Green Economy Stillborn

Recent announcements about failing green companies have mostly flown under the major media radar. After all, when President Obama hops in Air Force One for a quick trip to a green business to make a speech about his administration's nonexistent energy policy that's worth covering—when that green business shutters its doors (after absconding with millions in tax credits) that's embarrassing, to green cheerleaders and the liberal media in general. Sadly, failure to revive the economy not withstanding, many actually believe that, if only we could provide more billions in subsidies, good green jobs would spring up like weeds. The reality is that green business cannot exists without government largess and that green economy we have heard so much about was stillborn—killed in its government funded womb by economic reality.

According to the Center for American Progress March 2010 report, clean energy will be one of the world’s biggest industries, totaling as much as $2.3 trillion by 2020. yet everywhere there are signs that the green economy is faltering before it has begun. For example, consider the case of Evergreen Solar, a maker of solar wafers for solar panels. In 2008, they made a courageous decision to promote green jobs in, of all places, Massachusetts. “In 2008 we decided to build a plant in Massachusetts to be near our research and development facility,” reported CEO Michael El-Hillow. “There was a groundswell of optimism that the U.S. was going to take the lead in the drive for alternative energy.”

But things soon went awry. Market conditions changed, the economy tanked and no one was interested in pulling Evergreen Solar's fat from the fire. Bottom line, Evergreen said its manufacturing cost was $1.92 per watt, while the selling price was $1.90 per watt—even a politician should be able to do the math. As reported to Bloomsburg Businessweek, El-Hillow summed things up this way:

One mistake was making the U.S. facility too large. We should have made it a quarter the size. I wrote to the governor of Massachusetts, and we went to everyone we could think of—Congress, our banks. Nobody could help us. Then, late last year, prices went down 10 percent in one month for the modules we sell—on top of steadily falling prices for the last three years. That left us no choice but to stop making panels in the U.S. and shift our focus to making wafers in China. The access to capital for startups there is staggering.

About 800 people in our U.S. factory will lose their jobs, but the company wouldn't have survived if we didn't make this choice. Now we'll focus on what we do best. If we had stayed here, we would have been insolvent by September. We needed to do this to survive, although my hope is that some day more jobs will come back here.

Adding insult to injury, the Massachusetts Economic Assistance Coordinating Council—the state board charged with overseeing the green tax breaks—unanimously voted to cut short Evergreen’s 20-year property tax break, originally estimated to be worth $15 million, and voided another $7.5 million in state tax credits after the company eliminated the hundreds of jobs it promised to create. According to a report in the Boston Globe, out of the $4.5 million in property tax breaks they received to date, Evergreen will only have to repay the current year’s value, about $1.5 million, and in addition to the property tax breaks, the now almost defunct solar manufacturer also received over $21 million in other grants. The fate of those funds is uncertain.

An isolated indecent? Hardly. The Destiny USA project in Syracuse, New York, was selected as a green "demonstration" project under the 2004 Green Bonds program. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton Clinton, now the US Secretary of State, and Senator Charles Schumer helped to insert the program into the “American Jobs Creation Act” of 2004. It provided $2 billion in tax-exempt bonding authority for large green-technology demonstration projects and was specifically written to favor Destiny USA and three projects in other states (both Senators represented the state of New York).

Under this special program $255 million in tax exempt bonds were issued on behalf of the project. The money raised was supposedly for implementing the oodles of green features the project developer promised. To date, none of the green features have been implemented, and the developer says they never will be. From a report posted on syracuse.com:

There is no 45-megawatt electricity generating plant running on “biofuel” made from soybean oil and recycled cooking grease. If there were, it would be the largest such plant in the nation and consume more than one-third of the total U.S. biodiesel supply.

Nor are there 290,000 square feet of solar panels on the mall’s roofs and other surfaces, enough to blanket six football fields.

The fuel cells that were to make 7 megawatts of electricity, five times more than the nation’s largest existing commercial fuel-cell installation? Nowhere to be seen.

Given such grandiose plans, the backers should have suspected something was not on the up-and-up. In addition to the green features, the project was required to create at least 1000 construction jobs and 1,500 full time equivalent jobs to retain its tax free funding. Public monies squandered, no green features, no green jobs, and yet Clinton called the program “a strong, sensible piece of public policy.”


Destiny USA construction at Carousel Centre in Syracuse, New York, in September 2007.

This is not just a problem in the US, bungled government programs abound in the EU and elsewhere. One of Britain’s biggest employers in the green energy industry ceased production within hours of a government announcement pledging 400,000 green jobs by 2015. According to The Sunday Times, the Vestas factory in Newport, Isle of Wight, Britain’s only significant manufacturer of wind turbines, closed idling more than 600 people employed at the plant, and a related facility in Southampton.

