How To Lie With Statistics

Yesterday Forbes posted an article analyzing the claim that green energy creates more jobs than the fossil fuel energy.

The article cites an article entitled, “Jobs? Investing in renewables beats fossil fuels,” by Allan Hoffman, a former bureaucrat in the U.S. Department of Energy.

The article in Forbes reports:

Hoffman summarizes his article by writing, “If a primary national goal is to create jobs in the energy sector, investing in renewable energy is considerably more effective than investing in fossil fuels.” Supporting his argument, Hoffman writes, “Solar Foundation data indicated that in 2016 the U.S. solar industry (8,600 companies) employed 260,000 workers.”

Comparing solar industry jobs to conventional energy jobs, Hoffman writes, “How do these numbers compare with numbers in the fossil fuel industries? In 2015 workers employed directly in oil and natural gas extraction numbered about 187,000.”

Well, not so fast. When you look at how these numbers were calculated, you see a very different picture.

Forbes reports:

For solar jobs, Hoffman references data reported by the solar power industry. I looked up and found the Solar Foundation paper Hoffman references. What Hoffman defines as “workers” who are “employed” by the U.S. solar industry are actually defined by the Solar Foundation as jobs which the solar industry “supports.” The Solar Foundation liberally defines jobs “supported” by the solar power industry as to include every component on the solar industry chain, plus additional jobs like lawyers, lobbyists, public relations professionals, government employees overseeing the solar power industry, permitting officers, plumbers, electricians, salesmen, land acquisition specialists, and financiers.

For natural gas jobs, by comparison, Hoffman limits his definition to “workers employed directly in oil and natural gas extraction.” Hoffman does not include lawyers, lobbyists, public relations professionals, government oversight employees, permitting officers, plumbers, electricians, salesmen, land acquisition specialists, and financiers, as he does for the solar power industry. Even more importantly, he does not include construction workers who build natural gas power plants, workers who operate natural gas power plants, workers who survey and find natural gas deposits, workers who build equipment for natural gas power plants, etc.

Further proof that you can make statistics prove anything you want them to as long as you carefully choose the numbers you use.

The article at Forbes concludes:

Public policy officials, do not be duped. The next time somebody claims wind and solar power create more jobs than natural gas and other conventional energy sources, ask them for specific definitions and parameters of the job numbers cited. If they falsely claim the definitions and parameters are similar, call them on it. If they truthfully answer that the definitions and parameters do not match up, ask them why they are presenting deliberately misleading data.

This is another reason consumers of news need to be very skeptical of anything they read–any data can to skewed to reach the desired conclusion.

The High Cost Of Solar Energy That Isn’t Solar Energy

On August 12, The Daily Signal posted an article about Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, a taxpayer-subsidized solar power plant in California’s Mojave Desert. Most solar power plants (if not all) are taxpayer-subsidized, so that is not unusual. What is unusual is what the power plant has had to do to compensate for the desert weather conditions.

The article reports:

Ivanpah is different. It uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight for generating steam that then drives turbines. These turbines produce energy in a similar fashion to that of traditional coal, natural gas, or nuclear power plants.

However, Ivanpah has a problem those technologies don’t: intermittency. Meaning the sun doesn’t always shine.

For Ivanpah, this is an even bigger problem than it is for plants that use solar cells, because at night the temperature in the desert falls dramatically and the water cools down.

So, the water must be reheated the next morning before power production can resume. Instead of relying on the sun to reheat the water, the Ivanpah plant burns natural gas.

A true description of Ivanpah, then, is that it is a hybrid solar-natural gas power plant. The electricity is not entirely solar produced, yet it is sold at the higher prices regulators allow for solar power, a benefit worth millions of dollars per year to Ivanpah’s owners.

This is how the solar scam works:

That’s how Ivanpah hits the “bad policy” trifecta that is all too common in today’s heavily subsidized renewable energy markets:

Rich consortium gets huge subsidies from taxpayers to build a plant. Check.  Regulators OK a contract that forces consumers to pay four to five times the going rate for its product. Check. And the product actually is nowhere near as “green” as people thought it’d be. Check.

