Commerce Secretary Defends 'Green' Investments Using Gambler's Logic

Craig Bannister
By Craig Bannister | October 3, 2011 | 10:56 AM EDT

Discussing the risks of the government’s new $12 million bet on “green” technologies, the acting Commerce Dept. secretary sounds like she’s quoting from the Big Book Of Gambling Clichés. Problem is, she’s playing with our money.

Last week, acting Commerce Sec. Rebecca Black announced six new government grants totaling $12 million for six new green technology centers that the administration is betting will turn out to be “winners.”

Asked about one of the losers - a $535-million federal loan guarantee to the Solyndra company that makes solar panels, but which recently filed for bankruptcy – Sec. Black defended future green gambles using variations of gambling clichés.

“You Gotta’ Play To Win”:

The U.S. can’t afford to not be a major winner in this race,” Blank said Thursday on a conference call with reporters. “That necessarily means that there’s going to be some capital investment by the U.S. government.

“You Gotta’ Bet Big To Win Big” and “You Win Some, You Lose Some”:

“Make no mistake, that when you’re in a new innovation race of the sort that we are with every other advanced country in the world you are always out there on the cutting edge,” she said, “and that involves both big returns but sometimes involves some risks [of failure] as well.”

These are winners that we think are going to produce what they promise,” she said.

“There’s No Such Thing As A Sure Thing”:

“But it is new technology and that means that there is sometimes risks.”

It reminds me of one of those corporate-sponsored “Casino Night” events. They hand you chips when you walk in the door, and if you’ve got any left over at the end of the night, you can trade them in for prizes. If you don’t, you’re no worse off than when you came in.

Same here. The government places bets on “green” technologies with our taxes dollars, and if they don’t’ win, you and I are stuck with the tab.

Notice that there’s one important gambling adage that didn’t seem to make it into Sec. Black’s comments: you don’t play with money you can’t afford to lose.

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