A Sad Green Story - NYTimes.com
Then, in 2008, Barack Obama seized upon green technology and decided to make it the centerpiece of his jobs program. During his presidential campaign he promised to create five million green tech jobs. Renewable energy has many virtues, but it is not a jobs program. Obama’s stimulus package set aside $90 billion for renewable energy loans and grants, but the number of actual jobs created has been small. Articles began to appear in the press of green technology grants that were costing $2 million per job created. The program began to look like a wasteful disappointment.
...Suddenly, green tech looks less like a gleaming beacon of virtue and more like corporate welfare, further enriching already affluent investors.
...The U.S. government wasn’t the only one investing in renewables. Governments around the world were also doing it, and the result has been gigantic oversupply, a green tech bubble...[Solar panel] prices have fallen by three-fourths since 2008. Manufacturers will need huge subsidies far into the future — as Bradsher writes, “a looming financial disaster.” The U.S. share of the global market, meanwhile, has fallen from 7 percent to 3 percent since 2008.
The biggest blow to green tech has come from the marketplace itself. Fossil fuel technology has advanced more quickly than renewables technology. People used to worry that the world would soon run out of oil, but few worry about that now. Shale gas, meanwhile, has become the current hot, revolutionary fuel of the future.
Writing in Foreign Policy magazine, Daniel Yergin projects that in 2030 the worldwide fuel mix will not be too different than what it is today.
All in all, the once bright green future is looking grimmer. Green tech is decidedly less glamorous, tarnished by political and technological disappointments.
Global warming is still real. Green technology is still important. Personally, I’d support a carbon tax to give it a boost. But he who lives by the subsidy dies by the subsidy. Government planners should not be betting on what technologies will develop fastest. They should certainly not be betting on individual companies.
This is a story of overreach, misjudgments and disappointment.