Louisiana has a choice to make on solar.
With budget holes to fill, does it want to slash the state’s paltry $57 million solar subsidies and 3,600 jobs? Or would it rather stop giving excessive annual tax breaks to local oil and gas power players which number in the hundreds of millions of dollars, ultimately blowing well past a cool billion in a couple of years?
It’s embarrassing to be asked to do that math at this late stage of global warming, no doubt helped along by Louisiana’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which recently celebrated its five-year anniversary of soiling the Gulf coast. It gets even harder once you calculate that Louisiana boasts some of the most polluted waterways in the U.S., while New Orleans rarely fails to make annual “Most Polluted Cities in America” lists.
One imagines these sobering tragedies recently inspired the New Orleans City Council to unanimously adopt a policy resolution (PDF) in support of a “robust local solar industry.” Noting during the adoption that Environment America had named New Orleans one of the United States’ “Top 10 Solar Cities” — for a change — resolution co-sponsor and council-member Susan Guidry explained that she looked forward to the famed port metropolis eventually becoming number one. And there’s no popular reason that New Orleans can’t do exactly that, according to Gulf States Renewable Energy Association president Jeff Cantin, who noted after the resolution that 87 percent of Louisianans want more solar, not less.
Taking all this data into account, the argument that slashing Louisiana’s Solar Tax Credit program to save “about $35 million” makes any sense comes off as laughable, no matter how many smart words you use. “The process of making these decisions has been grossly manipulated, I think, by the monopoly utilities for the sole purpose of maintaining a monopoly business model,” New Orleans-based Alliance for Affordable Energy CEO Casey DeMoss told Energy and Environment Publishing.
The Beltway-based E&E spent many smart words on Louisiana’s solar controversy, without actually delving into the actual numbers of the fossil fuel industry’s “monopoly business model.” But Louisiana’s own The Advocate was much more helpful, explaining that ” taxpayers have provided over $1.2 billion to the oil and gas industry to subsidize fracking operations since 2010,” and that in 2012 alone total oil and gas subsidies equaled $550 million. After crunching those numbers, arguing over how much, how long or how many solar systems are available for subsidization in Louisiana becomes the opposite of money well spent.
But the long game, as illustrated by New Orleans City Council’s defiant resolution, is ultimately on the side of solar. Expecting no pushback from Louisiana’s oil and gas industry, and the politicians they politically and financially support, is quite illogical indeed. But expecting them to emerge victorious, in the final analysis, is a losing bet.
New Orleans solar photo CC-licensed by Liralen Li on Flickr.