Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Smart green failure

_NOrmanI know nobody’s talking about them, but Russel Norman is still talking about “a smart, green economy” as if that were an actual thing.

The Green Party's plan for an innovative economy includes … $1 billion of new government funding over three years for research and development to kick-start a transformational shift in how our economy creates wealth.

What sort of transformational shift? One less “reliant on exporting commodities like milk powder, which is rapidly destroying our rivers and lakes, and leaving our economy increasingly vulnerable to the
fortunes of one market — China,” and more like the “alternative, and that is the Smart Green Economy.”

We can continue down the path of National’s short sighted Pollution Economy or we can change course and embrace a Smart Green Economy. The choice is ours.

Nice, but what exactly is it?

Apparently it’s an economy in which the government sets up “an expert innovation working group … to decide on the best way to deliver this step-change in innovation funding.” This step change being $1 billion in grants, and even more in tax credits, to companies heading in directions favoured by the expert working group – sorry, the expert innovation working group – “a key criterion for assessing all future industry grants” being a “focus” on “sustainability.”

Future governments will have to accept the inevitable failure that comes with investing in innovation along with sharing in the brilliant successes.

And so will future taxpayers.

This model is not new. It was one of Obama’s flagship “stimulus” projects in recent years, with billions being poured into the smart, sustainable new economy. As it happens, yesterday was the third anniversary of stimulus" benefactor Solyndra officially declaring bankruptcy.

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That was just one failure the American taxpayers had to accept. One among many, including:


    • Beacon Power Corp: Received $43 million in federal loan guaranteed in 2009 and also received $29 million in PA grantsBankrupt in October 2011
    • Ener1 (parent company of EnerDel): Received $118.5 million in federal loan guaranteesBankrupt in January 2012 – has since exited bankruptcy
    • Evergreen Solar: Received $58 million in MA loan guarantees (an undisclosed portion sourced from federal ARRA block grant)Bankrupt in August 2011 with $485.6 million in debt
    • SolyndraReceived $535 million in federal loan guarantees in 2009 and $25.1 million in CA tax creditBankrupt in August 2011
    • SpectraWattReceived $500,000 in federal loan guarantees in 2009Bankrupt in August 2011
    • Babcock and Brown: Received $178 million in federal grants in December 2009 (4 months after it went bust)Bankrupt in early 2009
    • Mountain Plaza Inc.: Received $424,000 in federal grants through TN Department of Transportation in 2009Bankrupt      in 2003 and again in June 2010
    • Solar Trust of America (parent company: Solar Millennium from Germany): Received $2.1  billion loan guarantee in April 2011Bankrupt in April 2012
    • A123: Received $300 million in federal grants and $135 million in MI grantsDeclining orders and  multiple layoffs
    • Amonix, Inc.: Received $5.9 million in federal tax credits in 2009 through  ARRALaid off 2/3 of work force
    • First Solar: Received $3 billion in federal loan guaranteesBiggest S&P loser in 2011, CEO fired
    • Fisker Automotive: $529 million in federal loan guaranteesMultiple 2012 sales prediction downgrades for first car release, delivery and cash flow troubles;Assembling cars in Finland
    • Johnson Controls: Received $299 million in federal grants in 2009Low demand caused cancellation of a new factory, operating at half capacity
    • Nevada Geothermal: Received $98.5 million in federal loan guarantees in 2009Defaulting on long-term debt obligations, 85% drop in stock value
    • Sun Power: Received $1.2 billion in federal loan guaranteesDebt exceeds assets; French oil company took over last fall
    • Abound Solar: Received $400 million in federal loans in 2012½ work force laid off
    • BrightSource Energy: $1.6 billion federal loan approved in April 2012 – loan obtained through political connections with the administration; absent the loan, Brightsource’s solar power purchase would have fallen through.

British taxpayers have been sucking up the same failures for years, with the push to “smart, green energy” raises the cost to consumers by £1.1billion; with every job created in the United Kingdom in “renewable energy” costing 3.7 jobs elsewhere; and with Britain’s forest of wind turbines consuming more power in winter (when they’re needed most)  than all the power it produces.

imageSo too have Spanish taxpayers, where 12 billion Euros were spent in 2009 alone, €571,138 to create each “green job,” and with each “green” megawatt installed destroying 5.28 jobs on average elsewhere in the Spanish economy.

So too in Germany, where even with subsidies 300% higher than conventional electricity generation consumers pay nearly ten percent more—and carbon abatement costs at $1,000 per ton for solar power are roughly fifty times the European price for carbon.

So too in the Netherlands, the home of the windmill, where after billions of euros of subsidies, most going outside the Netherlands, Prime Minister Mark Rutte now recognises today’s “windmills turn on subsidies.”

Dr Norman says “"smart, green economics" is the way to go because the international market for sustainable products and clean energy technology is growing rapidly.”

He is talking effluent. Despite all the rhetoric, Russel Norman’s new innovation economy is just another politician picking losers.

Pity then that the media, both new and old, is too busy to challenge him on it.

“Sustainable energy” is not sustainable—not even with subsidies. “Renewable energy” is not renewable—not even by  leaving the taxpayer on the hook for billions.

So, before you and I find ourselves on that hook, why does the media not challenge Russel Norman for continuing to pretend he owns the source to some economic magic bullet?

You tell me?


  1. Take $1 billion off those who already create wealth to start new business ventures, that have been overlooked by thousands of widely experienced & successful entrepreneurs, that only a wise council of academics, statists & sundry busybodies can visualise risking capital which isn't their own. Yep this will work.

  2. Look, even if chairman Wussel was voted in and got his jillion and the "investments" fucked out, he'd still win cos;
    1. the trough-feeders would have been fed,
    2. a hefty % of the loot will go to PR that reminds us how;
    (a) failure is success,
    (b) theft is charity,
    and (c) it was the heretics' and oil companies' fault anyway.

    J Cuttance


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