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How the First 'Green New Deal' Flopped

A Commentary By Stephen Moore

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal has been widely ridiculed for its massive disruption to the economy and a price tag of tens of trillions of dollars.

Now some Democrats are countering that this isn't the first Green New Deal in America. They point to President Barack Obama's fiscal stimulus plan of 2009-2010 as an example of how spreading around tax dollars for green energy programs can be good for the environment and the economy.

Think again. That isn't at all what happened during the Obama "Green New Deal." By every objective criteria confirmed by every independent investigation, the avalanche of green dollars in Obama's first term was a colossal waste of money. The House Oversight Committee' exhaustive investigation of the $14 billion renewable energy loan guarantee program exposed widespread "dysfunction, negligence and mismanagement by DOE officials." The report concluded the Obama administration routinely "turned a blind eye" to the mismanagement.

In all, Obama (and George W. Bush before him) spent some $100 billion on giveaways to wind and solar power producers, electric cars and for weatherizing homes and buildings. It was arguably one of the largest corporate welfare experiments in American history, enriching an industry and its investors. Most of this money went for research to speed up commercial applications of green energy or was pipelined directly into bank accounts of individual companies.

The most infamous of these was, of course, Solyndra, the solar energy company that received $530 million of taxpayer handouts and was touted many times by Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden, as the next big thing in green energy. It never produced any energy to speak of before it went bankrupt.

That was the similar fate for dozens of other companies including the Department of Energy's half-billion dollar bet on the showcase electric car company Fisker -- which also went belly up.

The New Green Deal calls for the government to retrofit all of the homes and businesses in America so they are energy efficient. The Obama administration launched a $5 billion program for this purpose and DOE Secretary Steven Chu referred to this program as "one of our signature programs."

The House investigators found a "stunning lack of oversight of this program" with "no one checking the quality of the work performed, allowing poor workmanship to go undetected and undeterred. Many DOE contractors did not do the work promised by DOE and many of them actually damaged homes." The inspector general for the DOE fumed that the weaknesses of the program "pose health and safety risks to residents."

Anyone want these people coming into your home?

What about the grandiose promise of retraining Americans who lose their jobs due to the Green New Deal? Under the Obama administration, the feds allocated $500 million for "green" worker training. This was supposed to train 124,893 people, but in 2012 the Labor Department Inspector General found the program only trained 52,762 (42 percent of the target), and only 8,035 actually got jobs (10 percent of the target). No wonder coal miners, truck drivers and oil and gas employees aren't thrilled about losing their jobs.

There was much more green fraud and waste uncovered, but the bottom line was this: After more than $100 billion spent on the first Green New Deal, by 2016 only about 1 percent American energy was coming from solar energy. Less than 2 percent of cars on the road were electric vehicles -- even with the government offering thousands of dollars of cash rebates to buy the vehicles.

Meanwhile, the clean energy source that the government ignored, natural gas, exploded from 25 percent of electricity production to almost 40 percent. No one in Washington saw the shale revolution coming. The Obama administration was openly hostile to fracking. There was no "natural gas new deal" and, in fact, this industry received hardly a penny of federal subsidy. There were no mandates at the state level requiring people to use natural gas. Fracking and horizontal drilling were developed out in the hinterlands of Oklahoma, North Dakota and Texas, not in a Department of Energy lab inside the Washington Beltway.

Yes, Obama gave us a test run on the Green New Deal. The return on investment was miserable. Many people got rich on the government largesse and the taxpayers got fleeced. Incredibly, Democrats never called for a Mueller-type investigation into the grifters who pulled off this heist of tens of billions of dollars from the government.

The sane conclusion would be: Never again. But failed lessons of government as venture capitalists have been ignored and covered up.

Instead, AOC, the environmental groups and at least four major Democratic presidential candidates want to try it all again. But this time with trillions of dollars.

Stephen Moore is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and an economic consultant with FreedomWorks. He is the co-author of "Trumponomics: Inside the America First Plan to Revive the American Economy." To find out more about Stephen Moore and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

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