On Friday, President Obama announced plans to provide $2 billion in funding for the construction of three new solar energy electric power generating plants, one each to be built in Arizona, Colorado and Indiana.
I’ve provided three links above. The first is a Reuters article about the announcement. The second is an article that provides some facts about the plants – their design and capacity. The third is an article that provides data about the total annual consumption of electric power in the U.S.
From these articles we can deduce certain facts. These three plants combined will generate 840 megawatts of power. Assuming the Arizona plant can generate electricity for 18 hours per day (because of its use of technology that stores the energy for up to 6 hours past sun-down) and the other plants can provide electricity for 12 hours per day, that’s a capacity of 4.3 million megawatt-hours. The projects will create 5,000 jobs, of which 1500 will be permanent jobs. The plants will be completed in about three years. Contrary to those who say that this is just more deficit spending, adding to the national debt, the $1.9 billion is actually in the form of loan guaratees, all of which will be paid back.
Annual electric power consumption in the U.S. is about 4200 million megawatt-hours. That’s about 14 megawatt-hours per person.
Doing the math, we find that these three plants combined will generate enough electric power to meet the needs of about 300,000 people. The problem is that our population grows by that many people every five weeks. So, regarding the claim that this will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil: it will, for about five weeks. After that, we’ll be even more dependent on foreign oil. By the time these plants come on line in 2013, our population will have grown by 30 times the number of people that can be supplied with electricity by these three plants.
Regarding the claim that this will add 5,000 new jobs: that’s being very disingenuous. By the time that these plants come on line in three years, providing 1,500 permanent jobs, population growth (driven mostly by immigration) will have added 4.5 million workers to the labor force. If this is the president’s plan for cutting unemployment, he’s coming up short by 4.9985 million jobs. And besides, if he had done nothing, the extra power required for this population would have been generated anyway, whether through fossil fuel power plants or through these solar plants, adding the same number of jobs (give or take) regardless.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to switching to solar and wind power and away from fossil fuel. If I were president, I’d be imposing huge tariffs on imported oil and would be providing loan guarantees for three new renewable energy plants every week. The point I’m trying to make is that we can never, ever attain energy independence or put our people back to work solely with approaches like these. It’s impossible without adopting a population management strategy that stabilizes and even reduces our population. And restoring full employment is impossible without a trade strategy that takes immediate steps to restore a balance of trade, bringing our manufacturing jobs back home.
It’s such a shame that, in spite of the promise of hope and change, we’re instead saddled with yet another president who is squandering the incredible chance he’s been given to put this country back on a path to energy independence and sustainability and economic prosperity. Mr. President, please, sit down and spend just an hour doing some math and decide for yourself (without listening to Larry Summers and Christine Romer) what’s needed to permanently correct the direction in which this country is headed.