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Policy: Environment & Energy

Who cares about the environment or conservation? Green energy at all costs!

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Beltway Confidential,Barack Obama,Climate Change,Ashe Schow,Energy and Environment

They were supposed to help reverse global warming, but it turns out the green energy interests on which President Obama has lavished hundreds of millions of tax dollars damage the environment.

That’s not to say developing workable renewable energy sources and alternatives to oil are not worthy pursuits.

But green energy's biggest problems are the repeated crony capitalism, political corruption and false promises that give the emerging industry a black eye.

Solyndra is the prime example of all that is wrong in the green energy. The company lobbied heavily for subsidies from the federal government and one of its major investors was an Obama campaign bundler.

And despite promises to deliver a cheaper solar cell, the company produced a product that was more expensive than what was being built in China, partially due to China's own system of green energy subsidies.

The current ethanol mandate -- enacted under President George W. Bush and implemented by Obama -- was supposed to free America from dependence on oil. But like Solyndra, it, too, has proven to be a green energy boondoggle.

The mandate requires oil companies to include a certain percentage of ethanol in gasoline. Doing so would reduce the amount of oil burned and thus lessen environmental damage.

But the reality is that the ethanol mandate is hurting the environment, according to the Associated Press.

“Five million acres of land set aside for conservation – more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined – have vanished on Obama's watch” due to the ethanol mandate, AP said.

Instead of being used for conservation, the land was plowed to grow corn for making ethanol.

Wetlands were filled in, prairies were plowed (which released carbon dioxide into the air) and the extra fertilizer contaminated drinking water – all to make room for more corn fields.

“The consequences are so severe that environmentalists and many scientists have now rejected corn-based ethanol as bad environmental policy,” AP said.

“But the Obama administration stands by it, highlighting its benefits to the farming industry rather than any negative impact.”

Aside from harming the environment, ethanol also helps to increase corn prices, which raises the feed costs for livestock producers.

Farmers are no longer growing corn just to feed hungry people. Forty percent of U.S. corn production goes to ethanol production, which leads to higher corn prices worldwide, according to the Heritage Foundation.

Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack acknowledged that result in 2012, but maintained that the ethanol mandate was still worthwhile because it “helps reduce our dependence on foreign oil and provides jobs.”

Ethanol isn't the only green energy that causes environmental damage.

“All energy comes at a cost,” the AP said. “The environmental consequences of drilling for oil and natural gas are well documented and severe.

"But in the president's push to reduce greenhouse gases and curtail global warming, his administration has allowed so-called green energy to do not-so-green things.”

Solar plants, which often occupy thousands of acres, take land that cannot be shared for agricultural purposes. It also effectively destroys animal habitats.

Also, building the cells for solar plants uses a host of hazardous materials, which could pose serious environmental risks.

And some of the materials are made of rare earth elements available primarily in China, which has restricted their export.

The bottom line is that green energy is not always so green. It’s more green than oil and gas, to be sure, but there are environmental consequences.

And it is doubtful the industry would even exist apart from the crony capitalism attitudes that have allowed the ethanol industry to thrive despite its failure to reduce dependence on oil and global warming.

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Ashe Schow

Commentary Writer
The Washington Examiner