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Craig Morris' Posts

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Feed-in tariffs — the new school of thought

As a boy growing up near the Louisiana Gulf Coast, I remember looking out of the car window at times and seeing gigantic flames over the bayous: gas flares. Around 1970, the flaring of natural gas peaked. Oil prices were so low back then that marketing gas would not have been profitable. Today, far less natural gas is flared off both in terms of volume and, consequentially, as a percentage of our much higher current energy consumption. Oil prices have, of course, risen dramatically over the past 40 years, but environmentalists have also been working hard to get oil and …

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Why solar won’t topple in Germany

Since the new center-right coalition won the elections a few weeks ago in Germany, onlookers from the U.S. have been expecting the country to drastically cut its support for solar. Proponents of U.S.-style policies, such as tax credits and Renewable Portfolio Standards, have also been hinting that Germany will be yet another example of how the solely production-based "feed-in rates" can overheat a system. (Germany will install close to two gigawatts of solar this year. When Spain installed 2.5 gigawatts last year, the Spanish considered the market overheated and imposed a ceiling of 500 megawatts per year.) But finally, word …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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The Spanish solar collapse

There has been a lot of talk in the U.S. about the collapse of the Spanish solar market this year, commonly held to have been a solar bubble. However, few U.S. commentators seem to understand the Spanish market enough to go beyond the standard quip that the Spanish were simply throwing too much money at solar -- and that feed-in rates were the culprit. A closer look reveals what Spain's real problems were, and where those problems could happen in the U.S. as well. With feed-in rates, the extra money required to make renewables profitable generally does not come from …

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Feed-in rates: a hard sell

I really feel for the renewable energy activists in the U.S. who are trying to get the most successful policy in the world, feed-in tariffs (FITs), implemented. The problem in the U.S. is, ironically, that so many U.S. renewables advocates actually oppose the idea (because it wasn't theirs), and even now that everyone seems to have accepted the empirical evidence that FITs simply are the most successful, one major challenge remains: getting advocates of renewables in the U.S. to understand what FITs are. This article, for instance, about a new proposal in California is a terrible assessment. No layperson who …

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The nefarious net-effect argument: Recent conservative studies on clean energy jobs miss the mark

Proponents of clean energy have long argued that investment in solar, wind, and other renewable sources creates domestic jobs. In the past few years, however, critics of renewable energy have responded -- with considerable success -- by arguing that the net effect is actually negative. The concept of "netting" the effect of investments (including government subsidies) on the job market is legitimate when used correctly; when not used correctly, it is disingenuous. Take the case of the F-22 fighter plane. You may have heard the current debate over the decision to discontinue production of this aircraft. One argument against the …