Vitter-Johnson FARE Act: "Shock Doctrine" Attacks On Renewable Energy

Thu, 2011-09-15 18:17Steve Horn
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Vitter-Johnson FARE Act: "Shock Doctrine" Attacks On Renewable Energy

In her famous book The Shock Doctrine​: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, author and activist Naomi Klein quotes the Godfather of free market capitalism, Milton Friedman, whom she credits with mainstreaming the “shock doctrine.” Friedman stated:

“Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real changes. When the crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.”

Under a textbook “shock doctrine” scenario as it pertains to the ongoing and escalating Solyndra Corporation hoopla, two U.S. Senators, sponsor David Vitter (R-LA) and co-sponsor Ron Johnson (R-WI), have introduced U.S. Senate Bill 1556, the Federal Accounting of Renewable Energy Act of 2011 (FARE) [PDF], or “FARE” as a direct response to the Solyndra saga – “ideas that are lying around,” to quote Friedman. 

The bill dictates that,

“Not later than 60 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the head of each Federal agency shall submit to Congress an accounting for all financial support (including grants, loans, loan guarantees,and direct payments) made by the agency during fiscal years 2009 through 2011 to promote the production or use of renewable energy.”

It further mandates that:

“If a recipient company received financial support to carry out a project…and the recipient company is no longer in existence or is unlikely to substantially achieve the purpose of the financial support the Inspector General of the Federal agency that provided the financial support shall conduct a preliminary investigation of the documents submitted by the company and executives of the company to determine whether the company or executives potentially committed fraud in obtaining the financial support.”

As I noted in a previous DeSmogBlog article, the real story is not being told – that is, the vast government subsidy discrepancy and favors bestowed on the dirty fossil fuel industry compared to the modest public funding for the clean, renewable energy sector. As alluded to in that article, it is as if Solyndra was set up to fail all along, and then was set up as a scapegoat to shame the renewable energy industry at-large.

Even if Solyndra's demise was unintentional, the company's downfall is providing the perfect scapegoat for the introduction of the Vitter-Johnson FARE Act.

This “shock doctrine” bill, which has conceivably been gathering dust in some fossil fuel industry lobbyist's “ideas lying around” drawer until the opportune “crisis,” uses Congressional audit power as a weapon to hold the renewable energy industry to a far different standard than that of the fossil fuel industry – all by design, at that.

The FARE Act, by any reasonable standard, is utterly unfair when placed within a broader context of public support for energy companies. The hypothetical question must be asked: Would these same standards ever be applied to the public funding of the fossil fuel industry? Have they ever before? The answer to both of these questions is obviously no.

Will other Senators and the public see through the charade? Or will the shock doctrine once again derail American progress towards a safe, climate-friendly energy supply?

Read the Federal Accounting of Renewable Energy (FARE) Act [PDF], provided here for the first time publicly by DeSmogBlog. 

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FARE Act Vitter.pdf26.44 KB

Comments

Is it such a bad thing if the government wants to shine a little light on the dealings with these companies? After all, it's our tax dollars that are lost when they go under.

Davis S
 

"The oil and gas industry receives no NET subsidy from any level of government
  To the contrary, thanks to the amount of corporate and fuel taxes, leases, and royalty payments, the oil and gas industry generates VAST REVENUE for all levels of government."

 

I think your statement is a bunch of rubbish.   Royalties and leases are the industry paying us, the taxpayers,  for the privilege of profiting off our natural resources, the commons. 

Corporate taxes are paid (sometimes) by all corporations and are irrelevant.

The taxes on gasoline and such don't begin to pay the cost of the externalized or hidden costs from fossil fuels.

And then there is the enormous subsidies that have gone on since 1918 for oil and 1932 for coal.

 Government performs all kinds of infrastructure work and such that directly benefits the fossil fuel industry at taxpayer expense.

We can argue about the complex maze that is the contract between energy producers and the western public but it's all irrelevant. We, the western public, are the consumers of all this energy. We are ultimately responsible for taking it out of the ground. Unless we opt out of the system and live as hermits in the mountains, we are big oil. We are the system.

Blaming corporations for the system is thinking small and shifting personal responsibility.

"I think your statement is a bunch of rubbish.   Royalties and leases are the industry paying us, the taxpayers,  for the privilege of profiting off our natural resources, the commons."

Your comment doesn't make any sense.  If the oil and gas companies weren't paying these royalties and leases, who would?  Nobody.  And the government wouldn't have that revenue stream.

