Skip to content

With this week’s bankruptcy filing, the great Evergreen Solar experiment is now officially a staggering failure, but the fantasy that the state can buy new jobs with a fat investment of taxpayer cash may live on.

“Not every company is going to be successful,” Gov. Deval Patrick’s top economic adviser said after the bankruptcy announcement, in a rather impressive display of understatement. “But we still believe the approach of providing business incentives to create and maintain manufacturing jobs in Massachusetts is an important strategy.”

But that’s just it — these weren’t the usual “business incentives,” typically limited to tax benefits for whole industries (think tax credits for financial services companies).

No, this was a sweetheart deal for a single company that had never demonstrated the ability to make money.

It was a case of politicians taking a flyer on a pet industry — alternative energy with its promise of all those “green jobs” — with your tax dollars. All when it was entirely foreseeable that China could do the same job that Evergreen was doing, but for less.

Now even the dream of recovering some of the cash granted to Evergreen by the generous people of the Patrick administration has died with the bankruptcy filing. It seems unlikely that taxpayers will recover a dime of the $31 million spent on Evergreen (another $27 million had been committed). We’re even getting stiffed on the rent for the plant we helped build on state-owned land in Devens.

And don’t think these lessons will be taken to heart by the green energy zealots who remain convinced that government can simply spend its way to a thriving industry, be it here in Massachusetts or in Washington. Even as Bay State taxpayers were absorbing news of the bankruptcy filing the White House yesterday was announcing a $510 million “investment” to develop the next generation of biofuels.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu proclaimed that this new industry “will replace imported crude oil with secure, renewable fuels made here in the U.S.” All with a half-billion in federal cash? Sure . . .

The president, at least, acknowledged that building the biofuels industry “cannot be the role of government alone,” so the feds will partner with the private sector. And the costly chase for green jobs will go on.

Boston Herald, 17 August 2011