Terence Corcoran: Clean, Green And Catastrophic

  • Date: 02/04/16
  • Terence Corcoran, Financial Post

There are signs of green economic turmoil everywhere. What’s green and clean is turning catastrophic.

Green and clean, that’s how politicians all over the world like to describe their national energy profiles. From Europe to North America to China, action plans and policies are in place, subsidies have been dispersed and new ideas are in constant production. In Washington Thursday, Prime Minister Trudeau brought his Liberal green message to Washington, telling the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that green industries are the backbone of a strong economy.

Maybe it depends on what “backbone” means and on one’s definition of a “strong economy.” The latest news on green and clean energy fails to support the standard definitions of either concept. In the wake of government action around the world, industrial plants are closing, so-called green operations are failing, prices are soaring, subsidies are rampant, jobs are being lost, competitiveness eroded and energy consumers, especially the poor, are threatened by regressive carbon taxes.

What’s green and clean is turning catastrophic.

Scanning news stories and the work of the Global Warming Policy Forum in London, there are signs of green economic turmoil everywhere. Here’s a sampling, in no particular order.

Albengoa, the Spanish green-energy giant, filed for bankruptcy protection in the U.S. this week. With help from subsidies, the company built giant wind and solar farms all over the world, from Arizona to Uruguay. Shares once worth $25 are now all but worthless.

In a posting this week, Benny Peiser, head of the Global Warming Policy Forum, urged the British government to delay carbon-control plans and scrap the country’s unilateral Carbon Floor Price, which is contributing to a crisis in the U.K. steel sector and other energy-intensive industries.

One of those U.K. steel companies, owned by Tata of India, is up for sale with no buyer in sight, threatening thousands of jobs and generating a national economic crisis that forced Prime Minister David Cameron to end a personal vacation and fly home. Among the causes of the steel crisis: green energy and carbon taxes.

In China, the National Energy Administrator has stopped approving wind turbines because energy is being wasted and parts of the national grid are being disrupted.

China has claimed to be on a big green streak. It may be closing old coal plants and steel mills that produce smog, but it is not doing all that much on the carbon front. If dirty coal plants are closed, they are replaced by cleaner coal and gas — that is, fossil fuels.

The Wall Street Journal reports that many U.S. states — Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Utah and others — are thinking of cutting back on subsidies to homes with solar panels. “What is in danger of being overlooked is the harm inflicted on the 96 per cent of our customers who do not have solar.” Those non-solar customers pick up the subsidy.

Sunedison, the U.S. clean-energy giant and a Wall Street darling, appears to be heading for bankruptcy.

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