries? I don't believe that for one second. They see a threat to their profit and they are attacking. I have no idea how you can try to pretend this is benevolence.

Ad hominem. It doesn't matter who says it. (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857691)

Renewable energy has tripled the electricity costs in Germany and Spain, in fact, it's so inefficient now that it has made the option of generating your own energy the best one, not because it's cheap (it's still frigging expensive), but because the subsidized renewables have made the grid absurdly expensive and unreliable.
Both Germany and Spain governments have reacted to the individuals and industry fleeing the grid by passing laws that punish you if you generate your own energy. This has made industry to move out of those countries. Individuals, however, can't leave the country that easily, specially the elders and low-income citizens, who are the main victims of this "green energy revolution".

Note that Obama is doing exactly the same things that socialist president Zapatero did in Spain. His goverment bankrupted Spain so hard and so fast, that his government and the next one keep faking the PIB so that people don't notice that their situation is worse than during the spanish civil war.

Re:Ad hominem. It doesn't matter who says it. (3, Insightful)

polar red (215081) | about 7 months ago | (#46857759)

can you back that up with figures and links?

Re:Ad hominem. It doesn't matter who says it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857979)

I bought a silver dollar the other day and had to pay 6% sales tax, buying and selling money is taxable. Except for any currently popular credits, which quickly turn into evil loopholes, all benefit received is taxable. Here is some background. http://www.pjtaccountants.com.au/topics-taxation/tax-implications-of-solar-power

Geez (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857907)

Why I get downmodded just for pointing out the objective facts that the only countries that have LAWS against self-generating your energy are the ones that heavily subsidized their renewables, AND the ones that tripled their electricity bill in record time? Is it because you can't handle the truth, because cognitive dissonance is breaking your candy world, or because I happen to say the same thing that a Koch brother, therefore I have to be silenced?

Last week, Spain's ex-minister of Industry publicly acknowledged that the electricity bill has raised solely because of the subsidies to renewables, and that it was a mistake to directly charge the consumers, because that made the citizens aware of the scam. A very interesting and revealing interview here [libremercado.com] in which talks about the economic interests of his own party to heavily subsidize a solar bubble.

The Cock brothers are dicks! (-1, Troll)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 7 months ago | (#46857695)

Who would have thought?

Brilliant idea (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 7 months ago | (#46857703)

When the Koch brothers tried to attach climate change, we got the B.E.S.T. study. If this is equally counterproductive we'll be running the world on solar power within a week.

Subsidized corporations fighting against subsidies (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857705)

Can you spot the irony in all this? These corporations that are fighting against government subsidized green energy are all those who have themselves grown enormously through different types of government subsidies.

It's amazing how well the twisted corporationist logic sinks into the general public. The corporations on one hand speak for capitalism and free market, but on the other they cling to government subsidies and form monopolies effectively wiping out any competition on their markets.

Roosevelt once stated that this type of centralization of power in the private sector that corporations have today, could eventually lead to fascism. In some way, I don't think he was too far off.

Koch brothers are the new boogeymen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857721)

Really, does anybody buy into it?

   

More Koch Derangement Syndrome... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857725)

... working to advance the idiocy embodied by Harry Reid.
If the author really cared about money affecting politics, he/she would have brought up Steyer.
Instead, more drivel.

Income Tax (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857739)

The IRS considers grants and credits for self generation as taxable income. These windfall profits the homeowners are pulling down will increasingly help fund our government. National policy must include a money pump or it will fail.

Go back to making movies! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857761)

True Grit, No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading...this is your calling! Not bickering about energy!

solar hitting coal/gas profits in Australia Now (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857783)

traditional energy is getting hit at peak times in Australia by solar because when solar is at it's most efficient making energy is also when traditional plants (coal/gas) is selling their power at the most expensive peak rate. the article has explanation of how energy producers make 25% of profits from 36 hours of supply

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/backgroundbriefing/2014-04-27/5406022

it also shows that they have invested huge money in "the grid " when peeps are using the infrastructure less and they still want to get paid for huge asset so jack up prices for everyone the less you use the more you pay.

it seems the existing status quo is not going to go quietly

Net metering is wrong! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857793)

If you want net metering, don't feed your solar power production back into the grid, but feed in into a battery bank that you can draw off of later. Viola ... net metering, except your paying the infrastructure and delivery costs. One meter in at retail rates debited, and one meter out at wholesale rates credit is the only way that doesn't impose externalities. If a utility is trying to hit a renewable mandate level, they can bump the wholesale paid on renewable. This sprt of mandate is the least intrusive way to effect a switch to renewables as it still perserves cost and price signals in the market, letting the most effecient renewable shine through. At the very least it's less intrusive than setting the wholesale rates of a certain type of newable in order to satisfies yuppies demands to feel like thie making a difference without making much of a sacrifice.

