Global warming greed
641 federal programs throw taxpayer money at windmills and solar panels
It’s only now becoming clear how many people have become rich thanks to the globalwarming scare. Politicians from both parties have been so afraid of being labeled a “denier” that they’ll vote for any piece of legislation bearing the trendy green label. The numbers are adding up fast.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) counted a whopping 641 programs in place at 130 federal agencies in 2010 to prop up windmill technology and underwrite solar panel manufacturers. The report released Tuesday didn’t include a reliable estimate of the total cost to taxpayers. The auditors found the array of loans, tax credits, agency purchases of purportedly green vehicles and the cost of regulations would take a great deal of effort to tally.
For instance, the Commerce Department has a Joint Wind Energy Program, Clean Energy Trade Missions, a Global Climate Change Mitigation Incentive Fund, an Environmentally Sustainable Development Investment Priority and a Green Technology Pilot Program — to name just a few. These programs frequently overlap, as the Commerce Department also runs a Green Ship Initiative. The secretary of defense has his own Renewable At-sea Power Program. The Navy has an Energy Program for Security and Independence, an Alternative Fuels Program, a Third Party-financed Medium Scale Renewable Power Generation program, and more. Of course, the U.S. Navy was founded on renewable energy. It was wind power that propelled Capt. John Paul Jones and the USS Ranger to victory in battle with the HMS Drake in 1778.
Wind power made sense in the 18th century, but it doesn’t make sense now. The private sector isn’t interested in blowing money on hopelessly uneconomic windmill and solar projects, so at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing Tuesday, the case was made that the government must step in. Chairman Jeff Bingaman defended the $34 billion Department of Energy (DOE) green loan guarantees. “My impression is that, overall, the program is doing what it is designed to do — and that is to take on risks that private investors are not willing to take on,” said the New Mexico Democrat. This is the source of taxpayer money that Solyndra tapped into before going bankrupt.
Uncle Sam is terrible when it comes to managing money. GAO slammed the administration’s haphazard process for green loan approvals, saying “it is difficult for DOE to defend its decisions” against charges of favoritism.
Even more important, it’s hard to justify offering any green energy subsidies at all. Sen. Al Franken gave his best effort Tuesday, saying, “The bark beetle is eating more and more of our forests because of climate change.” The Minnesota Democrat added, “Taxpayer dollars are at risk if we don’t address this and try to get to clean energy.”
Tens of billions of dollars is a bit much to spend on a pest-control effort. Instead of this political allocation of capital, the market should be free to judge whether an alternative energy technology is truly promising, free from the distorting influence of congressional subsidy.