The inconvenient truth is that Ivanpah uses a lot of natural gas to generate “solar” electricity, and neither the California Energy Commission nor the U.S. Department of Energy seems to care enough to come clean about it.

I am not opposed to solar energy. What I am opposed to is government meddling in the free market to the point where healthy competition is prevented from developing a product to generate energy that would be clean, efficient, and cheap enough to use. Since the dawn of science, scientists have been looking for a perpetual motion machine, and I wonder if the search for green energy is going to have the same amount of success. There are laws of physics involved in generating energy that control the process regardless of what the government, the power companies, or the consumers may want. Those rules are not variable and play a major part in our success in creating renewable energy.

I Had No Idea Why My Dishwasher Took So Long

My house was built in approximately 2013. Because of when it was built, it has relatively new appliances. I wondered what was going on the first time the dishwasher took more than two hours, but now I know.

The Daily Signal posted an article yesterday about how government regulations impact home appliances.

Some of the examples given:

Exhibit A: A federal rule to cut energy use of microwave ovens when they are off (this is not a joke). To reduce energy use by two watts per oven (also not a joke) the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office pushed manufacturers to adopt a technology that caused the ovens to fail 50 percent of the time in the Department of Energy’s own tests.

Exhibit B: Dishwashers with interminable cycle times. To save eight cents of hot water, federal mandates led to wash cycles taking much longer to complete. Two- and three-hour cycles, virtually unheard of 20 years ago, are commonplace today.

My washing machine also takes twice as long as my old clunker used to take.

The article concludes:

The bureaucrats-know-better-than-consumers mindset is especially nonsensical when it is applied to businesses that relentlessly monitor energy use. Such is the case with the trucking industry, which employs GPS and a host of driver and truck monitoring technologies to shave fuel use to the minimum. A 10th of a mile per gallon is a big deal. Operators do not need federal mandates to spur cost cuts.

That isn’t stopping the federal government from pushing costly new efficiency rules on the trucking industry. Regulatory proponents, of course, claim it won’t cost a thing. The director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies said, “The beauty of the proposal is that the cost of the necessary improvements will be paid for by the savings associated with the increased fuel efficiency.” This association of regulators either believes in free lunches or stupid executives.

What regulation mongers don’t seem to believe is that consumers and businesses can be trusted to make intelligent decisions. Maybe we need an Independence Day from busybodies.

It would be nice if the government would let the free market determine these things. I suspect we would not only have more efficient appliances, we would have appliances that performed their tasks quickly and efficiently.

Making Another Bad Deal

The U.K. Mail Online is reporting that President Obama has struck a deal with China.

The article reports:

U.S. President Barack Obama today struck a landmark deal with China that would see both countries significantly reduce their greenhouse gas emissions over the next three decades.

Under the agreement, America pledged to cut between 26 and 28 per cent of the level of its carbon emissions set in 2005 by 2025 as part of the global fight against climate change.

But Chinese President Xi Jinping simply said he would aim to cap his country’s emissions by 2030 – still an unprecedented move by a nation that has been reluctant to box itself in on global warming.

So President Obama is willingly going to cripple the American economy while China continues to pollute and grow its economy. Wow! What a deal!

The article further reports:

The U.S.’s target to reduce its emissions of heat-trapping gases by 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025 is a sharp increase from Obama’s earlier vow to cut emissions by 17 percent by 2020.

However, China, whose emissions are still growing as it builds new coal plants, did not commit to cut emissions by a specific amount.

As the Daily Caller reported in January 2014:

“As coal-fired power plants are set to retire and EPA uses every regulatory trick in the book to make sure no new plants are built, we are going to see increased uncertainty in energy prices, reliability, capacity and reserves,” Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an emailed statement.