Vestas is a Danish wind turbine manufacturer and one of the largest green companies in the world. Proving government stupidity is widely distributed, the Scottish government gave £10 million in grants to save 100 jobs at a much smaller turbine factory in Argyll just prior to the Vestas announcement.

Also last year, Vestas, announced the closing of five production plants across Scandinavia and cut 3,000 jobs—green jobs. The group said the surge in demand for wind power it had hoped for in Europe had not materialized and it is closing four plants in Denmark and one in Sweden, including one in Viborg where it has been manufacturing since 1989. The company is moving production out of Scandinavia to Spain, perhaps not the brightest of moves.

A Spanish study reports that since 2000, Spain spent $759,899 (€571,138) to create each “green job,” including subsidies of more than $1.33 million (€1 million) for each wind industry job. The study also calculates that the programs that created those jobs resulted in the destruction of nearly 110,500 jobs elsewhere in the economy. That means 2.2 jobs were destroyed for every “green job” created.


Vestas wind turbines at Meroicinha, Portugal. PhotoVestas.

In reality, green jobs are few and fleeting, and cost considerably more than true private sector jobs. Regardless, activists continue to push for green jobs—but this isn't really about building a clean, green economy. An example of such advocacy can be found on the website for the 2011 Green Jobs Conference, held this past February.

The tagline for this national conference was “good jobs, green jobs,” so one would expect to find numerous workshops on how to lure green industry to a community, how to start a green company and success stories from across the country. Instead, the lead workshop was entitled “Confronting Science Deniers: Lessons from Minnesota’s Sixth District,” a purely political propaganda vehicle for eco-leftists. Here is the description:

Across the country during this past midterm elections, clean energy supporters faced opponents who rejected the science of global warming and the potential for its solutions to create good jobs building the clean energy economy. This panel will focus on efforts to counter science deniers and to advance investments in clean energy as a positive economic agenda for the country. BlueGreen Alliance Executive Director David Foster will join Tarryl Clark — the former state legislator who challenged Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann in Minnesota’s sixth district — for a discussion on how clean energy played a role in the 2010 elections.

This isn't about promoting green jobs or a green economy, it is anti-conservative political activism with a large dollop of climate alarmist balderdash. And this was not the only blatantly political topic. Other sessions covered the Gulf oil “crisis,” how wonderful new government regulations were going to force better fuel economy for large vehicles, and how to solve poverty, pollution and low union representation among truck drivers. There was precious little about how to make green business successful, and without successful green businesses there are no sustainable green jobs.

Until green jobs are about jobs, and the green economy is about economics there will be nothing but failed public programs that only enrich green scam artists. What green industry there is exists only because of government handouts and subsidies—make work projects that cost dearly and disappear as soon as government funding dries up. Time after time, program after program, governments have failed to create sustainable green jobs.

This all stems from not having a rational energy policy (also not a purely American problem). A cogent energy policy may well have salubrious effects on the environment and unemployment rates, even reducing those over-hyped CO2 emissions that global warming fanatics are forever prattling about (see “Why Global Warming is really an Energy Problem”). But being rational about energy has become even less likely in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident, with nations like Switzerland, Germany and Japan all reversing promising nuclear programs.

As politicians run for cover, like cockroaches when the light is turned on, energy policies founder. The only lucrative green jobs belong to those who travel the globe telling everyone about how great the new green economy will be; how green jobs will fix the world economy and rescue us all from penury. Just as the global warming/climate change/planetary boundaries scam has funneled public funds into the pockets of green con-artists, the green jobs scam enriches the ranks of transnational progressives, many of whom see the green economy as cover for their underlying agendas.

Meanwhile, Barrack Obama, that most politically correct of American presidents, continues to flog the fictional green economy, telling people that there's a great day a coming. But the Obama plan for a green economy has gone off the rails. It was supposed to bring energy independence—America is no more independent in its energy supply today than when Mr. Obama was elected. It was supposed to bring green jobs, jobs that “can not be sent offshore”—as we have just seen, when the economy sours the first jobs to go are green. It's time to wake up and smell the compost.

With the US economy possibly headed for a double dip recession and unemployment again on the rise, the time for such PC poppycock is past. Want good, green energy sector jobs? Build more nuke plants—they last for 25 years or more and provide steady high paying jobs while producing the energy the world needs. As long as green jobs mean political handouts the green economy will remain a stillborn monument to environmental delusions and political pandering.

Be safe, enjoy the interglacial and stay skeptical.

