November 14, 2019

The halves and the will nots

Posted on 18. Jul, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics, Social/Cultural

Our legislative branch is deadlocked, at a monumental impasse, split along ideological lines.

Americans have been divided for a decade or more into two almost equal halves – one wanting more government assistance for the people of this nation and the other perennially chanting a Garbo-like wail, “I want to be left alone.”

Any scientist will tell you that when two forces of equal strength collide there is usually considerable energy released (and dissipated), friction generated and matter destroyed as a result. Any political scientist will tell you that the same is true in politics.

If our Congressional confrontations were all political theatre and had no real impact on our lives we could sell tickets and make some money from them. Unfortunately, their inability to listen to each other’s views and pass legislation that tracks with our avowed goals of living life, protecting liberty and pursuing happiness has gone well beyond the fail-safe point.

It now threatens our very survival as a nation.  Something’s got to give.

Crisis should never be the decider

In the recent past, the only way our elected representatives could be moved off their respective philosophical positions was a crisis like 9/11 or the threat of an economic disaster. Crises, however, should never be the catalyst or rationale for making enduring change, though they can serve as agents for finding short-term stop-gap solutions.

How can we ever hope to find real common ground in a country where there are two polar opposite views on wealth (and the taxation and distribution of it), health (its quality, cost and coverage) and our collective responsibility for one another ?

It seems bewildering until you drill down into the bedrock of the American psyche. Then you begin to understand that at our core, we Americans believe in the inherent goodness of our fellow human beings; the desire of all people to be free; the preservation of our Constitutional freedoms (speech, expression, assembly, religion, etc.); and even the right to be left alone.

But then we’re forced to ask ourselves, “if that’s the case, how do these beliefs square with the actions of our elected representatives?”

The one-step forward two-steps march backwards

Americans have shown they’ll march for civil rights, against war, for ending apartheid in foreign countries and the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Why then are we unwilling to elect representatives to Congress and even presidents that are capable of putting their egos aside, sitting down with the loyal opposition (the ultimate oxymoron) and letting their dedication to the greater good of our society guide their actions?

Could it be that we’ve given up or lost our motivation and resigned ourselves to bad governance? Maybe we’ve been living under the illusion that a middle way would magically appear as an alternative to gridlock.

It’s been said that if you keep to the middle of the road you’ll get run over, and given the state of our modern-day politics, that is probably the truest statement that can be made about our current political environment.

Political extremism

It may be that we’re no longer a nation that values moderation or compromise…that we’re an all or nothing society that feels it’s not how you play the game but whether you can win using any means possible that counts.

Unfortunately, ‘any means possible’ usually creates collateral damage to those who can least afford it and whose only crime was being in the way. America’s needy cannot be almost rescued from drowning. Any new political direction we decide to take must focus on ways to bring them back from the water’s edge and keep them from re-entering the currents that could swallow them up forever.

On the other side of the coin, America’s wealthy should not be vilified for working their way up an economic ladder that was placed within their reach by a system that favors enterprise and industry, nor should they be expected to agree to a wholesale confiscation of their wealth to pay for government’s mistakes.

Just as surely as the poor didn’t choose to be poor, the wealthy got where they are largely because the system rewarded their ingenuity and creativity.

There’s only left and right left

America’s long political odyssey has brought it to a T-intersection in the road. There’s no viable third way forward.

We must choose to go left or right of center, and we must also be ready to stand by our choices. Our country’s future is too important to be decided by the apathy of either the know-nothings or the do-nothings among us.

Those who choose neutrality, ignorance or inertia and who don’t vote in November are guilty of being enablers of the very parochialism that characterizes our political class today.

- Editor

Send in the salesmen

Posted on 11. Jul, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

It struck me the other day, that as the recognized world leader in marketing, we’re doing a pretty lousy job of selling ourselves to ourselves.

Yes, I’m talking (again) about the political parties and their candidates for the big job, as well as our beloved Congressmen and Senators.  Imagine this… you have just developed a truly fantastic product. You’re sure it’s going to sell a gazillion units.

