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Shining light on solar energy

To the Editors,

Bradley Harrington’s recent letter in this newspaper is so full of falsehoods and poor logic that it would take more of my time than it is worth to refute but I’ll hit the two most obvious errors. They should be plenty to discredit the rest of his incoherent rant.

Mr. Harrington claims that a coal-powered plant only occupies 25 acres of land and therefore is somehow more efficient than a solar plant. This is a ridiculous statement as anybody who has flown over the west in general and the Four Corners area in particular can attest to the huge footprint made, not by power plants, but by the coal mining needed to supply those power plants. The La Plata mine (recently reclaimed), San Juan mine, Navajo mine, and Peabody mining operations collectively occupy many tens of thousands of acres of land in this area alone. Then there is the huge amount of petroleum required to dig it out of the ground and transport it, etc.

Mr. Harrington also argues that “concentrated” energy is somehow inherently better than “dilute” energy sources. Concentrated or dilute is irrelevant. A dilute energy source that is available over the entire surface of the earth and is clean and renewable is infinitely more valuable than a more concentrated source that requires huge amounts of government subsidies to make profitable such as petroleum, coal, and nuclear. The only important thing is the cost. Solar is cost effective NOW at the price that we pay for it, and the price we pay for it actually reflects its true cost. All the other sources of energy we currently use are cost effective only by massive use of externalities. An externality means that part of the cost is paid by someone who receives no benefit and/or is not otherwise included in the price of the product.

Petroleum, coal, and nuclear all have massive and unknowable externalities in the form of government subsidies, future health care costs, pollution, war, accidental radiation releases, etc. When these things areincluded into the equation, renewables are by far the cheapest energy available to us.

I would agree that industrial scale solar will not be the entire answer to our energy needs but to suggest that it is stupid based on the arguments presented is irresponsible. I was confused about the entire premise of Mr. Harrington’s arguments until I read his quote by Milton Friedman. Milton Friedman’s economics ignore the idea of externalities and suggest that profit at any cost is the only responsibility of a corporation. His ideas have been discredited theoretically by virtually all reputable economists and his ideas have been discredited empirically twice by presidential administrations who adhered to his philosophies. Both times (Reagan/Bush 1 and Bush 2) resulted in ballooning our debt and driving our country into recession. Please don’t give Friedman’s ideas or those of his supporters a third chance. We need a responsible energy policy, based on facts and evidence, not one driven by political ideology, cronyism, and subsidies.

Incidentally I am personally involved in the permitting process for two large solar projects. As far as I know neither one of them has taken a penny of stimulus money. They are attracting investors solely on their merit despite the huge subsidies and externalities given to those they are competing against. It is a huge impediment to the free market but even so, solar is competitive today.

– Mike Miller, via email

Let’s get ready to rumble

Dear Editors,

Thank you for printing the news release regarding the motorcycle and custom car parade that will be held Labor Day weekend in Durango.

A bit of a correction and a bit of fleshing out of the release, if I may. This is not a parade of Harley Davidsons. There will be a fair number of Kawasakis, BMWs, Hondas, Yamahas, Suzukis, Triumphs and other motorcycle marques in the parade, along with Chevrolets, Fords, Dodges, Mercuries, Chryslers and others. The headline is quite misleading.

Ignacio has hosted motorcyclists over Labor Day weekend for 17 years. There was a parade of bikes from the Durango Mall down Main Avenue in conjunction with the rally for a number of years until the private rally promoter got crossways with the Southern Ute Indian tribe over use of the fairgrounds in Ignacio, and the Ignacio Chamber of Commerce took over the event as a non-profit affair. While we tried to sponsor a Durango parade for several years, the exorbitant fee (around $6,000) to put on the parade was way too much for this non-profit organization. So, we held a motorcycle parade in downtown Ignacio on Sunday mornings to carry on the parade tradition.

Durango now has a new city manager, downtown business promotion group and police chief, as well as two new motorcycle police officers. The political and economic winds apparently have changed, and Durango sees the benefits of approximately 25,000 motorcyclists spending up to a week in the Four Corners area, spending money on lodging, food, fuel and souvenirs. We of the Ignacio Bike Week organizing committee applaud the City of Durango for getting involved in the Labor Day weekend festivities this year.

The money raised from the burrito breakfast preceding the parade will benefit the Building Homes for Heroes organization, which builds and remodels homes for disabled veterans injured during service to our country. There will be a $10 donation asked of all parade entrants which will go to this organization. There will be volunteers walking the sidewalks before and during the parade asking for donations from spectators. Mercury Payment Systems has volunteered the use of several hand-held credit card machines to be used for those who are not carrying cash, so they may donate, too.

The classic and custom cars will parade north on Main Avenue from 7th Street, making one pass. The motorcycles will follow, parading north to Buckley Park at 12th Street, then make a U-turn and go back south along Main to College Drive, where they will disperse either left or right. Thus, for a good portion of the parade, motorcycles will be going both directions, much to the delight of the crowd, no doubt.

There will be signs at the intersection of Main and College directing bikers to Ignacio to enjoy the rally festivities there, to the Sugar Pines Rally north of Mancos and to the VFW to start the Veterans Poker Run.