This news comes as China approved 100 million metric tons of new coal production capacity in 2013, despite air widespread air pollution concerns in the country. This is part of the Chinese government’s plan to bring 860 million metric tons of coal production online by 2015 — more than the entire annual coal output of India.

“By requiring CCS, EPA is placing a de facto ban on the construction of new coal-fueled power plants, handing over leadership of the development of CCS, and an estimated $1 trillion in economic benefits, to countries like China,” said Laura Sheehan, spokeswoman for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

Even if America stopped burning coal, the impact on the global environment would be minimal if China continued to build coal plants at its present rate. Note that China has made no promises to actually stop what it is doing. This is a bad deal and hopefully the lame-duck Senate will not approve it.

Something Is Wrong With This Picture

Yesterday the Washington Free Beacon reported that a report by the inspector general of the Department of Energy shows that a top legal official was advising the human resources people at the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) on how to implement hiring practices that put veterans at a disadvantage. When two employees at BPA questioned the hiring practices, the BPA attempted to remove them from service.

The article reports:

The report reinforces criticism of BPA by congressional investigators, who in August held a hearing investigating similar allegations from the department’s IG.

“Today’s report offers shocking new details about the Bonneville Power Administration’s illegal hiring practices that discriminated against veterans and the agency’s culture of intimidation toward whistleblowers,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said in a statement.

According to the report, a staff attorney at Bonneville “provided guidance that likely facilitated” hiring practices that disadvantaged veterans.

Federal regulations require that veterans receive preferential treatment in federal hiring.

During an investigation into what was happening, employees of BPA were not willing to speak before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee because they were afraid of losing their jobs.

Does anyone see a pattern here?

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We Wouldn’t Have Needed Sequestration If The Government Had Not Done Things Like This

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air posted an article today about government funding of the Fisker Automotive‘s manufacturing of electric cars.

The article reports:

Newly obtained documents show the Obama administration was warned as early as 2010 that electric car maker Fisker Automotive Inc. was not meeting milestones set up for a half-billion dollar government loan, nearly a year before U.S. officials froze the loan after questions were raised about the company’s statements.

An Energy Department official said in a June 2010 email that Fisker’s bid to draw on the federal loan may be jeopardized for failure to meet goals established by the department.

Despite that warning, Fisker continued to receive money until June 2011, when the DOE halted further funding. The agency did so after Fisker presented new information that called into question whether key milestones — including the launch of the company’s signature, $100,000 Karma hybrid — had been achieved, according to a credit report prepared by the Energy Department.

This is a familiar story in the Obama Administration. Solyndra was also going bankrupt as the government was funding the company. In 2009 Vice-President Biden stated that Fisker was planning to buy a shuttered General Motors plant in Delaware to produce hybrid cars. The plant was never opened and no cars were ever produced.

The Wall Street Journal also reported on the Karma, a luxury car produced by Fisker that has a sticker price of over $100,000:

Mr. Simon says his car broke down four times over the span of a few months. Each time, Fisker Automotive Inc. picked it up and sent it by trailer from his home in Omaha, Neb., to a dealer in Minneapolis.

The Karma was “so vulnerable to software errors, and the parts used were of such poor quality that eventually I insisted they take the car back and return my purchase price, which they did,” he says. “It’s a real shame, the car itself was beautiful.” …

Troubles with suppliers and regulatory requirements added months to the Karma’s release. Its engineers expressed concerns that the software that ran the Karma’s display screens and phone connections wasn’t ready, people familiar with the situation say. Still, the Karma went out to customers. The company said that its problems were expected of any new model. …

Fisker stopped production of the Karma at a factory in Finland in July 2012 in an attempt to negotiate a cost-saving contract. The following month, Fisker recalled its cars for a second time to fix a cooling system flaw that was linked to battery fires.

It hasn’t built a car since.

American tax dollars at work. I would strongly recommend that after the Obama Administration leaves office none of its members become stockbrokers.