You’ve called in the pitchmen from the Home Shopping Network to look it over.

Hans, the quirky fellow that sells those Scam Wowels (the towel that picks up 50 gallons of cola just by touching it for a few seconds) gives it a double thumbs up and high-fives you a dozen times before leaving the room floating on a cloud of enthusiasm while mumbling to himself how he’s going to sell the hell out of this one!

Later that night you begin to have second thoughts. You’ve concluded that the intrinsic value of this product (here the reader can substitute political philosophy, economic policy, landmark legislation, etc.) is so great that it can sell itself.

The more you think about it, the less you want to stoop to selling this product; that it would be beneath your dignity to do so.

So, the next morning, you call Hans and politely tell him that the deal’s off and that you’re going your own way at which point he offers you 50¢ on the dollar for your entire inventory because, according to him, you’re not going to sell a single one without him. Shocked, you hang up the phone and wonder if he’s right and if you’ve made the wrong decision.

Welcome, my friend. You have just entered marketing purgatory – that no-man’s land located somewhere between the fear of failure and extreme self-doubt, a place of constant angst where echoes of, “I told you so,” reverberate off the walls of your own head.

Don’t you think this happens with lawmakers, presidential candidates and their staffs, too? Sure it does. They make the same stupid mistakes that our inventor friend has made, except many of them have committed THE most unforgiveable marketing errors of all time…

They continually develop products that can’t be explained, that never live up to their claims, that don’t meet the customer’s needs, and are too expensive to use. Yes, I’m speaking about legislation (pick a bill, any bill), campaign rhetoric and unfulfillable campaign promises.

I keep waiting for the candidates to turn their microphones over to the pitchmen to close the deal, but they never do! Instead, they enter the twilight zone with an endless loop of déjà vu by re-reading the same script that you just heard!

What must the rest of the world, that has come to know if not love the great American salesmen, think of us? It must be a shocker to see our pros turn amateur, those same folks that brought the planet Coca Cola, McDonalds, baseball and iphones now stumbling around trying to find a truly great slogan or message.

Fear not. I’ve decided to give the presidential candidates a hand with a few slogans (by the way, the word slogan comes from the Gaelic words meaning battle cry).

Here they are, first for the President: “America: Where opportunity is only a generation away,” or “My America: Love it or divide it.” Maybe, “America: It’s all in the details.” Finally, “America: You won’t recognize it when I’m done with it!”

For the challenger, he should consider, “America: Our bottom line is yet to come,” or “America: A tax shelter in every home.” Maybe, “America: Club Med not Club Fed.”

Admittedly, those slogans are very different, but that’s what’s needed now, SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

Leave “Change we can believe in” in the political history books. Reviving it now would remind too many people of their circumstances. Better stick with the one being used on the side of Greyhound One as the President tours the battleground states, ”Betting on America.” That one will at least help him win back Las Vegas.

- Editor

Wasting minds is wasting lives

Posted on 11. Jul, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Education, Social/Cultural

If a mind is a terrible thing to waste, how come we’re wasting so many of them? Alarmingly high dropout rates are signaling the exile of millions more young people to the ranks of the semi-literate.

Can the U.S. really afford to lose another whole generation because we can’t find the courage to revamp our educational system?

We see it every day. Man on the street interviews reveal how awful our schools are.

A special reporter for a cable news network show interviewed approximately 100 young people under the age of 25 on Independence Day and asked a very simple question, “Do you know what we’re celebrating today?”

Nearly 60% of those asked didn’t have a clue. Of those answering correctly, a tiny percentage even knew the century when America’s revolution took place.

Here in New Mexico, we lose thirty-eight out of a hundred potential high school graduates each year to dropping out. Their lack of a high school diploma will doom them to a lower rung on the socio-economic ladder and a life of low or minimum-wage jobs.

While I applaud the efforts being made by hard-working teachers and administrators to reverse the situation, it’s a little like pushing a snowball up a desert sand dune in July.

