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If Obama shouldn't pick energy winners and losers, neither should Mississippi
In his recent press release U.S. Senator Roger Wicker contradicts himself. He says it's bad for the Democratic Obama administration to give taxpayer dollars to private companies' experimental energy projects, but it's OK when Republicans in Mississippi do the same thing.
"For the past four years, the policies of the Obama Administration have put up roadblocks and picked industry winners and losers instead of maximizing our vast energy-producing capabilities here at home."
"Picking winners and losers" means giving American tax dollars to private, companies for energy experiments, like the solar company Solyndra, which received more than $500 million in federal money before going bankrupt.
Mississippi -- which is run by Republicans -- has been committing quite a lot of its taxpayer dollars to private companies' experimental projects, like Mississippi Power's $2.88 billion Kemper plant, which Wicker supports.
The Kemper plant will use experimental clean coal technology (that has never worked outside a lab) to be paid for by a mere 186,000 customers in Southeast Mississippi.
"The Kemper County project demonstrates how energy and economic development go hand in hand. Mississippi Power estimates that the facility will create as many as 3,000 direct and indirect jobs during construction and 300 permanent positions once completed. More than 250 Mississippi companies have been involved in the plant’s construction."
The utility business is not like private business: power projects always have to be repaid by the power company's customers - along with a return on investment for the company. Mississippi Power is building an expensive, experimental plant on the backs of its captive customers. This is very much like a government subsidy to a private company for an experimental project. The company is guaranteed to make money, while the taxpayers, or customers, may lose. (See Bigger Pie's post, "Electric utilities gamble with other people's money.")
Wicker then speaks in favor of renewables projects in Mississippi that have received hefty, Mississippi taxpayer-funded stimulus packages:
"Other advancements in efficient energy sources are being made across the state. Solar and biomass companies have helped diversify Mississippi’s energy portfolio and enhance its competitive advantage with cutting-edge technology."
Mississippi has promised the following incentives to solar companies:
- Twin Creeks Technologies ($54 million state loan; 500 jobs promised)
- Stion ($75 million state loan; 1,000 jobs promised)
- Calisolar, now called Silicor Materials ($75 million state loan, 951 jobs promised)
and a biomass company:
Additionally, Mississippi has pledged and given money to:
- Soladigm ($40 million state loan; 300 jobs promised) and
- HCL Cleantech, now called Virdia ($100 million state loan, 800 jobs promised).
(See Bigger Post post, "Mississippi: stimulus state for green energy.")
More than $200 million of a total of $400 million promised to these companies has already been disbursed by the Mississippi Development Authority. The state has to issue bonds, on which Mississippians pay interest, to fund these projects.
How can it be wrong for the Democratic Obama administration to give tax dollars to private companies' experimental energy projects, but OK for Republicans in Mississippi to do the same thing?