Wednesday, August 31, 2011

“Green Jobs Initiative”: Fraud, Waste, Abuse, Failure

I sat and watched, in morbid fascination, the acceptance speech of Obama at his anointing in St Paul in 2008, as his hubris perhaps reached its height (yes, that is an arguable point) when he proclaimed that

I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless [Really?  We have never done that before?]; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal . . .
It was touching to note that the speech was given at night as an apparent deference to his humility, so that the crowd could not be distracted by the sight of the clouds parting.  I was dumbfounded by the arrogance of the statement, and my instant thought was of the story of King Canute the Great when he commanded the tide to recede.

But not even Obama could expect that the oceans would recede at his mere presence.  No, the beauty of his proclamation would be that he would provide the means to heal the planet by providing proven, environmentally-friendly, efficient systems of power to substitute for the gargantuan power system that drives the world’s civilisation.  Surely, we wouldn’t move to limit or cripple our present energy systems with technologies that had not yet been shown to be efficient, or even possible, would we?  Well, “Yes, We Can!”

Just as the administration and the Democrats of Congress maintain a seemingly willful ignorance of the European failed socialist experience in its many forms (political, cultural, economic, . . .), so too the ignorance of the failed European experience with alternative forms of energy.  The country that has bought into the idea of alternative energy sources more aggressively than any other has been Spain.  Yet a report in 2009 by Dr Gabriel Calzada Álvarez of the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos has demonstrated the dismal failure of the Spanish drive into the field of wind farms, solar thermal power plants, and other forms of alternative energy.  Part of the Spanish plan has been to create jobs in this new industry, and they have, but at a cost of some $752,000 to $800,000 each.  In the wind industry area, the jobs can cost up to $1.4 million each.  As if this isn’t enough, Calzada goes on to show that each new green job comes at the cost of 2.2 jobs lost elsewhere in the economy.  All this is tied up with efforts in the industry to game the system in obtaining subsidies, profiteering, and other forms of corruption endemic throughout the European experience.  (I recently spent some  time in Spain and I was taken by the blunt assessments of the citizens.)

Other countries are finding that the results are not matching the predictions, such as in Germany and Denmark, as well as the Netherlands:
The Dutch national wind capacity factor is a dismal 0.186.  The German wind capacity factor “is even more dismal at 0.167,” the article said.
Expanding wind power to meet the European Union’s 20 percent renewables target by 2020 meant adding at least another thousand 3 MW, 450-foot wind turbines to the Dutch landscape “at a cost of about $6 billion.”   Not surprisingly, the Dutch people found that to be far too costly – “an intrusion into their lives and an unacceptable return on their investment, especially when considering the small quantity of CO2 reduction per invested dollar.”
And we are still learning that the idea is the same here, as in TexasAnd in Seattle, there is the story of the $20 million stimulus allocation to create 2000 new green jobs, weatherproofing some 2000 homes:
But more than a year later, Seattle’s numbers are lackluster. As of last week, only three homes had been retrofitted and just 14 new jobs have emerged from the program. Many of the jobs are administrative, and not the entry-level pathways once dreamed of for low-income workers. Some people wonder if the original goals are now achievable.
 There is also this report from the Orange County Register:
Lowlights of the saga include the recent bankruptcy of Evergreen Solar Inc. of Massachusetts, recipient of $58 million in direct subsidies and tax breaks, including federal "stimulus" funding, but which cut 800 jobs and is now $485 million in debt, with more job losses to come with the closure of a Michigan plant.  Green Vehicles of Salinas received $500,000 in city subsidies, but closed last month without having produced anything of significance, Human Events magazine reported.  The company had promised to create 70 jobs and pay back local taxpayers $700,000 a year in taxes.  
Even the New York Times finds that the programme has not lived up to its promises:
Federal and state efforts to stimulate creation of green jobs have largely failed, government records show. Two years after it was awarded $186 million in federal stimulus money to weatherize drafty homes, California has spent only a little over half that sum and has so far created the equivalent of just 538 full-time jobs in the last quarter . . . 
Job training programs intended for the clean economy have also failed to generate big numbers. The Economic Development Department in California reports that $59 million in state, federal and private money dedicated to green jobs training and apprenticeship has led to only 719 job placements — the equivalent of an $82,000 subsidy for each one. 
One has to ask: where is all this money going?  Surely it isn't going to the workers.  If not, then where?  This is a massive hemorrhaging of money.

The stories continue, but let me finish up this long exposition with the latest news in the area of electric cars, a major portion of the upcoming green technology and economy.  There are two principal contenders on the market – the Chevrolet Volt and the Nissan Leaf, but sales have been dismal.  Obama proclaims that these two cars represent “the future” and justifies the large government investment partially on the fact that China has geared up as a major competitor, and we simply cannot lose this race.  But now comes word that China is pulling out of the race:
Beijing appears to be rethinking its singular focus on electric vehicles as a way to reduce fuel consumption and seems ready to revise its alternative-energy vehicle estimates as it becomes increasingly evident that the city’s electric vehicle targets were completely unrealistic.

Beijing – and in some ways, the whole of China – had set out to leapfrog conventional engine technology by developing and manufacturing huge amounts of electric vehicles. In particular, the city had hoped its push to develop plug-ins would give it an advantage over the West in electric vehicle technology. But hopes and dreams don't always jive with reality.

Plug-in vehicle sales in China have been poor and, even though no formal decision has been taken to abandon the nation's grand electric vehicle scheme, some higher-ups in Beijing are reportedly rethinking the policy.
No less than Wen Jiabao, the Chinese premier, has publically questioned the policy toward alternative power train vehicles.  Warren Buffet, who invested some $200 million in the Chinese company that produces the electric e6, surely must be disappointed in the fact that it has sold only 53 cars since March 2010.

Maybe the electric car technology, and even green technology as a whole, will take off sometime in the future, but it won’t be any time soon, certainly not within the next several years.  This looks like we can file this under the same heading as Obama’s shovel-ready jobs.

President Obama faces political catastrophe in the form of Solyndra -- a San Francisco Bay area solar company that he touted as a gleaming example of green technology.  It has announced it will declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  More than 1,100 people will lose their jobs.
During a visit to the Fremont facility in spring of 2010, the President said the factory "is just a testament to American ingenuity and dynamism and the fact that we continue to have the best universities in the world, the best technology in the world, and most importantly the best workers in the world. "
It's not his statements the administration will regret; it's the loan guarantees.  The President was celebrating $535 million in federal promises from the Department of Energy to the solar startup.  The administration didn't do its due diligence, says the Government Accountability Office.  "There's a consequence if you don't follow a rigorous process that's transparent," Franklin Rusco of GAO told the website iWatch News.
 This is the third major solar panel company to shut down in the last month.

Update:  The Canadians haven't fared any better in the realm of electric cars.

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