Two Very Different “Green” Stories

19 Oct

I don’t think David Brooks is a bad man. I think he genuinely wants to see liberals and conservatives find more common ground for the good of the country.

But, that said, the man’s logic and fact can be so flawed that it’s hard to comprehend how he’s able to get a place on a big stage like the Times. No wonder so many people get confused listening to bad or incomplete information.

If you’re selective with the information you have, you can make a case for anything, or against anything. Brooks does that today.

Something from his article today, scarily devoid of and misrepresenting fact,…. and an immediate, fact-filled rebuttal from Jill Fitzsimmons at Media Matters:

A Sad Green Story

Brooks wrote:

Obama’s stimulus package set aside $90 billion for renewable energy loans and grants, but the number of actual jobs created has been small. Articles began to appear in the press of green technology grants that were costing $2 million per job created. The program began to look like a wasteful disappointment. —————–

Brooks Is No Green Truth Vigilante

JILL FITZSIMMONS                                               mediamatters

Which is why we can’t trust Brooks’ unnamed media reports that stimulus grants for clean energy cost “$2 million per job created.”

These calculations are problematic because they often count loans as if they are grants, and assume that all the money has been spent, development is complete and no new workers will be hired. A more accurate accounting of the jobs impact of clean energy investments might note that a Brookings Institution study found clean energy jobs grew at an average annual rate of 11.1 percent between 2003 and 2010, “more than twice as fast as the rest of the economy.”

Brooks went on to argue that unlike private investments gone bad, high-profile failures like Solyndra “tarnish” the government’s record on clean energy:

The federal agencies invested in many winners, but they also invested in some spectacular losers, from Solyndra to the battery maker A123 Systems, which just filed for bankruptcy protection. Private investors can shake off bad investments. But when a political entity like the federal government makes a bad investment, the nasty publicity tarnishes the whole program.

But as Clean Technica pointed out after Solyndra declared bankruptcy, “the Obama administration is batting a much better average in “picking winners and losers” than the private Venture Capital (VC) market itself.” Clean energy consultant Richard Stuebi expects just 3 out of 10 private investments to succeed — a 70 percent failure rate. By contrast, only three of the 26 companies that received Department of Energy 1705 loan guarantees have filed for bankruptcy, amounting to about 6 percent of the loan guarantee funds.
But the $90 billion figure — which Mitt Romney cited in the first presidential debate — has been repeatedly debunked, including by Brooks’ own New York Times. As the Times‘ Matthew Wald explained after the first debate, not all the money went to renewable energy, not all of it has been spent, and much of it was authorized under the Bush administration:

The $90 billion is a real number drawn from the 2009 stimulus package, but it wasn’t all spent, as Mr. Romney said, and a lot of the green energy spending that went out the door on Mr. Obama’s watch was authorized during the Bush administration.

The biggest component of the $90 billion was $29 billion for energy efficiency, of which $5 billion involved improvements in the homes and apartments of low-income households. There was also $18 billion for fast trains and $21 billion for wind farms, solar panels and other renewable energy. Supporters point out that much of the energy spending drew in private capital.


One response to “Two Very Different “Green” Stories

  1. mhasegawa

    October 20, 2012 at 4:54 am

    And about the failures and bankruptcies, I think that Romney himself once said in defending Bain that small businesses are difficult and they often fail.


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