Talking Green in Yellowstone

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by Laura Huggins

Following on the heels of Joe Biden's recent visit to Yellowstone touting green jobs, PERC senior fellow Roger Meiners exposes the folly in much of the "green" stimulus spending in today's Wall Street Journal.

Not far down the road from Bozeman is the village of Ennis, home to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Ennis National Fish Hatchery. The hatchery received $179,000 in stimulus money for solar panels, its share of last year’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The fish hatchery uses about 34,000 kilowatt hours (kwh) of electricity annually. At 10 cents per kwh, that means a bill of $3,400. The solar panels, we are assured, will generate 75% of the hatchery’s electricity, at zero cents per kwh. Assuming so, the annual electric bill will fall by $2,550. Applying that sum to the cost, the recovery period for the solar panels (ignoring interest rates) is 70 years.

Solar panel experts say that panels have about a 25-year life, but the latest models, which no doubt are used in Ennis, may have a 40-year life. Taking that estimate, the panels leave us in the financial dark by 30 years. The rate of return looks like Las Vegas housing the past couple years.

But since the feds are footing the bill, no one will walk away from this turkey. Nevertheless, we will pay for it. Or, more accurately, our great grandchildren will pay for it, since this piddly little project is part of the trillion-dollar deficit that we are unloading on future generations. There is no reason to think that other stimulus money is spent better than the money at the Ennis National Fish Hatchery.

That’s the problem with stimulus spending for green jobs: It’s a financial loser. The $179,000 spent on the solar panels means that some people at a panel factory got paid, as did the folks who installed the panels. But the bang for those bucks is less than the bang you get for your buck. When you spend your money, you choose what you want. When politicos spend your money, or your grandchildren’s, there is less value.
Read the rest of Roger's excellent piece here.
Huggins is a research fellow and former director of outreach with PERC as well as a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Her association with PERC goes back several years, although she has recently embarked on a new venture as the manager of economic initiatives for the American Prairie Reserve. Huggins coauthored...
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