By the time the parade is over, it will be noon and time for those bikers to spend more money in our area, patronizing our local eateries, gas stations and downtown shops. Shucks, it’s mid-afternoon, so rather than head home, let’s just spend another night at a one of these fine motels and start home in the morning (after buying breakfast).

Ignacio Bike Week volunteers spent a weekend in July at the Fire and Ice Rally in Grants, N.M., promoting our annual rally, and had many attendees say they had been to our Labor Day rally before and were planning on coming back again this year. We anticipate a great crowd again Aug. 30-Sept. 5. Once again, the whole area will receive a big financial shot in the arm from our visiting motorcycle friends.

– Larry E. Whiteside, Durango

An abundance of alternatives

Dear Editors,

Oil, coal, what’s de difference?  Not much, both pollute, one accounts for more than half of our deficit in trade with other countries; the other because it’s cheap and plentiful and keeps us from developing alternative energies.

Didn’t Jimmy Carter say during the last energy crisis that we should wean ourselves from oil – and how far did we get since then? Sure, we should not depend on solar or wind power as our only source of energy but there is a compelling argument for both. It costs money to build solar installations and wind farms, but coal plants don’t grow out of the earth either. What is it that other advanced countries see that we don’t. Denmark, Germany and even China are full steam ahead on alternative energy and some of them already produce about a quarter of the electricity this way.

Take solar: it is FREE, what you need is lots of land and sun, we certainly have both. In most of the West we have more than 300 days of sunshine a year and certainly lots of land. For example the USA and China have the same land area but we have only a quarter of the population, Germany, with 80 million people, is smaller than Texas.  My point is, what difference does it make whether one square meter (or ten) of sunshine produces one kilowatt-hour – we have lots of unused square meters.

Give me my square meter of free electricity and keep your lump of coal and pollution.

– C. Kummel,

via email

Real roads to recovery

To the Editors:

Beware of snake-oil salesmen in politicians clothing!

For almost a year now, we have been exposed to report after report stating that we have turned the corner and the economy is on the mend, that things are not that bad, that happy days are here again. There is a problem with these messages. They ring hollow at best!

The real unemployment rate (that which includes all of the unemployed, not just those still collecting unemployment benefits) is at 21.7%. Yes, the government figures state that unemployment is at 9.6% but that percentage reflects only those individuals still collecting unemployment benefits. The individuals who have already collected the maximum are self-employed but without work or have given-up looking for work after a year or more are not counted by the government. The “U6” figures are the most accurate unemployment figures and even the “U6” figures do not include all of the unemployed. Remember when we were told that unemployment would not exceed 8%?

An recent AP article titled “Homes lost to foreclosure on track for 1M in 2010” states that the number of homes foreclosed on in 2010 will exceed 1 million. In 2009, the number of homes foreclosed on was just over 900,000. The number of foreclosures prior to 2009 averaged just 100,000 homes. The number of home foreclosed on climbed 8% over the last year and over 900% since the Democratic Congress took over and Obama took office. Does this sound as if we are headed in the right direction?

Approximately 40.2 million Americans are currently on food stamps and the White House says that number will likely increase to 43.3 million Americans sometime in 2011. Again I ask, “Does this sound like we are headed in the right direction?”

Those lucky individuals who managed to either keep their jobs or find new jobs did so at a reduced pay rate. Benefits at many jobs have either been drastically reduced or eliminated. Jobs are being shipped off shore at an astounding rate and many foreign nationals are being brought to the U.S. to fill existing jobs at a lower rate of pay than the U.S. citizens who once held those jobs were making. Again, I ask, “Do you think this is heading in the right direction”?

The current administration and Congress should have been promoting and passing legislation that would (1) give companies a reason to create new private sector jobs, (2) give companies a reason to keep jobs held by taxpaying U.S. citizens here in the U.S. and filled by U.S. citizens, and (3) give companies a reason to bring jobs that have been sent off shore, back to be filled by U.S. citizens. How, you might ask, could they do that? The answer is quite simple really, tax breaks! You see, companies are in business to make a profit for the individuals who invest in them. When taxes go up, those companies will find a way to reduce expenses, thus keeping profits up and one way to do that is to find cheaper labor, which usually translates to off shore hiring. Large enough tax breaks would provide the impetus necessary to reverse the trend to replace taxpaying U.S. workers with foreign nationals.

Until the government realizes that the average U.S. citizen prefers a leg-up to a handout, the deterioration we are currently experiencing will continue. The bottom-line is this: Rather than taking steps that would create a job rich environment, the current crop of career politicians chose to focus on programs that would push spending (and ultimately taxes) to obscene levels. Programs like Cap and Trade, Obamacare, stimulus, Cash for Clunkers, Bank Bailouts, and Automotive Company Bailouts have created a fiscal chasm that will probably take generations to bridge.

When U.S. citizens are told the truth and work together, they can accomplish any task but these two elements are key to beating the economic morass we currently find ourselves in. The truth has been quite scarce coming out of Washington recently and those elected officials (from both sides of the political aisle) warming the seats there offer divisiveness and partisanship . . . not leadership.

So, the next time you hear “the recovery plan is working,” question the intelligence, the veracity, and possibly even the sanity of the speaker.

– Respectfully yours,

Robert M. Collinsworth, via email




In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows