The Democrats have been busy the last two years, and not just reengineering the healthcare industry, restructuring the auto sector, assaulting Wall Street and the financial sector, harming our public finances. They have also been trying to transform America's energy industry at our expense. This is Barack Obama at his worst -- picking losers and winners by personal whim, donations for dollars deals, and ideological zeal.
Who have been the losers and who have been the winners? And have the winners just been taking the taxpayers for a ride while their guy has been driving the bus -- with taxpayers sitting in the back?
The Obama administration has tried to kill off the oil industry. Offshore moratoriums have been unilaterally imposed by executive orders and justified using scientific panel studies that were misrepresented-if not distorted- by the administration. The drilling permitting process has been afflicted with sclerosis. Federal lands are becoming less and less available for development.
Obama does not like carbon; he boasted during the campaign that he would bankrupt coal power plants and that his policies would necessarily boost the price of power. Those words were ignored by much of the media, in thrall to the man they so wanted to win. When the rapture swept journalists into ecstasy who cared about little details here and there about Obama's agenda?
He tried and failed to get a cap and trade bill through Congress. He warned that if that effort failed he would do another end run around Congress and rely on his Environmental Protection Agency to do his dirty work.
Who knows? Maybe Obama has personalized his gripes and made them the basis of public policy. We know how he feels about George Bush and •••• Cheney -- both with strong ties to the oil industry. Maybe he just doesn't care for the South where much of our carbon wealth is found -- a Republican redoubt that he may have just written off as a political wasteland for him.
Hence, gas prices approaching $4 dollars a gallon -- and this is not yet the summer driving season that typically boosts gas prices as demand increases.
This price hike may make New York Times columnist Tom Friedman gleeful. He considers high priced gas (and Chinese authoritarianism) the answer to all ills. He writes column after column on these topics from the baronial splendor of his homes (here is a photo of one of them; he earned his fortune, by the way, by marrying it). Undoubtedly, he salves his conscience regarding the carbon footprints of his homes with checks to buy carbon credits -- and writes more columns castigating us for our addiction to carbon.
But I digress.
How else have the Democrats been trying to change our power industry? By the old-fashioned way: changing the rules of the game (as noted above) and then using our tax dollars to enrich green schemers. The grand champion of spending boosts by Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress has been a 1014% boost in spending for the "Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Program." Then there is something called the Green Jobs Labor Fund-which did not even exist prior to 2009 and has received hundreds of millions of dollars.
But wait...there is more.
Much of the stimulus money also went toward funding green schemes, and one of the major beneficiaries have been solar power promoters. These are, in the words of Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson, "pipe dreams." Many of the promoters and hucksters behind these "ventures" have chummy relationships with Democrats-as will be covered below.
How are these solar dreams playing out? As nightmares, at least for taxpayers.
The latest to turn off the lights is a Massachusetts venture promoted by its Governor, Deval Patrick.
From the Boston Globe:
Evergreen Solar Inc. will eliminate 800 jobs in Massachusetts and shut its new factory at the former military base in Devens, just two years after it opened the massive facility to great fanfare and with about $58 million in taxpayer subsidies.
The company announced yesterday that it will close the plant by the end of March, calling itself a victim of weak demand and competition from cheaper suppliers in China, where the government provides solar companies with generous subsidies.
Evergreen itself has a factory in Wuhan, China, built in collaboration with a Chinese company, Jiawei Solarchina Co. Ltd., and with money from a Chinese government investment fund. The company had previously said it would shift some production from Devens to the Wuhan plant but yesterday was the first time it said Devens would be closed.
The Devens closing is a major hit to Governor Deval Patrick's efforts to make Massachusetts a hub of the emerging clean-energy industry. The administration persuaded Evergreen to build at Devens with a package of grants, land, loans, and other aid originally valued at $76 million. The company ended up taking about $58 million, one of the largest aid packages Massachusetts has provided to a private company, and the governor was the featured guest at Evergreen's ribbon-cutting in July 2008.
Governor Patrick had been criticized during his re-election campaign for providing aid to the plant during a time of economic stress. He ignored the criticism and plowed ahead. He and Barack Obama shared more than plagiarized speech lines and campaign strategist David Axelrod.
There are claw-back provisions allowing the state to recover some of the lost money. But these are mostly window dressing. Officials admit the terms are so complicated and generous that any recovery will be only a token amount. Company officials agree.
This is, of course, an outrage. Money is fungible. Evergreen used its own money to expand in China, took taxpayer dollars to take a fling in Massachusetts, and when that venture failed, just closed the doors and walked away. What a deal! Taxpayers take the risk. If the venture had succeeded, the company and its promoters and investors would have pocketed the gains; when it failed, they just walked away with nary an ounce of obligations to taxpayers. Were the lights, at least, run on solar power?
The landscape of America will be littered with these green scheme boondoggles going belly-up after gorging at the pig trough filled by American taxpayer dollars. Another taxpayer subsidized solar cell maker shut down recently in New York, for example.
Solar power subsidies have helped bankrupt the Spanish economy, and the very government officials who have peddled these schemes are backpedaling furiously to keep their jobs as their taxpayers rise in revolt. The government is slashing subsidies left and right, but may already be too late to save their economy. Meanwhile, at least one Spanish solar power company has found a temporary bandage to slow its fiscal hemorrhaging -- the American taxpayer. Democratic Congressman Paul Kanjorksi, who was not reelected in November, has a nephew who "worked" for the Spanish solar company Abound. Somehow this foreign company was blessed with a 400 million dollar federal grant. Abound will probably join its rivals in Spain into ruin -- the Spanish landscape will be littered with uneconomic solar power plants that will bear more than a little resemblance, metaphorically speaking, to the windmills of Miguel Cervantes Don Quixote.
Even the Spanish media have warned America that Obama is driving America off the green energy cliff. Other European governments are slashing solar tariffs as fast as they can as they to save themselves from drowning in red ink.
Does anyone believe that Barack Obama listens or that this self-declared "student of history" would learn from the Spanish tragedy? Did he listen to Larry Summer, his own resident genius (who recently left the administration) when Summers highlighted a study from the OMB and Treasury Department that found severe problems with the "economic integrity of government support for renewables"?
Only in Washington would a term such as ‘economic integrity" be used to describe a fiscally foolish program that will lead to massive problems in the future.
This tsunami of bankruptcies is headed our way.