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One Suggestion For A Federal Budget Cut

I suspect I will have more suggestions for budget cuts in the near future, but I thought I would start with this one. I don’t like all of sequestration, but I do like the idea that the rate of growth (this really isn’t about cutting spending–Washington doesn’t know how to do that) of the federal government can be cut.

This is an old article–it’s from November 2012. It was posted at The link here is the home page of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory – NREL. The wonderful, dedicated people who work at NREL describe it as the U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. So far so good. So what is the problem?

The article at Watchdog reports:

NREL’s top executive, Dr. Dan Arvizu, makes close to a million dollars per year. His two top lieutenants rake in more than half a million each and nine others make more than $350,000 a year.

But what is really going on there? Energy expert Amy Oliver Cooke drove out to the site, which looks something like Nevada’s Area 51 with its remote location and forbidding concrete buildings. NREL had started a construction project and Cooke wanted to see for herself. She didn’t get far: a man in an SUV seemingly appeared out of nowhere, stopped her car, and told her to leave.

“A beefy looking fellow told me, ‘It’s top secret,’ said Cooke, director of the Energy Policy Center at the Independence Institute think tank. “I said, ‘I’m a taxpayer and I want to see what you’re building’ and he said it was it was ‘top secret so we can bring Americans a better future.’”

Why is this top secret and who decided how much to pay these people?

The article further reports:

With its bloated budget and overseen by a $533 million a year government-funded management company, Cooke isn’t buying it.

“NREL has given us two of the most significant boondoggles, one of them being ethanol and the other being (bankrupt) Abound Solar,” she said. “They were part of the team that pushed Abound Solar along. In fact, they wrote in March 2011 on their website how proud they were of their role in abound solar.

I think I have a suggestion as to a place where the federal budget may be cut. Please read the entire article to discover where a large chunk of your tax money is going.

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An Interesting Perspective On America’s Economic Future

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal posted an article about the role of hydrocarbons in the American economy in the future.

The article states:

Since becoming president, Mr. Obama has treated hydrocarbon production like an infectious disease to be eradicated. His administration had to commission a study to learn, as announced last week, that allowing American companies to export liquefied natural gas would be beneficial to the U.S. economy. Still, the Department of Energy says it can’t make “final determinations” on export applications until it hears from those who object. So much for property rights.

America currently has the fastest rate of growth in production of oil and gas in the world. This is happening at a time when the demand for energy in America is slowing.  However, the worldwide demand for energy is increasing, creating a market for American energy exports.

The article goes on to describe energy developments in America, Canada, and Mexico:

Three democracies, sitting on vast resources, each have their own comparative advantages to offer an integrated continental market that could lead the world. Greater North American energy supplies imply millions of new jobs, higher tax revenues, plentiful energy for continental manufacturing and the end of reliance on hostile producers like Venezuela. But to reach optimum potential, investors need the freedom to explore, exploit and refine hydrocarbons and move output at every stage of production throughout the continent. In other words, governments need to get out of the way.

We can find our way out of the economic mess we are currently in–we just need to use the resources we have.

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One Possible Reason The Presidential Race Is Still Close

Hot Air posted an article yesterday stating that 58 percent of registered voters were unfamiliar with Solyndra.

The article reports:

The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows that 58 percent of registered voters are unaware or unsure of the company, which went bankrupt in 2011 after receiving an Energy Department loan guarantee in 2009 to manufacture advanced solar panels.

Twenty-five percent of respondents had a negative view of Solyndra, 15 percent were neutral and just 2 percent held a positive view on the subect, according to the survey conducted in late September. …

The company’s collapse in late August of 2011, which put more than 1,000 people out of work, was an embarrassment for the White House. Obama had personally visited Solyndra in 2010 to cast it as an example of the emerging green economy.

