Spain exposed the boondoggle of wind power in 2009, discrediting an idea touted by the Obama administration. In response, U.S. officials banded with trade lobbyists to hide the facts.
It was a cold day at the Energy Department when researchers at King Juan Carlos University in Spain released a study showing that every “green job” created by the wind industry killed off 4.27 other jobs elsewhere in the Spanish economy.
Research director Gabriel Calzada Alvarez didn’t object to wind power itself, but found that when a government artificially props up this industry with subsidies, higher electrical costs (31%), tax hikes (5%) and government debt follow. Fact is, these subsidies have the same “Cuisinart” effect on jobs as wind-generating propeller blades have on birds. Every green job costs $800,000 to create and 90% of them are temporary, he found.
Alvarez made no bones about the lessons of Spain for the Obama administration, which has big plans for “green jobs.” His report warned of “considerable employment consequences” from “self-inflicted economic wounds.” It forecast that the U.S. could lose 6.6 million jobs if it followed Spain, and it “should certainly expect its results to follow such a tendency.”
A few months later, Danish researchers at the Center for Politiske Studier came to the same conclusion about subsidized wind power from their own country’s experience.
“It is fair to assess that no wind energy to speak of would exist if it had to compete on market terms,” their report said.
Straightforward experience, facts and the logical conclusions about policy failure in Europe should be de rigueur in science, and the reports coming from nations with long experience in wind power ought to be taken seriously.
But they had no place in the Obama administration, which had declared a “green jobs” agenda with $2.3 billion in tax credits to create 17,000 “high-quality green jobs.”
“Building a robust clean energy sector is how we will create the jobs of the future,” said President Obama.
So at the release of the reports — as well as publication of a critical column by the Washington Post’s George Will — bureaucrats at the Energy Department went into defensive mode. Instead of doing like John Maynard Keynes (who changed his conclusions when the facts changed), they “huddled” with left-wing activists and trade lobbyists to hide the facts and smear the truth-tellers from Europe. They cooked up their own “memo” to discredit the foreign academics, effectively making the Energy Department a taxpayer-subsidized arm of green activists.
Christopher C. Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, obtained the bureaucrats’ e-mails through the Freedom of Information Act, and published the details:
“It’s critical we respond, this thing won’t die and its (sic) doing a good job of undermining our green job message. If we put together a call with CAP (Center for American Progress), can ucs (Union of Concerned Scientists) participate on a comprehensive response?” wrote Elizabeth Salerno of the American Wind Energy Association in a panicky e-mail to Suzanne Tegan of the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Tegan called for a phone meeting the next day to draft a response.
In her e-mail called “Follow Up,” Tegan then wrote: “we are working with AWEA (who is working with UCS and others) to put out a response to this report, which is methodologically unsound, and states that renewable energy policy in Spain (and therefore the U.S.) is a waste of money and actually costs jobs rather than creates jobs.
The report directly addresses the Obama administration’s ideas and policies,” she added, urging nine names on her list to look over her report and send her their comments so it could be passed up the chain of command at Energy.
“Hi guys, This is a great document!” gushed AWEA wind lobbyist Jessica Isaacs to the Energy officials. “Very clear and concise. Mostly I wanted to write ‘good point!’ or ‘nice refutation’ in the margins but tried to keep it to some constructive feedback, please find attached.”
Tegan referred to the lobbyists at AWEA and private think tank CAP as “colleagues.” In another twist, showing that she wasn’t just part of a rogue group, she reported pressure from Assistant Energy Secretary Cathy Zoi. She wondered how Zoi had learned of their memo plans, suggesting that someone from outside the agency had told her.
“Heard 2nd hand that Rob Gramlich has a new wind/jobs study that could counter George Will’s crappy op ed of this week. How close are we? Can we get it out now?” Zoi e-mailed to the group.
What this shows is a shameless politicization of what should be a professional bureaucracy. Instead of staying objective, they sought to scupper facts for ideologically motivated junk science. It also shows how influential radical activists and trade lobbyists are in the Obama administration, something the president had promised to hose out during his presidential campaign.
Among the outsiders at Energy’s “in” crowd was the Center for American Progress, a think tank partly funded by billionaire investor George Soros and led by John Podesta, a man who visitor logs show was at the White House 31 times over two months in the fall of 2009, the only period from which records are available. Two of his visits were with officials prominent on green issues.
Whatever that means, it amounts to an authentic scandal in the league of Climate-gate, where leaked e-mails exposed the fraud of global warming data at the University of East Anglia and the effort of academics to cover it up.
“The least revelatory aspect of this was the hollowness of the Obama administration’s claims to having driven lobbyists from the executive branch. Providing an inside role for politically favored industries in developing official administration statements falls even further from the rhetoric,” said CEI’s Horner, in an e-mail to IBD.
“Worse, with direct communications with ideological activists like CAP and UCS undoubtedly the anticipated and regular subject of FOIA requests, we also see how the Obama administration employed an industry lobby to channel the influence of such groups into the administration’s inner workings to circumvent the expected pathway for scrutiny,” said Horner, who also noted that Energy officials have since misled Congress.
With that the modus operandi of Energy now, questions are raised as to how objective any of its reports are. Can we trust what it says? Or shall the department be written off as out-of-touch politicians are?
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