Friday, December 16, 2011

Solyndra debacle goes global

We might think Solyndra is a uniquely American scandal, yet it draws from the very same failed thinking that environmental nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) employ around the globe. They involve two key features: applying “green” economics and squandering taxpayer funding. The fundamental flaw of the Department of Energy loan program was its promotion of “green” energy that isn’t viable on the open market. Not only did the federal government offer specific loans to these companies, it also pushed for energy standards that only the industries they funded could meet. The result was to prop up a company, indeed an entire industry, that otherwise would be uncompetitive. While the $525 million price tag of the Solyndra fiasco seems astronomical, policies pushed at the recent United Nations climate change negotiations in Durban, South Africa, offer even greater prospective abuse of taxpayer funding. Consider the $700 million that the Obama administration pledged to a World Bank program with total pledges of $5.5 billion from European governments. NGOs marketed the program as a means of addressing claims that deforestation generated 17 percent of global emissions. Yet U.S. taxpayers ended up buying another lemon. Research now shows emissions from deforestation could be as low as 6 percent. Plus, a growing body of science demonstrates that promoting sustainable forestry is a far more efficient method of reducing emissions than banning forestry altogether. The World Bank isn’t the only group peddling this brand of snake oil. The Worldwide Wildlife Fund (WWF) has announced it plans to “transform markets” by capturing supply chains and forcing manufacturers to purchase only products that meet its preferred sustainability standards and not the most competitively priced products. Target industries include timber and paper, soybeans, palm oil, dairy, beef and marine products. If they succeed, many small farmers in the United States, as well as in developing countries, would be excluded from supply chains and costs to consumers would rise. Furthermore, the WWF would have to pursue anti-competitive strategies to achieve its goal...more

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