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Green Jobs in the Red

From the Scrapbook

Sep 12, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 48
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It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week for green jobs. Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturing company much ballyhooed by the Obama administration, declared bankruptcy. The company had received $535 million in September 2009 from a Department of Energy grant program funded by the stimulus. Supposedly, the grant would create 4,000 jobs—at a bargain basement cost to taxpayers of $133,750 per job.

Obama Photo

Obama at Solyndra in 2010


At the time the grant was issued, Joe Biden proclaimed that the investment in Solyndra is “exactly what the Recovery Act is all about.” In hindsight, The Scrapbook agrees with the vice president wholeheartedly. 

As if the White House didn’t have enough rhetorical egg on its face, Obama himself gave a speech at Solyndra in 2010 in which he declared, “You’re demonstrating that the promise of clean energy isn’t just an article of faith. .  .  .  It’s happening right now. The future is here.” 

The truth is that “green jobs” is a 21st-century euphemism for a more familiar term—crony capitalism. It’s probably not surprising to learn that one of Solyndra’s key investors, Tulsa billionaire George Kaiser, was an Obama campaign “bundler” raising between $50,000 and $100,000 for the president’s 2008 race; Kaiser himself, along with Solyndra executives and board members, donated another $87,050. 

Not surprisingly, that kind of campaign cash will get you preferential treatment. House Energy Committee chairman Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, recently sent a letter to the White House that read, “We have learned from our investigation that White House officials monitored Solyndra’s application and communicated with [Energy] and Office of Management and Budget officials during the course of their review.” Upton is promising to investigate the question of improper influence thoroughly. 

The Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News and ABC News have further discovered that Energy Department officials announced support for Solyndra even before final marketing and legal reviews on the grant were completed—a move that raised the eyebrows of a Government Accountability Office analyst. 

Nonetheless, the Department of Energy is unchastened. “The project that we supported succeeded,” DOE spokesman Damien LaVera said Wednesday. This led the Washington Examiner to ask the relevant question: “So a bankrupt firm lays off all of its workers after blowing through half a billion in private venture capital, then consuming half-a-billion in taxpayer-subsidized loans, and this is a ‘success?’ What would failure look like?”

Of course, there were already reams of evidence that “green jobs” programs were destined to fail. After the president praised Spain no less than eight times as a model for a green jobs economy, Bloomberg reported on a Spanish university study that concluded “subsidizing renewable energy in the U.S. may destroy two jobs for every one created if Spain’s experience with windmills and solar farms is any guide.” FOIA emails showed the DOE and EPA coordinating with wind industry lobbyists and liberal think tanks to try to put a positive spin on the story.

Alas, even the White House’s favorite media organ is not buying the green jobs hype any more. Last month, the New York Times ran a story announcing that the “Number of Green Jobs Fails to Live Up to Promises.” Although it recited a litany of failed jobs programs, the article actually understated the problem. “A study released in July by the non-partisan Brookings Institution found clean-technology jobs accounted for just 2 percent of employment nationwide,” observed the Times

Time magazine delved a little more deeply into the Brookings study and found that “more than 90 percent of the clean economy by Brookings and Battelle’s accounting lie in older segments that provide basic services—mass transit—or fight long-existing environmental problems like polluted air and water.” The most common “green job,” employing 400,000 workers, is waste management and treatment.

In other words, those guys who have the thankless task of hauling your garbage away every week are now holding down dynamic, politically exciting green jobs.

Ozzie and Harriet Live!

The Scrapbook has a weakness for perennial newspaper stories—the old Willkie voter horrified by today’s Republican party, a onetime professional athlete now down on his luck—and the Washington Post carried one of our favorites last week: “Minorities are now the majority in D.C. region.” This was on the front page, of course.

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