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Opinion: Editorials

National editorial: Obama keeps rolling the dice on green energy

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Photo - LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 28:  The Fiat 500e electric car is unveiled during the Los Angeles Auto show on November 28, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The LA Auto Show opens to the public November 30 and runs through December 9.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 28: The Fiat 500e electric car is unveiled during the Los Angeles Auto show on November 28, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The LA Auto Show opens to the public November 30 and runs through December 9. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Opinion,Editorial

Like a desperate gambler who doubles down on a losing bet, President Obama is calling for spending $2 billion more on green energy projects. Apparently these billions will succeed where previous billions have failed.

"We cannot afford to miss these opportunities while the rest of world races forward," said Obama at a campaign-style rally Friday afternoon at the Argonne National Laboratory just outside Chicago.

The money will come from leases for offshore drilling. This might be a good idea if the administration were willing to increase offshore leasing. At least that way, domestic production would grow, reducing energy costs and diminishing America's need for foreign imports, one of Obama's stated goals.

But that apparently isn't the case. White House officials have told the Hill they are dead-set against expanding offshore drilling, even as part of a deal with Republicans. So the White House is simply proposing to divert an existing revenue stream toward green energy companies. The only ones to gain here are the companies themselves.

The administration already devoted more than $30 billion to them in Obama's original stimulus bill. The president repeatedly claimed this would create more than 5 million jobs. The current 7.7 percent unemployment rate, only a tenth of a point lower than it was when the president took office, makes a mockery of that promise. On Friday, Obama was reduced to boasting of "tens of thousands of good jobs" from renewable energy.

These investments have instead provided a string of bankruptcies: Solyndra ($528 million in federal loans), Abound Solar ($400 million), A123 Systems ($279 million) and Fisker Automotive ($529 million), to name the most prominent examples.

Meanwhile we are no closer to the miraculous changes that these investments were supposed to bring about. The touted breakthrough in renewable power is always just over the horizon, as its advocates have been telling us for nearly four decades.

Consider the case of the electric car: The administration has invested $5 billion in this project with direct grants, loans and lavish incentives for taxpayers to buy them. Yet Americans have bought only 71,000 hybrids and all-electric cars in the last two years. At this rate, American consumers will have to buy 929,000 more over the next two years to meet the administration's initial goal of 1 million on the streets by 2015. But who wants to buy a Chevy Volt not knowing whether the battery will catch fire -- especially when, as Bjorn Lomborg noted in the Wall Street Journal last week, electric cars' carbon-intensive manufacturing process means they do not reduce carbon emissions at all until they have been driven more than 50,000 miles.

Meanwhile, Obama rejects proposals to boost nonrenewable domestic energy production. His administration has repeatedly delayed and obstructed the Keystone XL pipeline project even as the rationale for opposing it fades away. Obama has again put off an answer on the pipeline until June. We're not holding our breath.

We have no opposition to green energy projects per se. If somebody is willing to pay a premium for a Prius because it makes them feel good, fine. That's their business. And if corporations really think green energy can pay huge dividends, then let them invest and reap the profits later. But why let the administration roll the dice on these projects with the taxpayer's dollar?

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