In 2007, Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA). In keeping with Bush’s 2006 State of the Union pledge to make ethanol “not just from corn but from wood chips and stalks of switch grass … practical and competitive within six years,” the law included subsidies for ethanol production and mandates for its use. By 2011, oil companies were required to blend 250 million gallons of this cellulosic ethanol into their gasoline. The mandate doubled for 2012, and by 2022 it will be 16 billion gallons.
Like many other Republicans, Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah’s senior Senator, has been a vocal critic of President Obama’s support for Solyndra, the bankrupt California solar panel manufacturer. Once a prime showpiece of “green energy” and one of the top technology darlings of the Obama administration, Solyndra failed spectacularly last year — after having been lavished with $535 million in federal loan guarantees, as well as a $25-million tax break from the state of California.
Sen. Orrin Hatch can be seen here calling Obama’s support for Solyndra a “disgrace” on a September 22, 2011 program with Fox News commentator Greta Van Susteren.
And a costly disgrace it is, one that Republicans are eager to turn into a political albatross around President Obama’s neck in this election year. However, Sen. Hatch, who also stands for reelection in 2012, has his own Solyndra albatross to contend with. And unlike President Obama, Sen. Hatch has the added embarrassment of having a failed, federally financed “green” showcase facility named after him. In gratitude for his unstinting support, Utah-based Raser Technologies named its major geothermal plant in his honor. Sen. Hatch was on hand for the company’s 2008 groundbreaking ceremony for “The Hatch Plant,” another federally financed model of “clean” energy which has filed for bankruptcy.
A failed southeast Georgia ethanol factory was sold Tuesday for pennies on the dollar after squandering tens of millions in federal and state tax dollars. Range Fuels, a bankrupt U.S. cellulosic ethanol company, sold its only factory, located in Soperton, Georgia, to LanzaTech, a biofuel company based in New Zealand.
Backed by California billionaire Vinod Khosla, who also bankrolled Range Fuels and lobbied for its federal loans, LanzaTech paid a meager $5.1 million for the deal — a tiny fraction of the financial support it received — and plans to convert the ethanol plant into a factory that will generate chemicals from biomass, in another effort to "transform" the alternative energy industry.
"We have been doing a lot of work on steel mill gases and other gases to ethanol mostly, but in the laboratory we have shown that we can make chemicals," LanzaTech CEO Jennifer Holmgren said Tuesday in a phone interview. "We don’t have any assets where we can control the feedstock that are large and are able to help us scale up." While the company plans to use the factory to produce biochemicals, it has partnerships in Asia that deal mainly with converting steel mill gases into ethanol, Holmgren added.
The Washington Post’s editorial celebrating the ending of ethanol subsidies iterated the same free-market positions taken by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and other Austrian school economists about those subsidies. Calling the 45-cent-per-gallon tax credit supporting U.S. corn-based ethanol production and the 54-cent-per-gallon tariff on imported ethanol “two of the most wasteful subsidies ever to clutter the Internal Revenue Code,” the Post estimated that ending those subsidies will save the U.S. taxpayer approximately $6 billion this year.
German airline carrier Lufthansa warned passengers on Monday that the European Union’s (EU) new carbon tax on airlines will translate into higher fares, as the carrier plans to avoid shouldering new costs generated from an EU carbon trading scheme. Analysts say Lufthansa is among the airlines most influenced by the measure, along with rival carriers British Airways, United Continental (the two have merged), Air France, and Singapore Airlines.
Beginning January 1, 2012, the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) requires airlines to hold emission rights in the form of CO2 certificates for all flights traveling in and out of Europe. Under a directive intended to tackle alleged climate change, airlines flying in and out of the 27-nation European Union and three neighboring countries will be subjected to CO2 regulations as part of an expansion of the world’s largest carbon market. Any emissions beyond selected allowances must be paid for, while airlines are allowed to trade permits among themselves.
