In the famous children's story, Jack and the Beanstalk, a young boy plants "magic" seeds and overnight a beanstalk grows as high as the sky.
The obvious fantasy has a surprising real world counterpart through politicians who claim that by spending billions of taxpayer dollars on "green energy projects," some will take off and magically create millions of jobs. Like the story, those claims are more fiction than reality, yet politicians continue to tell the tale over and over again.
President Barack Obama pledged during his campaign to "invest" $150 billion in alternative energy companies, promising that it would create five million new jobs. But when the smoke cleared all that remained was crony handouts to the politically connected.
An auction sign is shown at bankrupt Solyndra headquarters in Fremont, Calif., Monday, Oct. 31, 2011 before Wednesday's auction. Solyndra received a one half billion dollar loan guarantee from the government before filing for bankruptcy in Sept. 2011. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Besides well-publicized flops like Solyndra and Fisker Automotive, the government's green energy spending features billions in lost taxpayer dollars. Bankruptcies, misallocation of funds, and outright theft, fraud and corruption were common.
What was not common was real job creation.
Taxpayers should be outraged to find millions spent on job training programs where there are no jobs to be placed into, or the military paying on average upwards of $30 per gallon for "green fuel.” One company, Solazyme, that made significant donations to the Obama Victory Fund and the Democratic National Committee was paid an outrageous $149.00 per gallon for a microalgea-based fuel.
Then there's companies like LG Chem, a South Korean-owned battery manufacturer in Holland, Michigan who promised to create 440 green jobs while employees spent time playing games and watching movies. All told, renewable energy projects by 2013 had cost taxpayers over $26 billion and created only 2,300 permanent jobs.
Recent news from California is only the latest in the sad trail of broken green energy promises.
In 2012, San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer promised Golden State taxpayers a modern day gold rush of clean energy jobs if voters approved Proposition 39, a tax increase whose proceeds would be "invested" in the green economy, half of which through projects at state schools. The Associated Press reported that not only have revenues fallen far short of projections, but of the $297 million given to schools more than half went to “consultants and energy auditors.” State investigators further found only 1,700 jobs created in three years, a paltry fraction of the initiative's projected 11,000 new jobs each year.
Despite the mythical nature of the green economy, politicians continue to promise to plant more magic beans. Hillary Clinton, leading Democratic candidate for president is promising to make America “the clean energy superpower of the 21st century," and that government spending will "create millions of jobs and countless new businesses."
In a triumph of hope over experience, her campaign is ironically pushing for yet more such spending by urging voters to “Stand with Reality.” But outside of fantasy land, reality shows that when government doles out cash, the only real jobs created are for the lobbyists who help connect failing companies with politicians seeking campaign cash.
The federal government cannot magically infuse dollars to make unprofitable businesses profitable, and politicians have no special knowledge that allows them to determine where resources are best invested. In fact, the more government "invests" the less likely the success, as CEO's and companies no longer feel pressure to turn a profit. Their time is better spent finding new and innovative ways to receive government grants than to develop a product or serve customers. Unfortunately, politicians will continue to tell the tale of their magical beans as long as taxpayers refuse to hold them accountable.
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