Green energy projects keep blowing taxpayers’ money away

If you’ve ever been to Las Vegas (purely for the buffets of course) you’ve probably seen those booths a person gets in where a wind machine blows money all around them as they futilely try to grab some of it.

This pretty much describes the alternative energy industry, with you as a taxpayer (a dwindling percentage of population) trying to keep your money from being blown away.

The Big Green energy initiatives of the last three years may be the biggest boondoggle in the nation’s history, making the Teapot Dome scandal of the Harding administration look like a friendly game of three card Monte.

Colorado is foursquare in the middle of this mess that ranges from the wasteful — subsidized solar panels on the Denver Museum with the functional life of 25 to 35 years that will take 110 years to pay for out of energy “savings” — to Abound Solar in Fort Collins, a recipient of $400 million in federal loan guarantees and a generator of increasingly troublesome news.

According to reports at, the company has drawn down millions in loan guarantees and is working to reduce its “burn rate” of cash from $2 million a week to $2 million a month. With reportedly only $7 million left in the bank, the company is hoping to receive another $10 million in loan guarantees from the federal government.

This should not be a surprise. ABC News reported this month, after Abound announced it was laying off nearly half its workforce, a congressional committee asked the Secretary of Energy to explain why Abound had qualified for the $400 million loan when a financial rating firm had determined the company was a “speculative investment.”

The committee chairman indicated the ratings firm described the company as “lagging technology relative to its competitors, failing to achieve stated efficiency targets” and expected it to suffer increasing pricing pressures. The chairman also raised questions about the company’s ties to the Obama administration, noting the Colorado owner of a major investment partner in Abound Solar had contributed $500,000 to Democrats in the last five years, including $50,000 to Obama’s inaugural fund and $35,000 to his victory fund.

While the public focuses on alternative energy companies collapsing after massive federal loan guarantees, another program churns away, awarding taxpayer dollars for renewable energy projects without much scrutiny. The $1 trillion 2009 Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as “the Stimulus,” established the 1603 Program, which bypasses the whole loan-guarantee thing and just hands out lump-sum payments to companies that install qualifying renewable energy systems on their businesses.

According to an analysis presented in the Colorado Observer, these awards include $103,000 to a Grand Junction liquor store and $150,000 for a Denver restaurant. Other mom-and-pop organizations receiving money in Colorado reportedly include insurance company Metlife at $877,000, Hertz car rental with $364,000 and little Wells Fargo bank, snagging $342,000.

I’d like to point out that there’s nothing wrong with these companies. If you were a shareholder or owner, you’d have rocks in your head not to take government subsidies for your projects.

These numbers pale in comparison to the amount of money, reported by the Observer, given to wind-energy development companies, which received almost six times the funds awarded to solar projects. In Colorado, Cedar Point Wind LLC, which the Observer reports is owned by a Calgary Canada-based company, received $145 million in 1603 funds. Despite such massive injections of dollars into wind energy projects nationally, the American Wind Energy Association reported a loss of jobs.

Some in Congress, however, still hope to continue subsidies for the industry. In Sen. Harry Reid’s state of Nevada, the city of Reno had saved $2,785 in energy costs from its seven windmills, reports Doug Powers, writing at the website, Unfortunately, those windmills cost about $1 million, and the city should look to recoup that price tag through energy savings sometime around the year 2551.

Some Coloradans still believe we can replace high-paying and proven energy jobs with speculative and unproven replacement technologies that, without enormous government subsidies, would not even exist. Specious environmental concerns are often raised against extraction methods while poorly made windmills kill thousands of rare birds, catch fire and subject neighbors to a constant low spectrum hum. They stand rusting and abandoned in many areas, yet the tax-incentive frenzy continues for misguided or scurrilous reasons. Great Britain is even looking at the United States adventures in wind as a cautionary tale. That’s how bad it has become.

This is the kind of wind that keeps blowing your money away.

Rick Wagner writes more on politics at his blog, The War on Wrong.


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