Attempts to make green energy practical have cost taxpayers millions of dollars. Someone needs to launch an advertising campaign explaining how many government-financed companies related to green energy have been forced to lay off workers or have gone bankrupt. Meanwhile, it would help the Romney campaign to make sure everyone was aware of how much money has been wasted on Solyndra and other green energy companies.

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Another Taxpayer Subsidized Solar Energy Company Goes Under

Today’s Daily Caller posted an article about Abound Solar, a Colorado green-energy firm that has filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.

The article reports:

The U.S. Department of Energy awarded Abound Solar a $400 million loan guarantee in December 2010, funds that the then-three-year-old startup said it would use to compete with solar panel industry leader First Solar.

The company spent $535 million in loans guaranteed by the federal government before it failed. The article goes on to explain that Abound Solar was technically behind its competitors in the solar industry. Subsidizing inferior technology does not improve its quality, and it interferes with the ability of the free market to let the best technology prevail.

The best stimulus program would have been to give all taxpayers half of their income tax back! That would have stimulated the economy.

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Creating Jobs With Stimulus Money

On Wednesday ABC News reported that Fisker Automotive, a company that received nearly $200 million in Obama administration loan money, is signaling that it may not build its next generation hybrid electric vehicle in the United States.

The article reports:

Fisker received federal funds in part to help purchase a shuttered General Motors plant in Delaware, where it predicted it would one day employ 2,000 auto workers to assemble the clean-burning gas-electric family car, known as the Atlantic.

But company executives began hinting in February that it would reconsider that plan and look for a cheaper place to build the car after the Department of Energy froze the $529 million green-energy loan the company had received, and had been drawing on since 2010.

The article further details the saga of the Karma, a flashy $100,000 hybrid sports sedan that it assembles in Finland. There have been some problems with the lithium-ion batteries in the Karma. The Karma that Consumer Reports was road testing stopped working in the middle of the road test. There was also a recall of the batteries because of a defect that raised the risk of fire.

This is another example of foolish spending on green energy by the current administration. I don’t think that I would let President Obama manage my stock portfolio.

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The Making Of A Scandal

No, this is not an article about Herman Cain or Penn State–it’s an article about Solyndra.

In our electronic age, emails can be accessed and compared to exactly what people have said about anything. When the emails and the statements disagree, there is a problem. That is where we currently are in regard to Solyndra. George Kaiser, who was a bundler for Obama’s 2008 campaign and whose family foundation was the biggest investor in Solyndra, has stated that during his meetings with the President at the White House the subject of the stimulus loan to Solyndra never came up.

However, according to the Washington Examiner, one of Kaiser’s email stated:

BTW, a couple of weeks ago, when Ken and I were visiting with a group of Administration folks in DC who are in charge of the stimulus process (White House, not DOE) and Solyndra came up, every one of them responded simultaneously about their thorough knowledge of the Solyndra story, suggesting it was one of their prime poster children.

The Washington Examiner further concludes:

But now, with these emails, we’ve got Obama fundraisers saying false things about lobbying, and the White House passing on those false things. We’ve also got a senior energy department official pushing for this subsidy while his wife’s law firm represented Solyndra. Energy Department officials rewrote the law in order to aid Solyndra.

It doesn’t look pretty. Liberals can mock Solyndra, and MSNBC’s primetime shows can pretend it doesn’t exist, but that doesn’t mean no corruption happened.

This is taxpayer money that the taxpayers will never see again. It’s time that the White House and the federal government were held accountable for wasteful spending. How many other Solyndras are out there?

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You Always Get In Trouble When You Try To Alter Things After The Fact

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Yesterday National Review Online reported that a number of press releases previously released by the Department of Energy have been retroactively changed in order to remove the name of a solar company that may fail.

CNBC reports:

The changes occurred in two press releases from the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program — the same program that has been the center of controversy surrounding the failed solar company Solyndra.

Both were changed to remove the name of a company that has received negative press attention in recent days, SunPower, and replace it with the name of another company, NRG Energy.

