Friday, June 6, 2008

McCain and Obama: Environmental Twins

John McCain’s endorsement of the Eurocrat “cap and trade” system for limiting carbon emissions demonstrates once again that the GOP has virtually become the Democratic Party. Of course, this isn’t the first time McCain has promoted this idea. In 2003, McCain and his good buddy Joe Lieberman introduced a “cap and trade” bill in Congress.

Europe’s experience with “cap and trade” demonstrates that it doesn’t work. Electricity costs have skyrocketed. Due to the lobbying of politically connected companies, most European countries participating in the program have higher carbon emissions today than they did when the treaty was enacted in 1997.

“Cap and trade” does little to help the environment and costs too much. Its only purpose is to further politicize the economy.

In the meantime, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley are pouring money and resources into solar energy technologies. New companies are springing up. Established companies are retooling to provide solar cells in addition to microchips. For the first time in years, high tech factories are being built in Silicon Valley.

The price of solar electricity is still a bit high, but it’s becoming more competitive. Electricity prices in the U.S. range between 5 and 18 cents per kilowatt hour. Abengoa Solar is building a 280-megawatt solar plant in Arizona that will produce electricity at 15 cents per kilowatt hour. The hundreds of millions of dollars being invested in solar technologies in Silicon Valley will ensure progress towards making solar energy competitive to conventional sources of electricity.

Solar energy requires a lot of sun. Nevada is one of the sunniest states in the nation. It’s also the seventh largest state in the country, covering 110,567 square miles. The federal government owns 86% of it.

Here’s a modest proposal for Bob Barr to differentiate himself from his rivals – auction off a portion of federal land in Nevada to companies who will use it to build solar farms. Couple this with a tax holiday for companies that generate clean electricity. This will do a lot more to reduce carbon emissions than the bureaucratic schemes of the McCain-Obama twins.

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