Instead of trying to reform the status quo, maybe we should replace it, entirely. Changing what we teach, how we teach it and when we teach it might be the answer. This applies to the total schooling experience in primary, middle and high school years.

If we are going to prevent students from dropping out, we must give them a reason for staying in school. To do that we’ll need to front-load new and exciting curricula, early on, to keep students’ interest levels high.

And, though it may sound distasteful to some, we’re going to have to sell that new curricula, energetically and creatively!

Due to our lousy economy and resultant dwindling tax bases, the amount of funding earmarked for public education is dropping fast, and along with that drop many elective or so-called ‘expendable’ after school programs are biting the dust.

Our educational system is also affected by our politics, and should we continue on the same ideological political path we’re on, our school curricula might need some revamping.

New courses might be: Learning to develop your victim status; How to get the most out of government entitlement programs; Using ethnicity as a bargaining tool; The benefits of wealth redistribution; How to demonize the opposition; How to cherry pick your facts; and finally, How to organize a successful protest.

Obviously, these are not my suggestions for the new age curriculum. I’m just making a point about how politics can change what we teach our children. It can encourage them to be open-minded and inquisitive or be politically correct and self-censoring.

Instead, our students should learn real survival skills, enabling them to become productive citizens. Here are some course suggestions:

How an economy and a democracy work;

Why voting is so important;

How to deal with dysfunctional parents;

How to resist peer pressure;

How to find the truth in any given situation;

How to recognize true authority;

Why obedience to the law is essential;

How machines work;

Why the environment is important to protect;

How to reduce aggression in the world;

How to eat and sleep properly;

How to protect yourself and your family;

Why work is important;

How to find and keep a job; and finally,

How to rein in your own selfishness.

I’m sure we could find some intelligent educators that would be happy to teach them.

Time is running out for our young people. If we don’t change our approach to educating them we will find ourselves paying the price in the crime and substance abuse statistics, more social illiteracy, rising unemployment and general societal dysfunction.

Readin,’ writin’ and ‘rithmetic still have a place in the little red schoolhouse, but unless we throw open the windows and let in the light of new common sense-driven curricula we’ll continue taking two steps backward and one step forward and end up with a society that can’t even live with itself let alone with others.

- Editor

Think you know the truth?

Posted on 10. Jul, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

One Christmas I sat crouched behind our sofa waiting for the arrival of Santa Claus only to see my father and mother bring our presents out of the hall closet.

That was a sobering experience and one that forced me to reluctantly join the ranks of inveterate skeptics. I began to believe that truth, like beauty, was in the eye of the beholder, and that it depended on not only what was there but also what you wanted to believe was there!

My classmates and I never questioned the veracity of our school textbooks, nor did we doubt our teachers’ legitimacy. We trusted all authority because we had no reason not to.

Years later, I started checking the facts that were given to me. I read articles that expressed viewpoints different from my own and some that seriously questioned the conventional wisdom.

Soon I pushed back the curtain and saw the influence that special interest groups had on our society and how they constructed their arguments to win its support.

Lately, I’ve come to the conclusion that the media is probably the biggest special interest group around. While I was too young to appreciate the great radio commentators like H.V. Kaltenborn or Gabriel Heatter, I did watch their television successors like Huntley and Brinkley, Cronkite, Sevareid and Chancellor. I trusted these men to tell me the truth, every evening.

They may well have been part of a group of newscasters on an ideological mission but they didn’t come off that way to me or to millions of other people.

Their sole special interest seemed to be in laying out current events and the news in an easily digestible fashion for their audience.

Their delivery was measured but not peppered with innuendo or loaded phrases. They undoubtedly had their own personal agendas, but I’m willing to bet they were more interested in delivering an honest news ‘product’ rather than proselytizing.

It’s easy to look back to watershed moments in broadcasting history to find events that reeked with truth and defied misinterpretation. The civil rights confrontations and sit-ins of the 60s are but one example. That story was the truth and didn’t require a leap of faith to embrace it.

The newscasters were the messengers then and not the message. Now the tables seemed to be turned as editorializing (first by choosing which stories qualify for the newscast and next fitting them into a predetermined narrative) has replaced objective reporting!

