At a time in our history when energy is at a premium, when the Rapid Deployment Force is being developed to protect our “energy interests” in the Persian Gulf, an alternative source of energy, one with unlimited potential, is being discarded. Solar energy is now being phased out.
The Solar Energy Research Institute, the federal agency responsible for solar development, is being dismantled. The Institute’s budget was cut in half, its staff reduced by a third, and Secretary of Energy James B. Edwards proposes additional cuts. The Institute was forbidden to finance unsolicited proposals. Desperately needed laboratory construction was delayed. A million dollar fund for creative ventures was brought under Department of Energy (DOE) controlled and then halved. All research projects are being reviewed by the DOE and no decisions are being made. Key researchers have given up and left and the Institute’s director, Dennis Hayes, was dismissed.
In addition, the Reagan administration is talking about eliminating the incentive of tax credits for solar installation. Conversely, the overall subsidy for conventional fuels and nuclear power.are enormous and continuing. Some estimates put the total subsidies over the years at $200 billion and the Harvard Business School report, Energy Future, estimated that they now total $50 billion a year.
Secretary Edwards priorities are clear. He has stated that “a vote for President Reagan was a vote for a nuclear future.” If so, the American public did not know it. A Gallup poll taken at the time of the November election found that of seven possible energy choices, solar alternatives ranked number one among adult Americans. Conservation, whose federal budget Edwards plans to “trim” by more than 75%, ranked second. Nuclear power ran dead last.
A detailed study by the Solar Institute, which didn’t support Reagan’s energy policies, was suppressed for months by DOE but finally made public through the efforts of Rep. Richard L. Ottinger, of New York. (See “The Car Book and Other Censored Public Information” nomination.)
The failure of the media to clearly report how an energy resource with so much potential is being purposely squashed by the Federal Government in its support of nuclear vendors, coal companies, and the oil industry, qualifies this story for nomination as a “best censored” story of 1981.
Solar Age, 11/81, “Why Treasury Wants to Scrap the Solar Tax Credits” by David Holzman, and 12/81, “The Reagan Energy Plan is Treacherous” by Denis Hayes; N. Y. Times, 8/13/81, “Washington Declares a Solar Eclipse by Denis Hayes.