The first big scandal in The War Against Oil is warming up, and its name is CitizenRe.
There are all the earmarks of a crash here:
- They claim $650 million in investment, but won't say where it comes from.
- The head of direct sales was part of a large pyramid scheme in a previous life.
- It is using multi-level marketing.
- The claim, a free installation of panels, is too good to be true.
- Plans for building its plant have already been pushed back.
- Most of their money seems to have gone into slick marketing aimed at consumers.
PoliticalCortex has a good rundown of all of it. Just remember Rule One, which is that if something sounds too good to be true, it generally is.
Current solar panel technology is based on the same type of silicon used in chips. There is currently a worldwide shortage of this silicon. Nanosolar, backed by Google's co-founders, has just broken ground on its plant and these guys claim theirs will be bigger. CitizenRe claims its panels will use less of the expensive silicon, but with current technology this just means their yield in electricity will be less, and already the numbers just don't work -- you're not getting enough electricity to justify the expense and installation costs. And if it doesn't work for the guy selling it, it won't work for you.
My fear, which I suspect Mike Taylor of Solar Kismet may share, is that this whole thing blows up right in the middle of the next political campaign, discrediting all solar ventures just as voters are making decisions in the first election of the Global Warming Age. Who benefits? All competitors to solar benefit. Ethanol and nuclear and coal and oil all benefit. Is the possible benefit large enough to justify hiring a scam artist? You betcha.
I fully expect to see a lot of scams as The War Against Oil gets rolling, just as we've seen rip-offs in the current Iraq War. That's why an important element in structuring this debate must be an insistence on stiff laws, with stiff penalties, stiff enforcement, and stiff oversight. Unless we treat energy scam artists as war profiteers, as traitors, we're just going to get stiffed.