 

"Corporate taxes are paid (sometimes) by all corporations and are irrelevant."

So you think the fact that the oil and gas industry paid over $1 trillion in taxes in the United States between 1998 and 2008 is ... irrelevant?  Wow.  That is so completely obtuse, I have no answer for that.

In 2006, U.S. oil companies paid more in corporate income taxes to the IRS ($138 billion) than the individual taxes paid by the more than 100 million individual taxpayers in the bottom 75% of all individual taxpayers ($136 billion).  Incidentally, that does not include the more than 9 million jobs supported by the petroleum industry, and the personal income taxes those people pay.

And you think that's "irrelevant".

 

"The taxes on gasoline and such don't begin to pay the cost of the externalized or hidden costs from fossil fuels."

If you're going to play that game, then you are also obligated to include the hidden benefits and externalized profits of the petroleum industry.  But I doubt you'll do that, since my experience is that once people like you start this line of argumentation, citing "hidden costs", it is to invoke a vague and arbitrary claim that somehow the industry poses some sort of overall negative effect on society.  Since you can't actually provide any real dollar value for your "hidden costs", you tend to make up numbers, as you find it convenient.

However, since you went there, I'd suggest the overall cost of the Solyndra scandal is neither hidden, nor externalized.  That $537 million loss is very real loss to society.  No need to invent numbers there.  That's $537 million that won't ever be used again to build roads, bridges, schools, or pay firemen.  It's gone forever.

 

"And then there is the enormous subsidies that have gone on since 1918 for oil and 1932 for coal."

Speaking of "irrelevant", you might want to check your calendar.

 

"Government performs all kinds of infrastructure work and such that directly benefits the fossil fuel industry at taxpayer expense."

Does it now?  Please give us an example of how we've ever ended up out of pocket thanks to the petroleum industry.  I notice you didn't bother to do that above.

 

 

I meant that since all corporations pay income taxes, or are supposed to, it is irrelevant to this discussion. 

BTW   Exxon made $40 billion a year ago, and paid 0 federal income taxes.

It is likely that the entire loan to Solyndra will likely not be lost. 

Hidden costs are costs to our health and the environment that we are 100% dependent on for our species survival. That is a very steep cost that is obviously hard to quantify.  There have been estimates as high as $800 billion a year, and as low as $160 billion a year.

Coal alone is estimated to kill 13,000 Americans every year.

It has destroyed hundreds of natural waterways in Appalachia from mountain top removal, which by the way is a job killer, reducing the number employed in coal mining.

What is the cost of ending civilization and causing mass extinctions across the planet?  How would you quantify that?  It is beyond counting.  How do you justify using the atmosphere for a garbage dump, with no accounting for that? 

Climate change is real and is caused by human emissions. There is really no scientific debate about that fact. 

 

 

Yes, but the entire world is built on fossil fuels. It's the way we live and the way we eat. Everything that happens is fossil fuel related.

Reinventing a world that doesn't run on fossil fuels means destroying the one that now exists along with most of the population.

If you want to get off fossil fuels because you don't want terrible things to happen, you are missing something. Terrible things are guaranteed either way.

economic destruction and mass starvation and anarchy.

So, if terrible things are guaranteed either way, what are you doing to prepare?  Wouldn't you at least want to try scaling up some of the non-fossil fuel energy resources that we have working currently?  This seems like an incredibly defeatist attitude.

>>  "Reinventing a world that doesn't run on fossil fuels means destroying the one that now exists along with most of the population."

Heck, if the fossil fuel emissions were sequestered, that could potentially work (potentially, still on the drawing board).  Furthermore, don't you think this statement is a bit alarmist?  

The statement also doesn't make any sense.  Why would the world's people continue destroying themselves purposefully?  Making the switch to non-CO2 emitting energy sources is an easily controllable risk.  We can speed up or slow down the transition based on how well the transition works.  Continuing to emit greenhouse gas ends up putting a large uncontrollable risk in the lap of the next generation.

The sticking points that seem to prevent you from accepting the need for reducing CO2 emissions.

1) You seem to have a very certain belief that a transition away from an economy that allows the emission of CO2 will destroy the economy, and kill many people.  I would say this is possibly alarmist.

2) You believe that nearly any attempt by governments to solve a crisis reduces down to a power grab, despite the various benign examples in the past such as worldwide ozone regulations.

3) You seem to have a partisan dislike for liberal ideals and likely associate climate change mitigation with that political leaning.  What are your thoughts on Al Gore?  Do you dislike the push for climate change mitigation because you associate that movement with Al Gore?

