An Administration's Green Fiascos Pile Up

The bankrupt ideology that's bankrupting the taxpayer.

The Obama administration has spent three years and billions of tax dollars in efforts to jump start a “green energy” industry in the United States. The president says that “sustainable,” clean energy sources are the wave of the future, vital to America’s future security and the well-being of the entire planet. And yet, after all this time and all that money, all the administration has to show for those efforts are a series of spectacular failures that would make a less arrogant leader blush.

The Solyndra fiasco is the highest-profile of the president’s many green failures, but it’s hardly the only one. Barely a week goes by but that we learn of yet another government-funded “clean energy” boondoggle. Let’s consider a few examples.

Late last year, Beacon Power Company filed for bankruptcy protection. Beacon had previously received a $39 million government-guaranteed loan in order to fund research aimed at producing energy storage devices on an industrial scale. These kinds of “super batteries” are necessary solely to cover for the deficiencies and unreliability of solar and wind power.

Last Thursday, Ener1 Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection. Ener1 develops lithium storage batteries for electric cars manufactured by a company called Think Holdings, AS, which in turn has a manufacturing company located in Elkhart, Indiana. Ener1 received over $130 million in stimulus funds, and a $480 million loan from the Energy Department, promising to deliver 1,400 jobs to Indiana, while Think Holdings would generate a further 415 jobs. To date, Enre1 has created 275 jobs, while Think Holdings is down to 2 people who guard a plant at which about 100 electric vehicles – most of them unfinished – sit idly in storage.

A year ago, Vice President Joe Biden hailed Ener1 as one of “100 Recovery Act projects changing America.” “A year and a half ago, this administration made a judgment,” he said at the time. “We decided it’s not sufficient to create new jobs—we have to create whole new industries.” Unfortunately for Ener1, the free market did not share the Vice President’s enthusiasm. Demand for expensive, short ranged, small electric cars has not materialized, and thus Ener1 has no market for its product.

Even the much-ballyhooed Chevy Volt has turned into a disaster. Fire hazards aside, there is simply no demand for the vehicle beyond some arms of government, a few corporations with cash to waste and rich, tree-hugging celebrities who can afford the luxury of pretentiousness. Chevrolet hoped to sell 10,000 Volts in 2011. Actual sales amounted to 7,671 units. GM has temporarily laid off 1,200 workers on the Volt production line and is considering slowing down production. A recent study concluded that real cost of Volt – when you consider all of the government subsidies involved in developing and building the car – is about $250,000 per unit. To borrow one of the environmental movement’s favorite terms, it’s hard to see how production of the Volt could ever be sustainable in the free market.

Ironically, these green disasters are being revealed at a time when more scientific data and opinions are turning against the global warming alarmism that has driven the administration to make foolish green investments. Last Friday, in an Op-Ed published in the Wall Street Journal, sixteen prominent scientists took a strong stand against the alarmists. The signatories included luminaries like Richard Lindzen, professor of atmospheric sciences, MIT; Rodney Nichols, former president and CEO of the New York Academy of Sciences; Burt Rutan, aerospace engineer, designer of Voyager and SpaceShipOne; and Harrison H. Schmitt, Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. senator. Among other things, the scientists said:

Perhaps the most inconvenient fact is the lack of global warming for well over 10 years now. This is known to the warming establishment, as one can see from the 2009 "Climategate" email of climate scientist Kevin Trenberth: "The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't." But the warming is only missing if one believes computer models where so-called feedbacks involving water vapor and clouds greatly amplify the small effect of CO2.

On Sunday, a story in the Daily Mail pointed out the equally inconvenient fact that data published by the infamous Climate Unit at the University of East Anglia confirms that there has been no significant warming since 1997. The models that the IPCC rely upon predicted that average global temperatures should have climbed steadily over the last decade and a half. Why haven’t the predictions matched reality? Like many scientists, Dr Nicola Scafetta, of Duke University in North Carolina, believes that alarmists put too much emphasis on the role of greenhouse gases in the climate and not enough on solar activity. "If temperatures continue to stay flat or start to cool again, the divergence between the models and recorded data will eventually become so great that the whole scientific community will question the current theories," he said.

Yet, in spite of the ever-increasing body of evidence that “climate change” is a figment of a computer’s imagination, the Obama administration continues to pour money into companies whose sole reason for existence is to battle the non-existent problem. Imagine where we would be today if the president hadn’t wasted that money and had instead stayed out of the way of development of cheap reliable sources of domestic energy. We would be so much farther along the way to energy independence if we were tapping our vast reserves of coal and oil and bringing more energy down across the border from our friends in Canada. Sadly, the net effect of Obama’s energy policies has been to increase our dependence of foreign oil while doing nothing to secure our economic future.

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