Monday, May 7, 2012

Compare and Contrast

BP and Solyndra

BP Deepwater Horizon rig burns
 ~ Rate the disaster:

Solyndra was developing a cylindrical solar module unlike anything else. It was a daringly different technological approach in an industry crowded with alternatives. When conventional solar modules became suddenly much cheaper, Solyndra's technology became uneconomical, and the company failed.

BP has substantial experience drilling in deep water for oil. It uses technologies that have been incrementally refined for decades and which are standard practice in its industry. When its Deepwater Horizon platform exploded, burned and sank, nearly 5,000,000 barrels of oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico.

The Solyndra bankruptcy cost the government, and hence us taxpayers, more than $500M. Hundreds lost their jobs.

The BP debacle has cost the economy at least $40B in activity, and many billions in lost tax revenue. Thousands lost their jobs.

So which makes our economic problems (e.g. the deficit and national debt) worse?

Solyndra, to some, is reason alone to end all renewable energy preferences, even though such a wash-out is normal in venture investing. But the consequences would be stiff:
If nothing changes, clean energy funding will drop from a peak of $44.3 billion in 2009 to $16 billion this year and $11 billion in 2014 — a 75 percent decline.

This alarming news is contained in a new report from experts at the Brookings Institution, the World Resources Institute and the Breakthrough Institute. It is a timely effort to attach real numbers to an increasingly politicized debate over energy subsidies. While Mr. Obama is busily defending subsidies, the Republicans have used the costly market failure of one solar panel company, Solyndra, to indict the entire federal effort to encourage nascent technologies.
According to this way of thinking, we should abandon support for clean energy because we might lose money on another Solyndra. But we should continue to drill, baby, drill, even if it costs tens or hundreds of times more money than one high-risk investment that went sour with no lingering environmental or economic effects. It's not hard to see the reasons for this thinking, or why we shouldn't trust them?

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