Senator Attacks Solar Energy Industry

  • Published on June 15th, 2008

In a blistering attack, Nevada’s Republican senator John Ensign has launched an offensive against solar energy lobbyists, ahead of a crucial vote on renewable energy tax credits.

Breaking ranks with the the state’s increasingly important solar industry, Ensign said that efforts by the Solar Energy Industry Association to force his hand on tax breaks had in fact had the opposite effect of “personally alienating” him and other senators.

In a scathing letter, later released to the press, Ensign accused the lobby group of squandering goodwill by accusing him of favouring “billionaire hedge fund managers” over job creation in Nevada. Indicating the depth of his feelings on the issue, he went on to say “It is rare to have such overwhelming bipartisan support in today’s political climate but the solar industry had it and your association’s leadership squandered it.”

Nevada solar executives had privately become increasingly unhappy with the Senator’s record of voting against bills containing the tax credits. Ensign said that he opposed the bills because the funds for tax breaks would have been raised by increasing the burden on the oil and gas industry. Earlier this spring, he co-sponsored an alternative approach, calling for tax credits without the corresponding offsets. It made it through the Senate by a vote of 88-8, but has become bogged down in the House.

Last Tuesday, the senate voted to block progress on the Consumer First Energy Act and the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act. However, with a new vote expected this week, the rift is likely to dismay observers hopeful of progress on the hotly disputed tax credits bill. A block would be particularly damaging to the renewables industry, which wants to make investment decisions against a background of long-term stability in renewable energy policy.

Other posts on the U.S. Senate and Renewable Energy Policy:

“Senate to Vote on Renewables as Early as Today”

“Senate Passes Renewable Energy Tax Credits. Shouldn’t I Be More Excited?”

“Consumer-First Energy Act of 2008 Lacks Support”

About the Author

is a writer and freelance journalist specialising in sustainability and green issues. He lives in Cardiff, Wales.


  • Hello! Have been looking into renewable energy sources that i can just setup at home, and solar energy was a definitely on my checklist. Been looking into how solar works and even am wondering if i could just build one myself cos its damn expensive too. Well, thanks again for the post, really good insight into this area.

  • Hi there, ive recently just been shocked at my electricity bills lately, paying way too much. I think solar energy is the way to go, easy to set up and pretty self explanatory. Well, Cheerio!

  • Those of us that really want Solar, Wind and other rewnewables to take off and receive the proper government support (like most of Europe) must take an incremental approach – lets get our credits (federal feed-in tariff credits for utilities to buy the power at a premium would be the best solution) entrenched first. It's dumb to try to punish the extraction industries (oil, natual gas, etc) in the same bill as this causes people like Ensign and others who represent extraction interest to fight it – witness the positive Senate vote when those provisions came out! This is election year politics from both sides…take out the penalties and get it done! We'll get them later!

  • Econ 101: Correlation of Supply, Demand, and Price

    It's amazing to me how many people in America, including politicians, do not understand this most basic of universal laws. This is NOT a rule of the government or a rule of mind, but a LAW of the universe like gravity and time. It works regardless of the situation you put it to. Communists think they can legislate it out of existance, but you can't.

    When the Pilgrims first landed in Massachuesetts, they set up a COMMUNIST system of economics. They had all farm land in common. They worked the land together and harvested and shared the produce equally. The result: the farmland produced little, the colony starved, and less than half survived until Spring. (Sounds like the USSR in 1990.) The Pilgrims changed their approach. Each person was given an equal plot of land to farm from which they were to work to survive the next winter. "If you don't work, you don't eat." That fall, they had a bumper crop and noone starved that winter. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated.

    Any resource that is finite (such as time and money) succumbs to the law of supply, demand, and price. The solar industry is NOT price competitive with other options at the present time. In a few instances, solar and wind are the only viable option (off-grid electricity). Government taxes are interfering with the market to artificially change the price for a larger market. The low supply of solar cells do not meet the high demand in its current limited sphere and are thus expensive. The current supply of gasoline is also insufficient to meet present gas demand and thus gasoline and diesel fuels are rising in price.

    Over 76% of the profits of the oil and gas industry is re-invested back into the industry. Having been a former employee of a well services company, I can easily vouch for how EXPENSIVE it is to do this work. Millions of dollars changed hands from subcontractor to subcontractor on a daily basis just to drill and bring online each well on land, even more for offshore wells.

    By comparison, Microsoft and other software companies make a MUCH higher margin with much less investment. With Microsoft's monopoly, they do whatever they want, even today after the 90s DOJ anti-trust trial. Comparing Google and Exxon, who's got greater "windfall profits"?

  • Conservatives are partially right when they complain about government being the problem- it's CONSERVATIVES in government who are the problem.

    Vote em all out, replace them with democrats. I'm sure ALL Republicans aren't corrupt, but it's too much trouble figuring out who is among that %0.0001. Just vote them all out- whoever can manage to stay out of prison after all the war profiteering and crime is accounted for can maybe join whatever new political party might rise from the ashes of the Republican criminal organization.

  • I find it interesting that tax credits for Big Oil figure out to be $5.65 while Ethanol creds are about 51 cents, and the blender gets the credit, which is in most cases, Big Oil!

    This does not count the "Subsidy" Big Oil gets to guarantee oil coming in from the Middle East and elsewhere, since If the military budget was for only protecting our nation, it would be about 10% of the current Defense budget. It costs a bundle to project power half way around the world.

    Our national Debt is the result. The price we pay at the pump for gasoline is only a down payment. There are answers.

