After two studies refuted President Barack Obama’s assertions regarding the success of Spain’s and Denmark’s wind energy programs, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request reveals the Department of Energy turned to George Soros and to wind industry lobbyists to attack the studies.
Via the FOIA request, the Competitive Enterprise Institute has learned that the Department of Energy — specifically the office headed by Al Gore’s company’s former CEO, Cathy Zoi — turned to George Soros’ Center for American Progress and other wind industry lobbyists to help push Obama’s wind energy proposals.
The FOIA request was not entirely complied with, and CEI just filed an appeal over documents still being withheld. In addition to withholding many internal communications, the administration is withholding communications with these lobbyists and other related communications, claiming they constitute “inter-agency memoranda.” This implies that, according to the DoE, wind industry lobbyists and Soros’s Center for American Progress are — for legal purposes — extensions of the government.
This is a defense commonly employed against FOIA requests when seeking to withhold certain communications with, for example, paid consultants.
As candidate and president, on eight separate occasions Barack Obama instructed Americans to “think about what’s happening in countries like Spain [and] Germany” if they wanted to know what successful “green jobs” policies look like, and if they wanted to know what we should expect here in the U.S. from his agenda.
Some European economists took a look. In March, a research team from Madrid’s King Juan Carlos University produced a detailed, substantive, heavily sourced, two-method paper: “Study of the Effects on Employment of Public Aid to Renewable Energy Sources.” The paper concluded that Spain’s “green jobs” program was an economic failure, in fact costing Spain many jobs.
The president of Spain’s renewable energy association — along with a Communist Party affiliated trade federation — decried the paper’s lead author as being unpatriotic.
The former wrote in Spain’s leading paper, El Mundo, slamming the research paper. However, he did not critique the paper itself — he agreed with its conclusion. He was furious only that the study was publicized. By revealing the truth about Spain’s increasingly mythologized “green jobs” and renewable energy experience, the revealed study threatened the prospects for Spain’s companies to be bailed out by the U.S. repeating these mistakes.
Incidentally, this became a common refrain. After the Spanish study embarrassed the White House, prompting substantial media attention and even questioning at a press conference, Obama swapped out Denmark for Spain for later references to an enacted “green jobs” program.
Soon, Denmark produced a study (“Wind Energy: The Case of Denmark“) through the think-tank CEPOS. This paper also revealed tremendous costs, and that Obama’s claim about Denmark’s “renewables” experience was also steeped in mythology.
The response from windmill advocates in Denmark was similar: such studies threaten Danish industry by reducing the chances that the U.S. will serve as the hoped-for massive new market to make inefficient energy sources profitable for their foreign manufacturers (Danish Radio TV News, Thursday, February 25, 2010).
Back in the U.S., the American Wind Energy Association — the lobby for “Big Wind” in Washington, D.C., which includes a few Spanish wind giants — also attacked the publication of the Spanish paper.
Soon, the Obama administration published a five-page talking points memo assailing the economic assessment — written by two young, non-economist, pro-wind activists from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Boulder, Colorado.
NREL is an extension of the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). EERE is run by Assistant Secretary of Energy Cathy Zoi, who, until assuming this post, served as CEO to Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection. Zoi is responsible for many millions of the “green jobs” stimulus dollars pushed for and designed by Van Jones (this according to Jones himself).
The Obama administration’s criticisms — drafted in often personal terms — distilled to two main points, which we now know were politicized, lobbyist-assisted complaints. These were:
— The Spanish paper suffered from a “lack of rigor.”
— The Spanish paper applied “consensus economics.”
NREL made the most noise regarding the latter, upset that the Spaniards refused to use the input-output (or Leontief) methodology designed for central planning, in which all is assumed to be knowable, controllable, and static. This method has been discredited outside of social democratic government agencies and select associations. Instead, the Spanish study relied upon methodology employed by real-world businesses in competitive fields when deciding how to deploy resources — which is not “non-traditional,” as claimed by NREL.
When the two studies had appeared, I wrote:
In the face of some recent pushback — for example, from the studies out of Spain and Denmark referenced in this space on numerous occasions — the windmill welfare queens over at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) have been cranking up the snivel volume to eleven.
Reading the group’s press releases it does seem that they even had a hand in getting the president of the United States to sic a taxpayer-funded agency on a foreign academic study about a foreign country’s experience with its own policies, because said academic team and its writings threaten the welfare if the word gets out.
Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, we now know that the assertion was correct. The Obama administration produced this denunciation at the behest of, and with the active participation of, the wind energy’s lobby.
The first sign that something improper had occurred came when NREL responded to media inquiries claiming that the paper was entirely the DoE’s idea, while the DoE’s Office of Congressional Affairs wrote to a Senate oversight office to claim that it was all NREL’s doing.
As I noted in my FOIA requests to both DoE and NREL:
We note that one of two co-authors of the above-cited NREL paper, which paper attests that “This report was prepared as an account of work sponsored by an agency of the United States government,” is on record in an E&E News story announcing of the project, “DOE requested the analysis be performed.”
However, DOE Congressional Affairs is on record saying the following:
NREL initiated the report on their own as part of their on-going analytical role to assess emerging issues and monitor external studies and develop internal memos or external documents to address research that is at odds with DOE/EERE scientific understanding.
We therefore seek documents revealing the origins of the effort and clarifying the alternating, mutually exclusive claims of NREL saying DoE told me to do it and DoE telling Congress that it was all NREL’s idea, fully aware of of DoE’s extant protestations to congressional offices that the above-cited paper is of like kind with other NREL products (noting here that no paper DoE cites is comparable on any level [citations omitted]).
The question “which time are you lying?” came to mind, though it was not at all clear that the answer could not be “both.” The FOIA documents — 900 pages, so far — show great internal concern among high level DoE political appointees when this question was pressed, and a resistance to put the answer in writing.
The provided documents conclude with emails citing late-night phone calls to get the story straight, and calling — with “high importance” — a meeting at 9:00 a.m., September 22, 2009, in the office of Ms. Zoi’s chief operating officer, Steven Chalk. The meeting was called to “huddle up” face-to-face to put things straight.
Congressman James Sensenbrenner wrote to Ms. Zoi two days later, asking five specific questions about how and by whose instruction this NREL paper was produced. On January 6, 2010, Zoi wrote back with a one-paragraph reply which either failed or refused to provide answers to any of the queries.
We now know that the prospect of such answers seeing the light of day was clearly of great concern to the DoE. This raises the question of whether, by refusing to share information sought by the ranking Republican on the House Select Committee on Global Warming, Ms. Zoi lied to or misled a member of Congress exercising his legitimate oversight function.
Over the coming days I will produce specifics of these internal emails and emails between the administration and the windmill lobby (think numerous European companies, not merely a few utilities and GE).