Extracting sunbeams from cucumbers and Obama’s alternative energy schemes
Jonathon Swift, if you recall, penned “Gulliver’s Travels” as a satire on human nature, and it is as fresh today as it was in 1726. During Gulliver’s third voyage to the island of Laputa, he observes the ruin resulting from the mindless pursuit of science while ignoring practical results. He found that Laputa’s Grand Academy of Lagado, to the detriment of its inhabitants and its treasury, expended great resources on researching completely preposterous schemes as extracting sunbeams from cucumbers, softening marble for use in pillows, learning how to mix paint by smell and uncovering political conspiracies by examining the excrement of suspicious persons. (Can you even imagine what Homeland Security could do with that one?)
When Mr. Obama gets into his hymn of praise for alternative energy and green jobs, one has to think of Swift, Gulliver and the Grand Academy. “We’ll invest $15 billion a year over the next decade in renewable energy,” he told us in 2008, “creating five million new green jobs that pay well, can’t be outsourced and help end our dependence on foreign oil.”
Given the administration’s track record in their green energy investing, their ideas look no more realistic than attempts to extract sunbeams from cucumbers, or in Jonah Goldberg’s pithy phrase, relying on Unicorns to poop green energy. Let’s face it: The environmental dream of a world without carbon-based energy, a world without coal, natural gas and petroleum, is about as unrealistic as anything Gulliver observed at the Grand Academy of Lagado. Mr. Obama’s energy program, if such it can be called, is not producing energy; it is producing bankruptcies, layoffs and loan defaults.
The high point of Obama energy this year so far was Feb. 29 when they went a whole 22 days without an embarrassing green energy failure. Abound Solar broke the string whey they announced they have to lay off 70 percent of its work force (280 workers) and put off building a new factory. Company officials didn’t mention repaying any of the $400 million they received from the Department of Energy.
Just two days later GM announced they were laying off 1,300 Volt workers in order to, in the words of a GM spokesman, “align our production with demand.” I presume when aligning production with demand requires you to halt production, you can assume demand is down a bit.
At least GM wasn’t announcing bankruptcy but not as much could be said for Solar Trust for America, which announced their bankruptcy filing April 5, 2012. They couldn’t make it even though Energy Secretary Steven Chu had just made a conditional commitment to give them $2.1 billion in loan guarantees.
A123 Systems, an electric vehicle battery manufacturer, is planning to file for bankruptcy while it fights a class action lawsuit that alleges they produced faulty batteries and deceived investors, causing them to pay an inflated price for the stock. It doesn’t help that on April 11 one of their batteries exploded during a test at GM, sending one worker to the hospital. A123 also has to spend $55 million to replace defective battery packs sold to Fisker Automotive, the car company that, as Robert Bryce reports in National Review Online, “is using a U.S. government loan to make high-performance $100,000 vehicles in Finland.” (The Finnish are partial to U.S. government loans but are said to get cranky if you supply them exploding batteries.)
A list of bankrupt or soon-to-be-bankrupt companies and their loan guarantees and grants compiled by Heritage Action for American illustrates the current futility of the renewable energy program: Solyndra – $535 million; Beacon Power – $43 million; Nevada Geothermal – $98.5 million; Sun Power – $1.5 billion; First Solar – $3 billion; Babcock & Brown – $178 million; Ener1 – $118.5 million; Amonix – $5.9 million; Abound Solar – $400 million; Solar Trust of America – $2.1 billion; A123 Systems – $279 million; Willard & Kelsey Solar Group – $6 million. Oh yes, all of the above has taken place in the last 30 months. (Can’t say Secretary Chu and the Department of Energy haven’t been busy.)
You may have noticed, but Mr. Obama and columnists like Tom Friedman have worked hard to convince us that we are in a race with China and Europe in the development of green power technology. We are told they lead in this, or they lead in that, and if we don’t spend billions upon billions on companies like Solyndra we’ll be doomed to use carbon-based energy while China and Europe sail off into the sunlit uplands of clean energy.
Not so fast: News from China is instructive, that is if the president and the rest of us are willing to listen. Premier Wen Jiabao announced that China would stop expanding its wind and solar industries, choosing instead to focus on nuclear, hydroelectric and shale fracking for natural gas. China is now reportedly building two coal-fired power stations a week while the anti carbon-based fuel crowd at EPA are busy closing coal plants in the United States.
The transition from carbon-based fuels to alternative energy in Europe has hit a snag. A report by Dr. Guenter Keil of the Technical University of Munich and the Federal Research Ministry states: “Germany’s rushed shift to renewable energies is compromising Europe’s entire power grid. The problem, according to Dr. Keil is, “These (solar and wind) sources are weather-dependent and thus their sporadic supply is starting to wreak havoc on Germany’s power grid and is even now threatening to destabilize power grids all across Europe.” Germany, like China, has announced it is scaling back green energy subsidies.
We are abandoning our lead in space to the Russians and the Chinese because it might cost as much as $57 billion in the next decade. Well, I know where you could get $150 billion — that is what Obama has pledged to spend in the next decade on the Solyndras and the Abound Solars and the rest of the questionable green energy companies now fighting for a place at the federal tit.