India, China, and a handful of other nations including the United States have protested the measure, as the Obama administration, the aviation industry, and various free market groups have expressed firm discontent. A legal challenge against the ETS, triggered by a handful of U.S. airlines, failed in December when the European Court of Justice shot it down. Some opposing countries have taken actions to combat the initiative:
An environmental group claiming to represent the stewardship concerns of evangelical Christians handed pro-abortion politicians and the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency a huge present just before Christmas. On December 21, as EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced the agency’s long-awaited stringent new regulations on mercury, the Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox, President and CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), was standing alongside her to show his organization’s support.
Even the left-leaning Washington Post has acquired a sour taste over the Obama administration’s deplorable investment in Solyndra, the defunct solar-panel maker that reaped more than $500 million in taxpayer-backed loan guarantees. The administration’s fervor for the so-called "green" energy program, the newspaper noted in a recent article, was "infused" with political motives that spawned reckless policymaking and resulted in millions of wasted taxpayer dollars.
"Meant to create jobs and cut reliance on foreign oil, Obama’s green-technology program was infused with politics at every level, The Washington Post found in an analysis of thousands of memos, company records and internal e-mails," the article reads. "Political considerations were raised repeatedly by company investors, Energy Department bureaucrats and officials at the White House."
"The records, some previously unreported, show that when warned that financial disaster might lie ahead, the administration remained steadfast in its support for Solyndra."
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy just released a study showing that by the time all federal and state loans, grants, subsidies, and tax credits are figured in, each Chevy Volt costs taxpayers upwards of $250,000.
James Hohman, the center’s assistant director of fiscal policy, counted a total of 18 government “deals” but didn’t include the fact that one-quarter of Volt’s manufacturer, General Motors, is owned by the federal government.
He counted not only incentives offered directly to GM or to the ultimate buyer, but also those offered to suppliers of parts and technology for the Volt. The Department of Energy, for example, awarded a $106 million grant to GM’s Brownstone plant that assembles the Volt’s batteries. The State of Michigan awarded $106 million to GM to retain jobs in its Hamtramck assembly plant. And Compact Power, the company that makes the Volt’s batteries, received $100 million in “refundable battery credits.”
Some of the subsidies and credits are extended over varying periods of time and some are dependent upon certain production “milestones” being achieved. He counted them all along with subsidies to companies vying to provide batteries for the Volt such as the support provided to A123 Systems. A123 lost the battery contract to Compact Power, but Hohman included their subsidies in his study as well.
Due to new federal air pollution regulations, more than 32 power plants across the country will be forced to close their doors, according to a recent Associated Press survey. Those plants, which are mostly coal-fired, discharge enough electricity to supply more than 22 million households, the survey notes, and their closure will lead to job layoffs, depleted tax revenues, and a considerable hike in electric bills. The areas that will be hit hardest are the Midwest and in the coal belt (Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky), where dozens of plants will likely be retired.
Two regulations are in question: One aims to curb air pollution in states downwind from pollutant-heavy power plants; and the second, which was finalized last week, would enact the first standards for mercury, acid gas, and other pollutants from plant smokestacks. In total, the new regulations could eliminate more than eight percent of coal-fired generation nationwide.
AP’s survey, the first of its kind, looked at the analyses by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of plant retirements and interviewed 55 power plant operators about the effects on power supply and about their plans to deal with the new regulations.
There never seems to be a dull moment in the United States Congress, which has neared a government shutdown several times in the past two years. On Thursday night, lawmakers may have once again averted a government shutdown by reaching a tentative deal to fund a number of different government agencies through September 30.
Unfortunately for the American people, the deal includes massive spending, totaling $1 trillion.
It is expected to come up for a vote in both the Senate as well as the House of Representatives on Friday to avoid what would be a shutdown of major Washington operations this weekend, including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
The Guardian reports, “A deal on a $1 trillion spending bill was reached after Republicans agreed to drop language that would have blocked President Obama’s liberalized rules on people who visit and send money to relatives in Cuba. But a GOP provision will stay in the bill thwarting an Obama administration rule on energy efficiency standards that critics argued would make it hard for people to purchase inexpensive incandescent light bulbs.”