Adding Insult to Injury

For a perspective on the recent shake out in the US solar industry see this column by IEEE's Bill Sweet. Here is an out take:

Anybody reading headlines in the business press will have noticed that in photovoltaics, there's a whole lot of shaking out going on. Three significant U.S. manufacturers have gone under in the last month: Solyndra, Evergreen Solar, and SpectraWatt. Solyndra, a major beneficiary of U.S. government support, suffered the added indignity of having its offices raided by the FBI shortly after it announced bankruptcy.

Among the interesting things revealed is that Google, which is heavily committed to solar power for its own use, has discovered that solar panels need to be cleaned. Who would have thought that clean panels produce more power than dirty ones? (that was sarcasm).

Where the Jobs Aren’t

Even the New York Times is attacking the whole green jobs con job. They say, in reference to politicians, "They try to use taxpayer money to create private jobs now. But they end up wasting billions."

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/06/opinion/brooks-where-the-jobs-arent.ht...

Further proof of the failed green economy

And the green failures just keep on coming, unfortunately they are consuming large amounts of government (i.e. the people's) money. The latest major scandal is Solyndra, a major manufacturer of solar technology in Fremont, which has shut its doors. Backed by the Obama administration, who gave the company a $535 million loan guarantee from the Energy Department as part of the stimulus’s green jobs push, the company's 1100 workers are now unemployed and the FBI has raided the corporate offices as part of an ongoing fraud investigation.

This should come as no surprise to those who regularly read this blog. This sad story reinforces the lesson learned by others at great cost—government's should not try to pick startup technology winners. As Nicolas Loris of the Heritage Foundation wrote recently:

Solyndra exemplifies the government’s abysmal track record of picking winners and losers in the marketplace, and the solar company is not the only example of energy stimulus struggles. With a number of targeted energy tax credits set to expire at the end of this year or next, industry groups are lobbying hard for extensions. Especially given the U.S. fiscal situation, this is a time to end all energy subsidies—not to extend wasteful, market-distorting policies. When the government decides to favor a technology with subsidies, it’s a good bet that subsidy ‘winner’ is a loser in the marketplace.

The green jobs envisioned by liberal academics in the Obama administration are not good jobs, for they are unsustainable. The only good jobs, the only real jobs are those created by the market place. Those jobs create wealth and add to the economy. Government created jobs destroy wealth by squandering taxpayer money on make-work activities. It is time to expose the myth of the “green economy” for what it is, a misguided attempt by politicians to bamboozle the public.

Evergreen Solar files for bankruptcy

Evergreen Solar Inc., the Massachusetts clean-energy company that received millions in state subsidies from the Patrick administration for an ill-fated Bay State factory, has filed for bankruptcy, listing $485.6 million in debt. Evergreen, which closed its taxpayer-supported Devens factory in March and cut 800 jobs, has been trying to rework its debt for months.

Story at http://www.bostonherald.com/business/technology/general/view.bg?articlei...

new IPCC report based directly upon a greenpeace "report"

http://climateaudit.org/2011/06/14/ipcc-wg3-and-the-greenpeace-karaoke/

here we have a greenpeace person "reviewing" his own reports for use in an IPCC report on renewables

words are failing me right now

Green Jobs for China

Our president today went to North Carolina to visit the Cree factory for producing LED lights to replace incandescents. GREEN jobs were touted as the biggie from this effort. Unfortunately about half of the Cree employees are located in China. That's called halfing down on stimulus spending, but not to worry, they love us in China (I hope). HHP

here is a good example of those "green" jobs

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/smart-grid...

The formation of a Renewable Energy Rapid Response Team, co-led by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Energy, to improve Federal coordination and ensure timely review of proposed renewable energy projects and transmission lines, to ensure that renewable energy can power cities and towns across America, and to increase reliability and save consumers money by modernizing the grid.

these must be those "green" jobs we have been promised

Aimed at building the necessary transmission infrastructure and developing and deploying digital information or “smart grid” technologies, these initiatives will facilitate the integration of renewable sources of electricity into the grid; accommodate a growing number of electric vehicles on America’s roads; help avoid blackouts and restore power quicker when outages occur; and reduce the need for new power plants

this section at the top though really takes the cake. implying that by updating the grid alone will solve all those items is pure compost indeed!

and here i thought the biggest barrier to getting new renewable energy connected to the grid was the lawsuits by various environmental groups opposing the new power lines needed to connect them TO the grid. hmm.. maybe they are reviving tesla's idea of power distribution?? ;>)

I agree, once one gets past all the fluffy rainbow and unicorn feel goodiness of it all and really take a look at the reality, the only green aspect of it is the flow of real money from the average tax payer to a few people.

sadly it is exactly this poor economy that is making this truth known, instead of good old fashion intellectual honesty.