Skip to content

President Obama pledged he would start a clean-energy revolution that would create 5 million green jobs over 10 years. Of course, when the government tries to intrude in the marketplace, bad things happen. Such as these: the Top 10 Green Job Fiascos.

1. Solar debacle: Solyndra Inc., which manufactured solar panels at its plant in Fremont, Calif., received $535 million in Energy Department loans, and President Obama talked glowingly about how the company was “leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future.” Instead of creating work for Americans after receiving taxpayer money, the company shipped half its manufacturing jobs to China. In August, Solyndra declared bankruptcy and laid off 1,100 workers.

2. Government Motors: The bailout that General Motors received from the government came with a price: The carmaker was tasked to create the ultimate green vehicle. The result—the Chevy Volt—is a product with an exorbitant price tag that nobody wants to buy. Despite vast government subsidies, GM only sold 3,200 cars in the first eight months since the electric plug-in vehicles hit the marketplace.

3. Spanish windmills: Spain’s quixotic quest to create a green-jobs economy should have been a lesson for the United States. After Spain went crazy subsidizing windmills and solar farms, the result was higher utility bills for consumers, with a loss of 2.2 jobs in other industries for every green job created. And each green job came at a cost of $774,000 to Spanish taxpayers.

4. Solar debacle II: Evergreen Solar Inc., of Massachusetts, which received $58 million in stimulus money and other government largesse, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August and closed its plant in Midland, Mich. Not being able to compete against the Chinese and their low-wage workers, the company racked up $485 million in debt and cut 800 jobs, with more cuts to come as the company restructures.

5. Weatherizing stupidity: The city of Seattle received $20 million in federal stimulus money to help homeowners make their houses more energy-efficient. Some 16 months later, 14 jobs were created and three homes were weatherized. Most of the money went to a company to train workers to weatherize buildings, but the lack of demand for the service meant those trainees had no work to do.

6. Green (union) jobs: After Obama’s stimulus package doled out billions to subsidize the weatherization of homes, the Labor Department delayed the project by seven months while it determined the prevailing-wage standards for those green jobs—a sop to the President’s union supporters. That is just one reason why the program turned into a miserable failure. In its first year, the program spent $508 million to create 600 jobs and update 9,000 homes nationwide.

7. Green-car fiasco: Green Vehicles received $500,000 from the city of Salinas, Calif., and another $187,000 from the state of California as it promised to create 70 new jobs making an innovative three-wheel electric car with a $25,000 price tag. Little wonder that company folded without making a single car.

8. Biofuel bust: Before Republicans took back the statehouse in Pennsylvania, Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell helped support the ethanol producer Bionol Clearfield with $27 million in grants and loans, and by issuing $67 million in tax-free bonds. But even a deal with Getty Oil to buy the fuel couldn’t save the venture from going belly-up two years after its founding.

9. Do-nothing government: Johnson Controls, which manufactures batteries for electric and hybrid cars at its plant in Holland, Mich., received $300 million in taxpayer help and created a grand total of 150 jobs—or $2 million per job. That must qualify as a huge success in the green-job world, as President Obama visited the facility in August, using the trip to attack Republicans and a “do-nothing government.” Yes, Mr. President, sometimes doing nothing is preferable to shoveling money into a hole.

10. Almost two jobs created in Vegas: Clark County, Nev., which happens to be the home of the gambling mecca of Las Vegas, received $490,000 in stimulus money from the U.S. Forest Service to plant trees in urban neighborhoods (more palm trees on The Strip?). The stimulus that resulted from the grant to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s home state created 1.7 jobs (one full-time employee and one part time) and 11 temporary jobs. You get a better return for your money at the slot machines.

Human Events, 24 September 2011