In the April case, the Department of Energy loan programs office announced in a press release on April 12 “conditional commitment” to a $1.187 billion loan guarantee to support the California Valley Solar Ranch project, which it said was “sponsored by SunPower Corporation.”

But that release was later changed on one website to say the project was “sponsored by NRG Energy.” The date on the release remained “April 12, 2011.”

National Review Reports:

Naturally, the DOE blames ‘outside contractors,’ who “inadvertently” altered the news bulletins while updating the loans program website.

The article at National Review goes on to look at the financial situation of SunPower. The company is deeply in debt and has stated that it will lower its earnings projections for 2011. Meanwhile, the total value of company’s stock dropped from an all-time high of $13 billion to $800 million. Unfortunately, the company has a debt of $820 million. This does not bode will for the future of the company.

The problem here is that old press releases were altered in a way that looks questionable. Unfortunately that seems to be part of the lack of transparency and behind the scenes manipulation that seems to be inherent in this administration.

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Follow The Money On Solar Energy

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Yesterday the Associated Press reported that the Energy Department has approved two loan guarantees worth more than $1 billion for solar energy projects in Nevada and Arizona. These loans were approved under the same program that granted the Solyndra loans–a program that is scheduled to expire on September 30.

The article reports:

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the department has completed a $737 million loan guarantee to Tonopah Solar Energy for a 110 megawatt solar tower on federal land near Tonopah, Nev., and a $337 million guarantee for Mesquite Solar 1 to develop a 150 megawatt solar plant near Phoenix.

 Fox News reports:

The Obama Administration is giving $737 million to a Tonopah Solar, a subsidiary of California-based SolarReserve. PCG is an investment partner with SolarReserve. Nancy Pelosi’s brother-in-law happens to be the number two man at PCG.

 It gets worse. The Washington Examiner reports:

Despite the Solyndra failure, the Department of Energy continues to provide loan guarantees to solar companies, today giving Tonopah Solar a $737 million loan guarantee for a project in Nevada. Mitchell (Steve Mitchell) serves as a “board participant” for Solar Reserve, the parent company to Tonopah Solar, and his Solar Reserve biography says that he “currently sits on the Boards of Directors of . . . Solyndra” and several other companies. Argonaut, Mitchell’s primary employer, owns 3% of Solar Reserve, according to reports.

The Mitchell connection to Solar Reserve brings George Kaiser into the spotlight with respect to this latest loan guarantee. Kaiser owns Argonaut and thus invested in both Solyndra and Solar Reserve. He also bundled over $50,000 into President Obama’s campaign.

I really hate the idea of another Congressional investigation, but I think we need one on the money the government is giving to ‘green energy’ and who has received the money.

The money given out this week was the last of the money from a renewable energy loan program approved under the 2009 economic stimulus. It seems to me that the money would have been better spent in other areas. This really does look like ‘pay to play’ on the part of the Obama administration.

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Elections Matter–Ask The Executives At Solyndra

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air reported today that the executives at Solyndra were putting heavy pressure on the Bush White House in as late as January 2009 to approve a government loan for the company.

The article reports:

On Jan. 12, 2009, Solyndra CEO Chris Gronet sent an Energy Department official an email marked “urgent” expressing outrage that Bush officials had decided a few days earlier that while the loan application had “merit” it needed further study before officials could move forward with a taxpayer-financed loan.

“I was appalled to learn on Friday that our application is being delayed yet again,” Gronet wrote to Energy official Steve Isakowitz, writing there had been “countless communications” back and forth suggesting the application would be reviewed Jan. 15.

The delay was a decision by the Bush administration to wait for an independent market analysis on January 9, 2009, before giving aid to the company.

The article further reports:

The next day, Jan. 13, 2009, [Bush DoE official Lachlan] Seward sent his email to Energy Department colleagues saying it was time to stop engaging with Solyndra officials.

There were no outside influences in this decision, and when the Bush administration looked at the loan request, it simply did not look like a good investment of taxpayer money.

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