Sorry if this kind of strikes a nerve, but I do want to address these type of things, as well as the science and the strategies for mitigation.  The world needs as many people on board as possible in order to mitigate CO2 emissions while maintaining a healthy economy.  You are more than welcome to join.

 

I appreciate the tone in this comment. I don't expect that I'm always right about my assertions but I throw them out there and see if they are easily overcome or not.

I don't like Gore but that really doesn't matter much.

I like the idea of running the electric grid on concentrated solar. It's supposed to be possible but it's not happening.

My alarmist tone in economic matters is because I really believe that economic meltdown is around the corner.

My alarmist tone in economic matters is because I really believe that economic meltdown is around the corner

Time to study economics then! I've been around for many a business cycle, and yes it gives perspective

What is going to cause this economic meltdown around the corner?  How bad will the effects be?

just anticipating the worst so it doesn't catch me off guard.

The US is experimenting with extreme debt and unfunded liabilities mounting with an aging population. A giant ponzi scheme that is going to send us all to "jail." More and More borrowing is essential to keep building the bubble.

I don't know for sure what that will precipitate  but bubbles are usually broken at some point.

There was a small faux emergency this summer when the politicians couldn't decide how much to raise the debt limit. The real emergency will come when the markets close off the magic lending fountain. Then the dollar will become worthless. Work will stop. There will be general strikes and riots. There will be no money for hospitals and police and fire departments. Soon enough, there will be no trucks arriving at your local safeway and no gas at your local station. No power in your outlets and no water in your taps.

Organized crime will become de facto local government.

Effects will spread abroad immediately.

Thats what I expect soon. Maybe Im wrong. Maybe giant bubbles don't break.

"I meant that since all corporations pay income taxes, or are supposed to, it is irrelevant to this discussion."

No, the discussion regards the claim that the petroleum industry is the net recipient of subsidies.  If the industry pays back to the government more than it receives, then obviously, they are receiving no net subsidy.  It's basic arithemetic, and hardly irrelevant.

 

"Exxon made $40 billion a year ago, and paid 0 federal income taxes."

You are cherry-picking one particular year in which they exercised deferred tax deductions and credits from previous years for corporate taxes.

In 2008, the previous year, in the first quarter alone, Exxon paid $29.3 billion in taxes domestically, which works out to an effective tax rate of 49%.

http://seekingalpha.com/article/75132-exxon-s-record-9-32-billion-q1-income-taxes-update

You also ignore that in 2009 (the year to which you are referring), Exxon paid $15.2 billion in taxes internationally.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/energysource/2010/04/07/exxon-says-it-does-pay-u-s-income-taxes/

You are conveniently excluding the fact that taxes are still paid on their products.  In 2010, on average, for every 2 cents Exxon earned in profit per gallon of gasoline, state governments took in 48.1 cents.

 

"Hidden costs are costs to our health and the environment that we are 100% dependent on for our species survival. That is a very steep cost that is obviously hard to quantify.  There have been estimates as high as $800 billion a year, and as low as $160 billion a year."

$800 billion?  $160 billion?  Which is it?  It's pretty easy to come up with figures like that, when you are just picking numbers out of the air, or inventing them to suit your argument. 

That's, what?  A 125% margin of error.  Well, if you're going to do that, then it would be dishonest not to acknowledge that, given your wildly divergent figures, the fossil fuel industry could just as easily be providing a "hidden" $200 billion benefit to health and the environment.  It easily fits within your margin of error.

See?  It's easy when you are throwing around made-up imaginary figures -- because they're "hidden".

And if you are trying to make the case that use of fossil fuels is having a negative impact on human health and longevity, then how do you explain the fact that there are more people living now, then when we first started really using fossil fuels in a significant way, at the beginning of the industrial revolution?

In that period of time, the human population has increased 6-fold, and the average lifespan has more than doubled.  Infant and child mortality have decreased to a tiny fraction of what it was, prior to widespread use of fossil fuels.

So there really isn't any statistical or epidemiological evidence to support your claim that fossil fuels are having a negative effect on our health and survival.  If anything, it proves the opposite of what you claim.

 

"Coal alone is estimated to kill 13,000 Americans every year."

Really?  Estimated by whom?  Can you show me one single death certificate which states: CAUSE OF DEATH: COAL?  See?  More made-up numbers.

