Obama's Big Green Boondoggles
September 14, 2011 - 4:45 AM
But buried in the details of his latest government jobs bill released this week — Spawn of the Spendulus, Porky's II, Night of the Keynesian Dead — are yet more big green boondoggles that will reward cronies, waste taxpayer dollars and make no dent in the jobless rate.
After pouring half a billion bucks into Solyndra, the company filed for Chapter 11 last month and laid off 1,110 employees. Obama administration officials met with Solyndra execs at least 20 times; the green cheerleader-in-chief personally visited and promoted the company in 2009 before his administration fast-tracked approval for the loans.
Solyndra is now the third solar company to go belly-up this year. Yet the Energy Department is doubling down on failure. As the FBI and House GOP investigators launch a probe into Enron-style accounting problems with Solyndra's books, DOE is doling out more than $850 million in new loan guarantees for another California solar firm sponsored by NextEra Energy, along with nearly $200 million more for separate solar manufacturing facilities on the West Coast.
Obama claims new "investments" in environmentally friendly school construction projects will put thousands of Americans back to work immediately. (Never mind that Big Labor-backed rules and executive orders will raise the cost of the projects, slow their implementation and freeze out the vast majority of non-union contractors.) Among the new green pork initiatives: $25 billion for green roofs, green cleaning, installation of renewable energy generation and heating systems, and "modernization, renovation, or repair activities related to energy efficiency and renewable energy."
But how are existing green construction spending programs working in practice?
A brand-new report from Texas Watchdog, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative group, sheds inconvenient light on Obama's $5 billion stimulus-funded Weatherization Assistance Program. In Texas alone, the $327 million program has spent more than $226,000 on each of the 1,041 jobs the program is claimed to have created or saved.
Intended to "green" low-income homes, at least three of the original participating organizations have been shut down due to chronic mismanagement, fraud allegations and shoddy workmanship.
Baylor University economist Earl Grinols summed up: "First, it is not an appropriate government function to provide weatherization of private homes. Second, even viewed as a stimulus measure, it is not very effective as a stimulus based on cost-per-job, and third, it appears not to be well-managed."
Nearly 31 months after Porkulus One was signed, the Texas housing agency still hasn't spent $91.6 million in allocated weatherization/green construction funds. Millions cannot be accounted for by auditors and inspectors.
Now, multiply that by 49 other states. A review of the weatherization boondoggle last year revealed state-trained workers were flubbing insulation jobs in Indiana, according to the Associated Press. In "Alaska, Wyoming and the District of Columbia, the program (had) yet to produce a single job or retrofit one home. And in California, a state with nearly 37 million residents, the program at last count had created 84 jobs."
The Washington Examiner's Tim Carney, a vigilant chronicler of green subsidies, notes that time and again, it's Obama insiders and Democratic operatives pocketing all the green while the unemployment hovers at double-digits. To wit: "Al Gore acolyte Cathy Zoi was Obama's assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy while her husband was an executive at a company that received direct subsidies from the Obama administration and profited from the Cash-for-Caulkers bill Zoi's division implemented."
Treasury Department Chief of Staff Mark Patterson lobbied for Goldman Sachs on ethanol subsidies while holding down his job in the administration. And last year, another Obama pet project — Illinois-based FutureGen, a near-zero emissions coal power plant — received a $1 billion stimulus earmark despite having been previously defunded over doubts about the feasibility and efficiency of the project.
An Obama green job trainee with seven certificates, Carlos Arandia, spoke for all non-crony Americans when he asked last fall: "What is the point of giving somebody the tools to do something but to have nowhere to use them?" Perhaps the White House can find a way to weatherize all the Grand Canyon-sized taxpayer sinkholes that "green job" spending has created.