Anyways wind and solar renewables are doomed from the start because they are sporadic and sparsely concentrated, especially considering the complete lack of suffecient battery tech to shift the energy from when it's produces to when it's needed.

Why can't the tornados... (1)

MitchDev (2526834) | about 7 months ago | (#46857795)

...strike where they are needed, like where the Koch brothers are....

Sorta like that no slavery requirement. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857803)

How could you force people to stop owning slaves! That's wrong!

Support conservatives who protect environment (-1, Offtopic)

hessian (467078) | about 7 months ago | (#46857811)

http://conservamerica.org/ [conservamerica.org]

If the voting base does not rise up and make its wishes known, billionaires take over political parties.

However, I don't know if I'd trust the NYT on anything. They lied about Cliven Bundy and whathisname Sterling by selecting editing the quotations. They're not a trustworthy news source any longer.

Re:Support conservatives who protect environment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857883)

You can read, watch, and listen to the unedited versions of the two white men telling you what they know about the Negro just about anywhere on the internet.

Impotent Liberal Rage? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857817)

I see our libtard friends are posting the daily liberal propaganda. I guess if screaming racism isn't working so screaming about the rich is plan B. Never mind that liberals are being hypocritical.

Not entirely true about the motivation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857869)

To quote from the article
"The coal producers’ motivation is clear: They see solar and wind energy as a long-term threat to their businesses. That might seem distant at the moment, when nearly 40 percent of the nation’s electricity is still generated by coal, and when less than 1 percent of power customers have solar arrays. (It is slightly higher in California and Hawaii.)"

I do not think that the coal producers motive (and ower plant operators) is about preventing solar power, it is more about not being willing to subsidize the competition. Why should these guys have to finance their competition? This is not about keeping them out, but rather more of a case of Ford not wanting to pay a tax to subsidize Telsa.

All energy needs to be considered (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46857911)

I think environmentalists are over estimating how quickly we can move from fossil fuels to alternatives for the sake of Mother Earth. In fact the lack of affordable alternatives have bankrupt many solar projects, created far fewer people then expected to invest in those projects and has not impressed
many consumers to take the plunge to buy them. People tend to stick with what they know, and right now fossil is still in and alternatives are barely scratching the surface. Most successful changes are done by creating a demand voluntarily, and not by mandate. When most people begin to see a real instant advantage to going to a alternative energy source you will see a majority do so. Right now, pay back on many of those alternatives are spread out many years. Asking many if the total investment actually is worth it? We will need projects like the Keystone pipeline for the foreseeable future no matter if
a minority object or not. It will happen somewhere because we are still decades from matching alternatives to these current solutions in costs.
You could spur demand for alternatives to so degree with incentives but you still won't attract the majority of middle class and lower. Those consumers don't have the means to jump on the alternative energy bandwagon without financial sacrifice. I'll bet many people opposing projects like Keystone cannot afford to jump into big alternative energy. They can hate on fossil all they want, but its here to stay for a while. We have extremists on both sides of this issue. Both are wrong when it comes to a workable solution.

Big Oil loves Wind & Solar (0)

knobsturner_me (1210594) | about 7 months ago | (#46858015)

I don't know why these Koch fellows are all up in arms. They are an energy company, like any other and so stand to make huge amounts of money as more super expensive renewable energy comes on line. Guess who owns all these renewable projects - GE, BP, Shell, Suncor, NextEra, etc. If it sounds like another company, it probably isn't.

The only reason that the Koch brothers are doing all of this is - wait for it - they have a conscious.

A wholesale turn to the Greenpeace vision of No Coal, No Gas, No Nukes, Wind + Solar + Biomass, would mean $2/kWh power, and laws to prevent people from unplugging from the grid (as a home depot generator running on $4 gasoline is well under a $1/kWh). It would also mean the end of things like schools and healthcare and road maintenance, as all of your money would be going to the green industrial revolution.

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