But since you are so concerned, I don't see why you are wasting your time railing against  a relatively minor culprit such as coal?  Why, in 2008 (and this is an actual figure, not a fanciful "estimate") 22,631 people were killed by accidental falls.  If you don't believe me, you can check here:

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/acc-inj.htm

Since 13,000 hypothetical deaths have you so excited, then I'd think you'd really be up in arms over 22,631 REAL deaths.  You should stop wasting your time on coal, and start demanding the government pass a law against gravity.

 

"It has destroyed hundreds of natural waterways in Appalachia from mountain top removal, which by the way is a job killer, reducing the number employed in coal mining."

So your solution to lost jobs in the coal mining industry is to eliminate the coal mining industry?  Sheer genius.  Obamanomics in action, I suppose.

 

"What is the cost of ending civilization and causing mass extinctions across the planet?  How would you quantify that?  It is beyond counting."

As I have already shown, exactly the opposite has happened.  We're still here, more of us, healthier, better fed, living longer lives, and with the highest standard of living in all of recorded human history.  And yet, you seem to have a complaint about that, somehow.

 

"How do you justify using the atmosphere for a garbage dump, with no accounting for that?"

How do you account for the fact that urban air is probably cleaner than it was during the Middle Ages?  Or do you really want us to go back to horses and livestock defecating all over the streets of major cities, like they did a century ago?  We can also go back to burning wood for heat and cooking, just like in the good old days.  Won't that be healthy?

 

"Climate change is real and is caused by human emissions. There is really no scientific debate about that fact."

Among the status quo climatologists, that is probably sadly true.  In other news, there is no debate among phrenologists that you can determine a subject's personality by measuring the bumps on their skull, and astrologers do not debate that they can tell the future by reading horoscopes, and homeopaths consider themselves legitimate medical practitioners.

That's $537 million that won't ever be used again to build roads, bridges, schools, or pay firemen.  It's gone forever.

This is so very not true...

The buildings don't just go pop when the company in them goes bust. Neither does the machinery (manufacturing robots, reprogrammable; this is Silicon Valley, remember)? Neither do the skilled personnel. They are out of a job, still skilled -- even more so -- and not dead (and this is Silicon Valley, remember?). And the solar panels manufactured so far (hundreds of MWs) continue to pump out power for their owners.

...and by the way, it is hilarious that this is presented as some sort of failure for the photovoltaics industry, when the problem was that the competition within the industry was too successful, flooding the market pushing prices down :-)

 

That's all good and well, Martin.  Unfortunately, in this case, the federal government happens to be last in line as a Solyndra creditor -- a further indication that it has been a scam from the outset.

Even if they were first in line creditors, the government would have been lucky to collect ten cents on the dollar.  Now we collect NOTHING.  The money is gone.

Furthermore, even if the government could access the proceeds from the liquidation of Solyndra's bankruptcy after ALL the other creditors are paid, you seem unaware of the fact that the economy is in the tank -- none more so than in California.  Companies are fleeing the state for more favourable business environments like never before.  The industrial vacancy rate in Silicon Valley is currently around 12%.  If their offices and facilities aren't simply left to go derelict, they'll be lucky if they can rent it out for use as a weekend flea market.

But it gets even better.  Now there is news that the original $537 million payout is not all we got stung for!  It now apppears quite possible that this was just the first loan payment, and that there is a second one outstanding to Solyndra for $469 million.

That would make it over $1 billion.  Disappeared.  Vanished.  Vapourized.

Yes, they warned me that if I voted for McCain, this is exactly the sort of corruption we could expect -- and they were right!

a further indication that it has been a scam from the outset.

Why don't I expect to hear an apology from David S when it turns out that the crash of Solyndra was due to the same kind of business misfortune that begets considerably more than 2.3% of venture capital start-ups in the Silicon Valley area. But, by all means entertain conspiracy theories.

 

Uh-huh.  Except, privately-funded failed venture capital start-ups don't force me to become an involuntary shareholder, to leave me holding the bag for their incompetence and corruption.

Private venture capitalists generally put their money were the market dictates.  Government "experts" put other people's money wherever they please -- in spite of the market.

And as for that 2.3% failure rate?  For government Great Leap Forward programs, like this, it's much closer to 100% failure.  It's easy when you're spending other people's money -- no consequences whatsoever.

"But, by all means entertain conspiracy theories."

Naaaaw.  Of course not!  Just because George Kaiser is an Obama fundraiser bagman, why should anyone be suspicious.  Just because Obama administration officials WERE ON THE BOARD of Solyndra, we shouldn't give that a second thought!

