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This week in Coon Valley, where I’ve lived for 15 years, we were hit with frost that ended the growing season for unprotected plants.  I have said for years that the first killing frost is always around the first of October, depending on the timing of cold fronts, but this year was earlier than normal – earlier than its been for many years I think (I’m getting old so I’m becoming a walking almanac like your grandfather is/was).

To the point, I thought, the killing frost may be symbolic of the death of “green,” I don’t think the death of the concept just yet, but the death of the term.  “Green” may join the trash heap of burned out terms that were symbolic of failure and/or some sort of scandal:

  • “Jobs created” converted to “jobs created or saved”.
  • “Global warming” converted to “climate change”.
  • “Stimulus” converted to [I’m not sure what yet but Nancy Pelosi has declared the term “stimulus” to be off limits]

A few months ago when we were rebuilding our website and updating some content, I was pondering for a replacement for the word “sustainable”.  The word is entirely overused and I don’t think the average Joe Public has a clue what it means – maybe something hippie-like, living in communes, drinking herbal tea, wearing hemp over a Bob Marley tie-dyed tee shirt and dreadlocks, and riding a crappy looking single speed bicycle.

Green is also wearing out its welcome if you ask me.  Speeding it to its death is the raft of bad news coming from what I would call misallocated stimulus (ironically) funds.  I mentioned the Solyndra bomb a couple weeks back, but then it was merely a half billion dollars of taxpayer money that might as well have been pelleted and mixed in with coal and burned to generate electricity.  THE US GOVERNMENT BLOWS A HALF BILLION DOLLARS!  READ ALL ABOUT IT!, as the boy would yell on the street corner selling newspapers in the old days.  In 2011 however, a half billion dollars of totally wasted taxpayer money is barely worth mentioning.  Something like this would be buried on page 21 of the Arts and Leisure page, next to the movie listings.

The Solyndra episode has ballooned into a scandal of sorts.  When boiled down, it was actually a $500 million dollar television ad for the President to tout successful green jobs in a state of the art manufacturing facility, in California of all places – probably the worst place in the union to make anything.  At first it was hyperventilating right wingers on Fox News parading the successful failure of green jobs and the Obama administration.

However, now everyone including numerous news outlets, congress, and even the FBI is piling on like a school of piranha attacking a case of bratwurst.  ABC first broke the scandal part of this they claim.  The CEO was a crony donor to the President. And the best part: venture capitalists (of the private sector stripe) are first in line to get their money out during bankruptcy “restructuring”.  Taxpayers last – my anthem for all government activity.  Taxpayers are always last in line for any sort of break.  Solyndra will not emerge from bankruptcy.  It will be liquidated.  Anybody need some light fixtures, fancy cabinetry, office furniture or equipment?  Robots?  The liquidation is my prediction because any company that burns through cash this fast and manufactures a product that competes against a similar product at 1/6 the cost is unsalvageable.

In other galling cases, we have General Electric, with CEO Jeffrey total-failure Imelt on the President’s jobs task force maneuvering to pay zero income taxes thanks in large part to “green energy” tax credits.  In ten years Imelt has guided the company with a starting share price of $55, now trading at $15.  Imelt claims he’s advising the president on jobs, not tax policy.  Right.  His henchmen are lobbying the bajeebas out of Capitol Hill for these tax breaks and loopholes.  Regarding the jobs advisory, he is doing a fine job as he moves GE Healthcare manufacturing from Wisconsin to China.

Look; companies are free to make stuff where they want.  A major reason for moving offshore is high corporate taxes for the unfavorable companies (like ours) and red tape like, oh, SarbOx, Frank-Dodd, OSHA, EPA, NLRB, protesters, and an incomprehensible byzantine tax code.  I do have a problem with lobbying and manipulating tax code to one’s benefit.  I do have a problem with Imelt being in the White House all the time on a jobs and competitiveness advisory this or that with the President.  Why doesn’t the President immediately boost his image by losing this guy and holding a rose garden ceremony to do so?

In another success story, Whirlpool, which purchased Maytag about five years ago and closed the Newton, Iowa clothes washer and dryer plant, also pays no income tax thanks to green tax credits.  It also happens to be moving jobs south of the border.  Are these green jobs that are being exported?

Combine once-great American companies that move most manufacturing overseas, while paying no tax on the money they do still earn onshore with throwing taxpayer money in the incinerator for political photo ops and you get “green jobs” becoming a vulgar taboo phrase.

In still more program-formerly-known-as-stimulus news, $38 million in weatherization funds do wonders in West Virginia.  The money was filtered down from the state to local “anti-poverty agencies”.  Half the projects failed inspection.  Projects were doled out without bidding per state law.  Employees (of the weatherizers) and their relatives served themselves first, one spending $10k with new windows and doors.  I’m surprised they didn’t build a garage and call it a vestibule.  A lawyer was paid $25,000 (that’s right, twenty-five thousand dollars) to write two sentences approving the awarding of funds to the agencies.  The topper of them all, and there’s no way Jay Leno could come up with this, one person was paid $2,500 to inform Washington there was not enough money to track the money.

I get the feeling we won’t be hearing about the creation of green jobs much longer, if ever again.  Actually, the word green may even become foul.

This is bad for our industry and we are going to suffer collateral damage and take some shrapnel from this I am concerned.  As I’ve been beating on the past month, independent and in depth evaluation of program impacts and cost effectiveness are needed.  The way to do it is to have government (regulators) police the private sector – utilities and other implementers, using other private sector evaluators.


I kid you not.  After writing the above, I came across this article in the NYT.  Yes, in addition to the banning of the word “stimulus”, “green” is now verboten per the White House.

Jeff Ihnen

Author Jeff Ihnen

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