  • Obviously the Solar Energy Industry has not greased his palm as well as the Oil Industry. It's a pay to play world in Nevada and clearly John Ensign has gotten his rewards to protect the oil industry. What a lame-ass excuse to block promoting a new industry that will move the US towards energy independence; 'efforts by the Solar Energy Industry Association to force his hand on tax breaks had in fact had the opposite effect of “personally alienating” him and other senators'. He needs to stop whining about his hurt feelings. He needs to stop protecting the interests of big oil. He needs to do the right thing for his State and the Country. Otherwise, he needs to get the heck out of the way so someone with some real leadership ability can take us into the 21 century.

    What a baby…

  • The way to fix this is simply organize and vote this A$$hole out of public office forever and put in a guy with integrity who isn't bribed by the oil industry.

  • People , please just vote against this kind of people… Teach them a lesson… We don't want them!

    Vote Democrat, change USA and help change the world!!!

  • John Ensign sucks lemons, but tax credits suck more. Eliminate tax credits for energy production. Simply mandate a high buyback rate for small power systems as they do in Europe. Why does the US systematically ignore the fact that the wheels have already been invented for energy technology, and implemented, overseas? Cripes. Could these self-important politicians just go play some golf and GET OUT OF THE WAY. And would everyone stop voting these cretins into office!?

  • Senator Ensign's opinion on solar energy policy should come as no surprise. As a Republican his comments fall right into line with the anti-science attitude of the conservative right. If anyone remembers, Reagans first term in office he had Jimmy Carters solar panels taken off the roof of the Whitehouse. It is a GOP party line. Anything having to do with conservation of any kind. Not many of them seem to understand, that the destruction of the countrys resources will not benefit anyone. Especially not their own children who will have to live with the mess they leave. Just the same as the rest of us.

    As a Republican he supports the oil industry. We not only subsidize oil, but in case no one has heard, the oil industry has literally many hundreds of oil leases obtained from the government. These leases have never been drilled on. They have been there for years. Instead they want to drill in a pristine area. This area will not produce for minimum of five to ten years. And will only produce a very limited amount of oil. Some scientist say as little as six months worth.

    These oil leases are not used because it would lower the profits of oil companies. Most of these leases are on our own land.

    What can I say? This man is a Republican. Now that says it all.

  • Honestly it seems people jump all over anyone who says any little thing bad about alternate energy. More so if said person has Republican next to their name. Its not siding with oil companies to not want to increase tax burden on them, just common sense. They will increase the prices of fuel if you cut into the profits they make. seeing as how solar isn't viable enough to fully compete with oil on all fronts, subsidized or not, mostly in the automotive side of oil use. It would only hurt us until viable tech comes along to compete with oil in the powering of cars. Besides, getting the government involved in anything just muddles it up.

  • WTF is with this man. Solar is great,clean, and near infinite. You see children he is being paid off and while I think there is nothing wrong as long as he knows he is going to burn for this. I hope he is getting alot of money for selling his soul. – Maxxstiles

  • Tanner said on June 16th, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    Don’t you think that if we reduced the tax credits for oil, that the oil companies would just raise the price of gas to offset the loss?

    I think an exponential tax on oil company gasoline profits WITHOUT ANY LOOP HOLES will solve this issue.

    Say, everything over 2 cent profit a gallon causes $1.00 tax per cent of profit.

    They can then earn enough profit on gas that they bankrupt themselves.

  • What do you nitwits think will happen to the price of gas if Washington increases taxes on oil companies?

    How retarded can you be?

  • I agree that there should be no tax credits for them. But at the same time, there should be none for oil either. Solar will be cost effective if it doesn't have to compete with subsidized oil.

  • I think tax credits are the wrong solution. That results in long, costly calculations required by the state (CA) to calculate actual "performance" of each install. Why not replicate Germany's solution: require the electric companies to buy the power from home/business owners @ 7 times the going rate. This only adds $3.00 to each German consumer (a reasonable number that most people would support), provide long term investment stability, and get the government out of the picture. What do you think?

  • Don't you think that if we reduced the tax credits for oil, that the oil companies would just raise the price of gas to offset the loss? Do you honestly thing that any company would be ok with making less money? What planet are you living on? I don't see why his original plan to give the tax breaks without the oil offsets isn't being looked at closer.

  • I like tax policies that provide incentives for responsible practices and can be utilitzed by the general public. I like the fact that the renewable energy tax credits can potentially be claimed by any American taxpayer. That is very fair. By contrast, only huge oil companies can take advantage of the huge subsidies we give them. Given the record profits they've been enjoying and the record costs the rest of us have been paying, their tax credits are obviously not trickling down to the rest of us. How is it that entities that do not vote can have more influence on our leaders and get tax breaks rather than the voting and tax paying human public?

  • That is great, let the oil companies keep their subsidies while they make their many billions per year and don't let the solar industry have any! It is clear who is funding his campaign.

    His view of the future is all about looking backwards at the fossil fuel industry and filling his pockets with their money.

  • When you see guys like John Ensign running this country it makes you wonder why the hell do we go to high school and college.

    All these courses in ethics, morals, civic duty, patriotism, seem like a joke and a waste of time.

    If a kid realizes the truth that money and greed is the ultimate truth when he is eleven..he can sure skip college and still be a success when he grows up.

  • I was in Nevada recently and I was struck by the number of solar-powered billboards I saw. What, I wondered, was the impetus for this? Is it part of a PR campaign from the major billboard companies? Is there some sort of state-level incentive (like an investment tax credit)?

    Granted, as compared to the energy being used to spew light from the top of the Luxor, the energy used by billboards is a pittance, but still noteworthy.

    Good find, Andrew.

  • I lived in Nevada when John Ensign was first elected to the House… this doesn't surprise me in the least. I doubt there's any entrenched interest that John Ensign doesn't just love… how can anyone argue about "increasing the burden on the oil and gas industries" with a straight face?

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