11. Solar Power Eclipsed by Oil, Gas and Nuclear
Sources: Multinational Monitor, PO Box 19405 Washington,
DC 20036, Date: April 1992, Title: "Solar Eclipsed," Author: Julie Gozan;
The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115, Date: 3/12/92,
Title: "Unbind Solar Energy From Washington's Red Tape," Author: James
SSU Censored Researcher: Blake Kehler
SYNOPSIS: On November 27, 1991, the California-based solar energy
firm Luz International Limited announced that it had filed for bankruptcy.
Luz designed, built and operated the world's nine largest Solar Electric
Generating Systems (SEGS), which generated 95 percent of the world's
Luz's collapse reflects the problems faced
by a solar power industry shackled by hostile government policies and the protection
of natural gas and oil interests. While the Department of Energy (DOE) claims
to be committed to the development of solar energy, the facts reveal that while
the cost of generating solar power has decreased 73 percent from 1980 to 1990,
federal research and development (R&D) spending on solar energy has decreased
Presently, the nuclear industry receives more than 70 percent of the
DOE's funding outlays for technology-specific development. According
to the DOE's R&D budget, the total administration request for nuclear
fission and fusion for fiscal 1993 is $13.77 billion, an increase of
$100 million from 1992. However, the total request for conservation
R&D, renewable energy and state and local conservation, combined,
is just $768 million, down $100 million from 1992.
Investigative author Julie Gozan reports that if it weren't for
government subsidies, nuclear power would be priced out of the market. Gozan notes
that while the cost of solar is down to 8 cents per kilowatt hour, the cost of
producing nuclear energy is nearly 13 cents per kilowatt hour.
According to an article in the Christian Science Monitor, the next
generation of solar plants, which had been planned for construction
by Luz in 1994-95, would have brought costs down to 6 to 6.5 cents per
kilowatt hour-less than the cost of natural-gas electric generation.
Government obstacles to safer, cleaner energy go beyond fiscal
favors for nuclear power and the oil and gas industry. Lawmakers set a cap of
80 megawatts on the amount of energy that a solar plant can generate and sell.
Luz, which had the capacity to build SEGS that would generate 200 megawatts, or
enough energy to meet the electricity needs of 200,000 homes daily, was forced
to build plants below this optimum usage and had to "dump" solar energy
rather than use it.
Author Gozan also reports that in order to compete with
oil and gas, solar power must somehow match hidden government subsidies given
to conventional fuels. Oil and gas receive the equivalent of a 25 percent tax
credit. These include an immediate tax write-off for drilling costs and "percentage
depletion" for the cost of pipes, pumps and tanks used to complete a well.
Luz International Chairman Newton Becker observed when the company filed for bankruptcy,
Luz's demise was not attributable to technical or economic failure; it was simply
the result of our not having a national energy policy. Meanwhile, environmentally
sound solutions fall victim to money and politics.
COMMENTS: "In the early Seventies someone said we wouldn't
have solar power until the oil companies get a monopoly on the sun.
Now it appears that this is happening." That was the lead paragraph
to the #9 Censored story synopsis of 1980. It continued, "Within
the last five years, a powerful elite of multinational oil companies,
aerospace firms, utilities and other large corporations has been quietly
buying into the solar industry. The group's aim appears to be to squeeze
out smaller competitors and control development so that alternative
energy sources will never threaten its massive investments in fossil
fuels and nuclear power."
for the 1980 nomination were New West, now defunct, and MotherJones. But that
was then and this is now. And while the sources for the #11 Censored story of
1992 have changed, the subject matter hasn't. In fact, the current story bears
witness to the prescience of the 1980 nomination. It told how the big boys were
buying out the smaller competitors to control the fledgling solar industry; the
1992 story reveals how the big boys finally have forced Luz International Limited,
the world's leading solar energy company, out of business.
author Julie Gozan reported that the plight of the solar industry has received
no coverage in the mass media. "Although the Luz bankruptcy was widely reported
in newspapers and financial journals," says Gozan, "these contained
no analysis of the solar industry and its obstacles." Gozan believes the
public would benefit from greater exposure of this issue. "As the public
is exposed to the viability of solar energy as a safe, effective and potentially
inexpensive source of energy, more pressure will be placed on the federal government
to provide equal incentives for the solar and other renewable energy industries
with those for nuclear and fossil fuels. As solar becomes competitive and widely
available, the U.S. public will be able to access alternatives to non-renewable,
polluting and dangerous energy sources.
"The nuclear and fossil fuel
industries bank on the current lack of public awareness of solar and other renewable
energy technologies. It is in the interest of those industries to suppress information
about safe and clean energy alternatives."
Investigative author James
Weinstein, whose article on solar energy appeared in the Christian Science Monitor,
concurs with Gozan on the lack of coverage given this issue. Solar energy receives
"little or no attention," Weinstein states, "or is treated like
an exotic or unrealistic alternative, for obvious commercial reasons."
public would benefit from wider coverage of the solar issue, Weinstein adds, because
"it would accelerate the pace of ultimately unavoidable transfer of energy
dependence from oil, coal and nuclear to solar and biomass."
however, the news media have been more than cooperative in the suppression of
information that would accelerate that transfer. The nation's leading newspaper,
the New York Times, which prides itself for printing "all the news that's
fit to print," is known for its support of nuclear power. One of the top
25 Censored stories of 1988, "The New York Times: America's Pro-nuke Newspaper
of Record," reported an investigation by EXTRA! that revealed the Times'
longstanding pro-nuclear editorial policy.