Yesterday, we covered President Obama's visit to the largest operational solar photovoltaic plant in the U.S.-- the 55-megawatt (DC) Sempra Copper Mountain solar facility in Boulder City, Nev., about 40 miles southeast of Las Vegas. Construction at the 380-acre desert site began in January of 2010 with about 350 construction workers installing almost 775,000 First Solar solar panels.
For a novel take on this project, here's Fox News likening this plant to Solyndra -- as they will everything related to solar from now on. Note that Copper Mountain is privately financed and did not receive any DOE loans.
A few weeks ago, we covered the U.S. energy plans of Republican Presidential candidates Santorum, Romney, and Gingrich. It seems fair that we mention Obama's take on our energy situation.
Here are relevant excerpts from his speech at Copper Mountain in Boulder City, Nevada:
- Boulder City is the first stop on a tour where I’ll be talking about what we’re calling an all-of-the-above energy strategy -- all of the above. A strategy that relies on producing more oil and gas here in America, but also more biofuels, more fuel-efficient cars, more wind power and, as you can see, a whole lot more solar power.
- This is the largest solar plant of its kind anywhere in the country. That's worth applauding. Every year, you produce enough clean energy to power around 17,000 homes. And that’s just the beginning. Things are going so well that another plant is already under construction down the road that will eventually power another 45,000 homes. And a third plant is in development that will be, one day, able to power around 66,000 homes.
- When I took office I said, why not give these businesses some access to public lands that aren't otherwise being utilized? At the time, there wasn’t a single solar project in place on public lands -- not one. Today, thanks to some great work by Ken Salazar, we’ve got 16 solar projects approved. And when they’re complete, we’ll be generating enough energy to power 2 million homes. And that’s progress.
- We’re also enforcing our trade laws to make sure countries like China aren’t giving their solar companies an unfair advantage over ours. And that’s important because countries all around the world -- China, Germany, you name it -- they understand the potential. They understand the fact that as countries all around the world become more interested in power generation -- their population is expanding, their income level is going up, they use more electricity -- and we’re going to have to make sure that we’re the guys who are selling them the technology and the know-how to make sure that they’re getting the power that they need. In fact, just yesterday, our administration determined China wasn’t playing fair when it came to solar power. And so we took the first step towards leveling the playing field, because my attitude is, when the playing field is level, then American workers and American businesses are always going to win. And that’s why we’ve got to make sure that our laws are properly enforced.
- Now, you’d think given this extraordinary site, given the fact that this is creating jobs, generating power, helping to keep our environment clean, making us more competitive globally, you’d think that everybody would be supportive of solar power. That’s what you’d think. And yet, if some politicians had their way, there won’t be any more public investment in solar energy. There won’t be as many new jobs and new businesses. Some of these folks want to dismiss the promise of solar power and wind power and fuel-efficient cars. In fact, they make jokes about it. One member of Congress who shall remain unnamed called these jobs "phony" -- called them phony jobs. I mean, think about that mindset, that attitude that says because something is new, it must not be real. If these guys were around when Columbus set sail, they’d be charter members of the Flat Earth Society. We were just talking about this -- that a lack of imagination, a belief that you can’t do something in a new way -- that’s not how we operate here in America. That’s not who we are. That’s not what we’re about.
- And each successive generation recognizes that some technologies are going to work, some won’t; some companies will fail, some companies will succeed. Not every auto company succeeded in the early days of the auto industry. Not every airplane manufacturer succeeded in the early days of aviation. But we understood as Americans that if we keep on this track, and we’re at the cutting edge, then that ultimately will make our economy stronger and it will make the United States stronger. It will create jobs. It will create businesses. It will create opportunities for middle-class Americans and folks who want to get into the middle class. That's who we are. That's what we’re about.
- So I want everybody here to know that as long as I’m President, we will not walk away from the promise of clean energy We’re not going to walk away from places like Boulder City. I’m not going to give up on the new to cede our position to China or Germany or all the other competitors out there who are making massive investments in clean energy technology. I refuse to see us stand by and not make the same commitment. That’s not what we do in America. It’s not who we are as a country.
- We have been talking about changing our energy policies for 30 years now. When I was the age of these guys right here, when I was 10, 11, right, in the ‘70s, and my grandparents were complaining about long gas lines, we were talking about how we were going to do things differently. Thirty, 40 years, and we keep on doing the same stuff. We keep on punting. We keep on putting it off. For decades, Washington kept kicking the can down the road.
- The current members of the Flat Earth Society in Congress -- they would rather see us continue to provide $4 billion -- $4 billion -- in tax subsidies, tax giveaways, to the oil companies -- $4 billion to an industry that is making record profits. Every time you fill up the pump, they're making money. They are doing just fine. They're not having any problems. And yet, on top of what we're paying at the pump, we're also going to give them $4 billion in subsidies that could be going into making sure there were investments in clean energy for the future? That doesn’t make any sense. Does that make any sense?
- We have subsidized oil companies for a century. We want to encourage production of oil and gas, and make sure that wherever we've got American resources, we are tapping into them. But they don’t need an additional incentive when gas is $3.75 a gallon, when oil is $120 a barrel, $125 a barrel. They don’t need additional incentives. They are doing fine. Yes. A century of subsidies to oil companies is long enough. It's time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s rarely been more profitable, and double down on investments in an energy industry that has never been more promising. That’s what we need to do.
- So Congress needs to pass more tax credits for projects like this one; needs to provide certainty when it comes to these tax credits. We need to go out there and do what a lot of states are doing right now, which is saying, let's get a certain percentage of our energy from clean energy sources. Because when we do that, that gives a company like this one certainty that they're going to have customers, and they can invest more and build more.
- And again, I just want everybody to be clear -- because sometimes, when you listen to the news and you listen to some of these other politicians, they seem a little bit confused about what I'm saying. We are going to continue producing oil and gas at a record pace. That's got to be part of what we do. We need energy to grow. That's why we're producing more oil right now, here in America, than at any time in the last eight years -- any time in the last eight years. We're opening up more land for oil exploration. We've got more oil rigs operating. There are more pipelines out there that are being approved. I'll be visiting one of those rigs and one of those pipelines this week.
- But an energy strategy that focuses only on drilling and not on an energy strategy that will free ourselves from our dependence on foreign oil, that's a losing strategy. That's not a strategy I'm going to pursue. America uses 20 percent of the world's oil, and we've got 2 percent of the world's oil reserves. Think about -- I wasn't a math major, but I just want -- if you're using 20, you've only got 2, that means you got to bring in the rest from someplace else. Why wouldn't we want to start finding alternatives that make us less reliant, less dependent on what's going on in the Middle East?
- Eight decades ago, in the midst of the Great Depression, the people of Boulder City were busy working on another energy project you may have heard of. Like today, it was a little bit ahead of its time; it was a little bit bigger than this solar plant -- it was a little louder, too. It was called the Hoover Dam. And at the time, it was the largest dam in the world. Even today, it stands as a testimony to American ingenuity, American imagination, the power of the American spirit -- a testimony to the notion we can do anything.
- That was true back then; it is true today. You know the choice we need to make when it comes to energy. We've got to invest in a sustained, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of energy. We've got to stay ahead of the curve. We've got to make sure that we're taking some risks. We've got to make sure that we're making the investments that are necessary. We've got to support extraordinary entrepreneurs that are on the cutting-edge. That's who we are. That's what we do. And if we keep on doing it, nothing is going to stop us.