The Obama administration has spent three years and billions of tax dollars in efforts to jump start a “green energy” industry in the United States. The president says that “sustainable,” clean energy sources are the wave of the future, vital to America’s future security and the well-being of the entire planet. And yet, after all this time and all that money, all the administration has to show for those efforts are a series of spectacular failures that would make a less arrogant leader blush.
The Solyndra fiasco is the highest-profile of the president’s many green failures, but it’s hardly the only one. Barely a week goes by but that we learn of yet another government-funded “clean energy” boondoggle. Let’s consider a few examples.
Late last year, Beacon Power Company filed for bankruptcy protection. Beacon had previously received a $39 million government-guaranteed loan in order to fund research aimed at producing energy storage devices on an industrial scale. These kinds of “super batteries” are necessary solely to cover for the deficiencies and unreliability of solar and wind power.
Last Thursday, Ener1 Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection. Ener1 develops lithium storage batteries for electric cars manufactured by a company called Think Holdings, AS, which in turn has a manufacturing company located in Elkhart, Indiana. Ener1 received over $130 million in stimulus funds, and a $480 million loan from the Energy Department, promising to deliver 1,400 jobs to Indiana, while Think Holdings would generate a further 415 jobs. To date, Enre1 has created 275 jobs, while Think Holdings is down to 2 people who guard a plant at which about 100 electric vehicles – most of them unfinished – sit idly in storage.
A year ago, Vice President Joe Biden hailed Ener1 as one of “100 Recovery Act projects changing America.” “A year and a half ago, this administration made a judgment,” he said at the time. “We decided it’s not sufficient to create new jobs—we have to create whole new industries.” Unfortunately for Ener1, the free market did not share the Vice President’s enthusiasm. Demand for expensive, short ranged, small electric cars has not materialized, and thus Ener1 has no market for its product.
Even the much-ballyhooed Chevy Volt has turned into a disaster. Fire hazards aside, there is simply no demand for the vehicle beyond some arms of government, a few corporations with cash to waste and rich, tree-hugging celebrities who can afford the luxury of pretentiousness. Chevrolet hoped to sell 10,000 Volts in 2011. Actual sales amounted to 7,671 units. GM has temporarily laid off 1,200 workers on the Volt production line and is considering slowing down production. A recent study concluded that real cost of Volt – when you consider all of the government subsidies involved in developing and building the car – is about $250,000 per unit. To borrow one of the environmental movement’s favorite terms, it’s hard to see how production of the Volt could ever be sustainable in the free market.
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