Sep 15, 2018

The financial meltdown's green aftermath

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The 2008 financial collapse did not take the renewables industry down with it — and in several ways it even proved a blessing.

The big picture: The 2009 stimulus law funneled some $90 billion into low-carbon energy initiatives, including grants for renewable electricity development in lieu of tax credits. Those grants proved vital. Longstanding tax credits are key to building wind and solar power projects, but the tax equity market collapsed alongside the financial sector.

The Treasury Department quickly launched the grant program, which eventually provided over $26 billion.

"Deployment would have slowed down dramatically because these companies would have had to seek other financing, and it would have been more expensive even if it was available."
— Keith Martin, project finance specialist with Norton Rose Fulbright

Other provisions that aided low-carbon energy included:

  • The stimulus expanded and helped finance the federal loan guarantee program for various clean energy projects.
  • Despite some flops (most famously the panel manufacturer Solyndra), the program helped launch utility-scale solar power generation.
  • It provided the first funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which seeds R&D into next-wave tech and moves it toward commercialization.

Yes, but: The financial crisis wasn't bloodless for U.S. renewables. It was during this time that China grabbed the lead in solar manufacturing, venture capital veteran Stephan Dolezalek said. And VC financing dried up for building U.S. solar panel manufacturing plants.

“A lot of enthusiasm and momentum that had been built up in the venture community for solar took a substantial hit post-market crash. VC’s thereafter simply did not have the capital available at the scale of the factories they needed to fund."
— Stephan Dolezalek, venture capitalist

Another casualty of the financial crisis — and the collapse in oil prices — was availability of financing for companies to produce "advanced biofuels," which are more climate-friendly than traditional corn-based ethanol. These fuels have never scaled up the way Congress envisioned when it expanded the national biofuels mandate in 2007.

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The cost of going after Bloomberg

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Here's the growing dilemma for 2020 Democrats vying for a one-on-one showdown with frontrunner Bernie Sanders: Do they have the guts — and the money — to first stop Mike Bloomberg?

Why it matters: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren all must weigh the costs of punching Bloomberg where he looks most vulnerable: stop-and-frisk, charges of sexism, billionaire entitlement. The more zealous the attacks, the greater the risk he turns his campaign ATM against them.

How Trump’s economy stacks up

Source: "Presidents and US Economy", Trump figures through 2019 courtesy of Alan Blinder; Note: Data shows real GDP and Q1 growth in each term is attributed to the previous president; Chart: Axios Visuals

Average economic growth under President Trump has outpaced the growth under Barack Obama, but not all of his recent predecessors.

Why it matters: GDP is the most comprehensive economic scorecard — and something presidents, especially Trump, use as an example of success. And it's especially relevant since Trump is running for re-election on his economic record.

Coronavirus cases rise as 14 American evacuees infected

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's NHC; Note: China refers to mainland China and the Diamond Princess is the cruise ship offshore Yokohama, Japan. Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

14 Americans evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship tested positive for the novel coronavirus before being flown in a "specialist containment" on a plane repatriating U.S. citizens back home, the U.S. government said early Monday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 1,770 people and infected almost 70,000 others. Most cases and all but five of the deaths have occurred in mainland China. Taiwan confirmed its first death on Sunday, per multiple reports, in a 61-year-old man with underlying health conditions. Health officials were investigating how he became ill.

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