Jim Patterson and the California Valley solar ranch
April 17, 2012
OPINION By ALEX ALEXIEV
Fifth District Supervisor Jim Patterson has distributed a campaign brochure touting the fact that he “has led the effort” to approve two solar energy projects and “provide nearly 400 skilled worker positions” at the California Valley Solar Ranch (CVSR).
Since Mr. Patterson evidently considers this the major achievement of his tenure as county supervisor to date, as evidenced by the top billing given to the ranch in the brochure, it is worth looking into some other facts about this project that he prefers not to tell his presumed voters:
· CVSR will generate only 12 permanent jobs per year after construction, according to developer Sunpower Corp., after receiving a $1.2 billion federally-guaranteed loan, or $100 million per permanent job.
· Sunpower Corp. was already a majority foreign-owned company (by French oil giant Total) and was exporting jobs to Mexico (building a factory in Mexicali) when it received the federal loan and was promoted by Patterson and others.
· CVSR will not have to pay property taxes on its solar panels, depriving the county of an estimated $14 million in tax revenue a year.
· It signed a contract with PG&E to sell it electricity at approximately 50 percent above market rates, costing its rate payers, including San Luis Obispo County citizens, $463 million over the life of the contract.
· Despite these lavish subsidies, Sunpower lost $604 million in 2011 and its stock price is down over 70 percent since April 2011 and 90 percent since 2007, and, according to Total’s CEO, would already be bankrupt had it not been acquired by Total.
Mr. Patterson and like-minded officials would undoubtedly justify the huge economic costs such schemes impose on the citizens of our county by invoking the paramount objective of fighting global warming.
So let us for a minute look at how much good California can do to that effect. Even if one assumes, which I do not, that there is global warming, that it is indeed anthropogenic and that there is an urgent need to cut down CO2 emissions, nothing California or the United States, for that matter, can do will make the slightest difference in global emissions, given that China, India and 140 other countries refuse to participate.
The United States’ current emissions of green house gasses are 4.2 gigatons per year, decreasing at a rate of 5 percent per annum. California’s share is some 500 mln tons. China’s emissions are 7.7 gigatons going up at 13 percent per year. Should California decide to eliminate all of its emissions and go back to a hunter-gatherer type of society, the effect would be a one-time, 50 percent reduction of Chinese yearly emissions growth.
Alex Alexiev was a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washinton D.C. He writes for several national publications including National Review.