Lower Oil Prices Slow Fracking, but Kill Solar

Environmentalists should be ecstatic. The Saudis are doing for them what they have tried and tried and tried to do for themselves, but could not:  Stop fracking.

But their green smiles are quickly turning into frowns as more and more enviros recognize the same lower oil prices that hurt fracking are killing their most treasured darlings: Solar and wind power.

Today fracking  -- pumping sand and water at high pressure to release copious quantities of oil and natural gas from hard to reach places -- is on the verge of turning the United States from an energy importer to energy exporter.

That is just one of several factors pushing the price of oil down 30 percent this year.

Great news for America. Bad news for the tyrants at OPEC. And pure panic for their allies in American alternative energy.

The acolytes of Al Gore at first pooh-poohed this new source of energy from fracking. “Why bother?” they asked us. There was not enough new oil to make a difference in the world markets, they told us again and again and again.

But there was. And it is.

So they switched tactics: Hydraulic fracturing is bad because it pollutes drinking water. That was a lie. Hydraulic fracturing is bad because it contributes to global warming. That was a lie too: Natural gas from fracking burns cleaner than coal. With so much natural gas from fracking now used instead of coal, the United States years ago met, and then exceeded, the goals of the Kyoto Treaty (the one we did not sign) to stop global warming.

Turns out fracking for natural gas allowed us to be the only country to meet those goals.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo decided he would need a few more years to study fracking before allowing it in his state.  People in Pennsylvania got rich from fracking while their neighbors just a few miles away still wait for their windfall -- that now may never come… if the Saudis get their way.

Fracking for oil in America is more expensive than what the Saudis do to get their oil. That makes fracking less economically competitive. Some say the Saudis are intentionally driving down prices to try and kill our fracking-enabled energy boom while it is still in the cradle.

Other say that is just a coincidence. Either way, lower prices will stop some fracking.

The big American frackers have already announced they are slowing down. And if the price keeps falling from the current mid-$70’s per barrel, lots of fracking for oil will stop all together -- some say when oil reaches $45 a barrel.

But if it ever gets that low, wind and solar may not be around to see it. For years, solar promoters have been promising us the day will come when solar achieves “grid parity” -- the day that oil will be so expensive and alternative energy so cheap, that it will make economic sense to shut down our wells and rely on our panels and windmills.

But cheaper oil is killing that dream by widening the gap between the cost of oil and solar.

Real world experience with solar is raising doubts that day will ever come: The $2.2 billion Ivanpah solar project in California is only producing 25 percent of the electricity they said it would. Now the promoters need more subsidies and loans and more time to pay them back.     

This latest solar disaster proves what alternative energy skeptics have been saying for years:  Solar is not a reliable technology. And it requires massive subsidies.

The Europeans depended on solar to keep their satellite running after it became the first spacecraft to land on a comet. That did not work either.

And don’t forget the tariffs: America places tariffs on Chinese solar panels because we object to the way they are subsidized. Almost as much as our panels are.

In the meantime, lower oil prices are driving up the prices of lots of American stocks, and that is good news.

Even so, solar promoters are begging Congress for more time and more money and more trade protection. Again. Maybe they should ask the Saudis.

Bill Gunderson is a San Diego wealth manager, syndicated talk show host and author of the Best Stocks Now app.