This One’s for the Dogs

“The Summit of Sletill Hill,” Credit: Rupert FleetinglyPresident Obama’s $800 billion stimulus package of 2009, may be a dismal failure in creating jobs, but at least the 75-some dogs boarding at the DogBoy’s Dog Ranch in Texas are content. This from the Austin American-Statesman:

The dogs at DogBoy’s Dog Ranch appear to be relatively happy. The canines at the 15-acre facility can gaze at gently rolling land when they’re not gnawing at balls, splayed out for a doggie massage or getting an adjustment the facility offers dog chiropractic services.

And, thanks to an extensive solar panel system partly paid for by the federal government, the 75 or so dogs can sleep in air-conditioned comfort in the kennels that board them.

Over the past year, the Department of Energy has showered billions of stimulus dollars on clean energy efforts, mostly to large-scale wind and solar projects nationally and in Texas. Tucked among these hefty grants, however, are seemingly random payouts like the $23,948 for DogBoy’s Dog Ranch and the $15,582 to Rappaport’s Piano Workshop out side of Round Rock, according to a Statesman review of a federal stimulus program for commercial renewable energy projects. Statewide, they include an animal hospital in Odessa and an aerospace engineering laboratory in th small town of Justin, north of Fort Worth.

The owners of these small businesses used their savvy and tips from experts to tap an enormous federal chest and cut down on their energy bills.

The story of the dog ranch solar panels starts at the Deutschen Pfest in Pflugerville in May 2009. Courtney and Bart Emken, who own the ranch and call themselves DogGirl and DogBoy on business cards and license plates, stopped by the booth of Longhorn Solar, a solar installation company that had just started up to take advantage of the federal stimulus money.

By December, Longhorn had put 65 solar panels atop a south-facing roof on one of the DogBoy’s Dog Ranch kennels, with a sticker price of $87,000, said Courtney Emken. In addition to the federal money, Austin Energy covered $52,000 as part of its rebate program. In the end, the Emkens paid about $10,000.

The panels supply energy to three of the four buildings, two kennels and an office, which total roughly 5,000 square feet. During the peak-energy summer months, the solar power has covered as much as a third of the electricity use at the property; in the spring it covered two-thirds.

“We just expanded in December, and we wouldn’t otherwise have had capital to do it,” Courtney Emken said. “It was only because we got both of those (payouts) that it was so attractive.”

Nationally, more than $2 billion has been awarded through the U.S. Treasury Department’s dryly named 1603 Program (“Payments for Specified Energy Property in Lieu of Tax Credits”), with small awards going to businesses such as the Grumpy Troll Restaurant and Brewpub in Wisconsin, Gumbos Creole Cafe in Virginia, Lucifer Furnaces in Pennsylvania, Bradley and Stow Funeral Home in New Jersey and the Napa River Winery in California.

As President Obama asks American taxpayers to fund another “stimulus” package, this one carrying a price tag of $50 billion, let’s not kid ourselves into thinking this one—funding infrastructure projects—will be any different. Since the last “stimulus” bundle that was supposed to put Americans back to work, 8 million workers are still looking for jobs, and the unemployment rate has climbed to 9.6 percent.

Stimulus plans are great at stimulating political agendas, and highway projects are no exception as Kevin Williamson of National Review reminds us here.


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