But years from now, after your meager retirement savings have been wiped out, and you're sitting in your dilapidated trailer park hovel, wondering when Meals on Wheels is going to bring you another box of nutritious Kraft Dinner -- I'm sure you'll be thinking of people like George Kaiser, George Soros, or Al Gore smoking a Cuban cigar and sipping cognac in the lounge of his private jet -- and you will still be making excuses and submissively tugging your forelocks on their behalf.

I salute you, brave progressive comrade!

 

Excellent rant - enjoyed reading that.

How about a simple amendment?

"Renewable energy" should be replaced with just "energy".

"Strategic Center for Natural Gas and Oil" should join "National Renewable Energy Laboratory".

 

What can I say more?

Mr Horn

 

            Is there any of these companies that really could supply power like we use it? Name one! To this day there is no “renewable power” that can meet our demand. So if these guys get big funds to produce and then they fail then they should be run through the ringer. Now as for the folks like Exxon, They did power us without question. So if anyone wants a big grant to provide power then they need to come through with it.

Name one?  Sure

 

An area 42x42 miles in the southwest, of what the NREL calls premium solar resources, if filled with solar thermal power plants with molten salt heat storage, would produce as many megawatt hours of power, as all the coal plants in America.

 

Steady firm capacity power day and night, that is also dispatchable, or able to follow the load.

 

 

So we should put all our eggs in one basket? Sounds like a prime target for terrorist attack. One shot and turn off the whole USA wow.  Have you considered the cost of transmission lines from this one and a quarter million acre of solar panel? It is this kind of thinking that gets these people in this kind of trouble. Are they going to get a government grant to do this? I actually looked into solar. I am all for going green. I got prices for solar panels from a few companies with a battery system to run my home and go off the grid. Range was 20 to 30k dollars and none of them could guarantee that it would work through a few cloudy days. So I would have to stay on the grid. $34.00 a month if I don’t us a single watt. One-year parts and labor warranty. Panels had a 5-year warranty without labor. Considering that my electric bill peaks at $100.00 per month. Interest included on the loan and I never had any repair cost it would take 50 to 60 years to come out ahead on this deal. I have a hard time wondering why Solyndra was having trouble finding customers.

Only one problem, such a thing does not exist -- just like Star Trek dilithium crystals.

I am against dilithium altogether. To unstable and engineering intensive. How many time did the Enterprise come close to jettisoning the whole warp core. Where would we jettison it to?

Dimentia 5, obviously.  Like, duh!

Either that, or we could bring it to the transporter room and send it to the bridge of a Romulan attack ship.

See?  I'm not bound by your denierificationalist so-called "logic".

Really?  Estimated by whom?  Can you show me one single death certificate which states: CAUSE OF DEATH: COAL?  See?  More made-up numbers.

I will, if you produce a single death certificate reading CAUSE OF DEATH: TOBACCO.

(Ah, you don't believe in that either? Should have guessed...)

BTW the made-up numbers you're looking for are here:

http://www.catf.us/resources/publications/view/138

 

 

 

You seem to make a lot of unfounded assumptions about what I do or don't believe.

That aside, thanks for letting us know your hypothetical statistics were provided to you by a political activist group's website press release.

Personally, I think there is a strong correlation showing that eating tomatoes causes death.  Every single person who has ever eaten one has eventually ended up dead.  Oh, it may take years after ingestion of that dirty, poisonous fruit, but the end result is still the same: a pine box in the dirt.  And to think that known toxin is even fed to children!

It seems that you don't quite understand the nuances of epidemiology, at least based on your tomato analogy.

 

Nothing slips past you, does it?

Haha, that's right.

 

You seem to make a lot of unfounded assumptions about what I do or don't believe.

Enlighten us then, David. Do you really believe that "show us a death certificate that states: (whatever)" is a sound argument that (whatever) is perfectly safe? And if the argument works for coal pollution, why be coy and not apply it to smoking?

 

 

a political activist group's website press release

...linking to research results vetted by the National Academy of Sciences (heard of them, haven't you?).

Links are those clicky things... try them.

[x]

In light of ongoing geopolitical tensions in Russia, Ukraine and hotly contested Crimea, three (yes, three!) U.S. Congressional Committees held hearings this week on the U.S. using its newfangled oil and gas bounty as a blunt tool to fend off Russian dominance of the global gas market.

Though 14 combined witnesses testified in front of the...

read more