I generally watch two morning news programs on Sunday: ‘Fox News Sunday’ with Chris Wallace and ‘Meet the Press’ with David Gregory. I cannot watch just one or I feel like I’m starting my Sunday as an ideologue who is more interested in reinforcing his own opinion than seeking the truth.

This exercise is not without frustration, however, because their guests attack their own credibility with a never-ending deluge of talking points, one-liners, false accusations and innuendo (if not downright lies)!

Sometimes the moderators let them roll it all out as Wallace’ stand-in did today with the heads of the Democrat and Republican parties.

These party chieftains’ whirling dervish spinning antics were truly worthy of the Foghorn Leghorn Award for blather.  What could’ve been a triple-word score for truthfulness ended up being an exercise in political legerdemain.

The Huntleys and Brinkleys are long gone and our childhood naiveté has been replaced with a nagging suspicion that everyone is lying to us.

Truth exists somewhere between reality and our cynicism, and it’s elusive. It bears no easily recognizable stamp or unassailable certificate of authenticity. It can be manipulated, disguised, slightly out of focus and often out of reach, but it’s there.

You have to want it badly to find it and you need to know where to look. We must not let the fact that truth has many hiding places deter us from searching for it, but if all else fails, we can always turn to our children who seem to have a natural penchant for honesty and an uncanny instinct for spotting a phony a mile away.

- Editor

The end of spectator citizenship—it is time to get engaged

Posted on 09. Jul, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Energy/Environment

“The problem is,” a utility company executive told me, “that there is no one at the table who cares about the ratepayers.

There is no one who cares about low-cost energy. Everyone is too concerned about looking PC instead of standing up for the consumer.” We were discussing the “stay” announced last week by the EPA that allows the state of New Mexico more time to find an alternative solution toward meeting the visibility requirements spelled out in the Clean Air Act.

New Mexico has been battling with the EPA over its insistence that the state use selective catalytic reduction technology (CRT) at the San Juan Generating Station, the 1,800-megawatt coal-fueled power plant that is New Mexico’s single largest source of electricity.

It also provides power to customers in California, Arizona, and Utah. The state has been arguing for a different plan that would cost less but produce similar results. Bids received for the CRT installation are more than double the EPA’s estimate.

As has been happening across the country, the high cost of the EPA’s mandates, will likely shut down the two older units at New Mexico’s San Juan Generating Station. The Public Regulatory Commission will have to allow the utility company to increase rates to cover the lost depreciation of the units—not to mention the loss of the electricity production.

As the millions of people in the Washington DC area who lived without power for days found, living without electricity is “awful.”

In his well-worth reading narrative of life without electricity, When the Moore Family Lost Power, Stephen Moore states: “It was awful, but educational. If anything good has come out of this debacle, it is that our household has a new appreciation for how important it is that everyone have access to affordable and reliable sources of energy.”

Environmental groups have complained that they do not have a seat at the table. Jeremy Nichols of the group WildEarth Guardians, stated: “they’ve got to realize they need to work with us or else it’s not going to get any easier for them.”

As the utility executive explained, the ratepayers’ needs are not being considered. The meetings will likely take place in some “smoky room” where a deal will be hashed out with no one challenging the premise most of these so-called emission reductions are based on: climate change is a man-made crisis caused by humans burning hydrocarbons.

“Who,” I asked, “should be standing up for the ratepayer?” “The Attorney General,” he told me.

While our meeting started out with complaints about the process, I saw the 90-day stay as a positive. It buys us time—though a 120-day stay would have been better. One hundred-twenty days would put us past the election—though not past a potential lame-duck period.

Actions like the EPA’s insistence that power providers use excessively expensive equipment for miniscule reductions (think of the law of diminishing returns) in pollutants or “haze”—which ultimately shuts down power plants and reduces our access to abundant and affordable electricity—emphasizes the importance of electing a new President come November 6.

With the stay, we may be able to put off finalizing the rules until we have a new President and a new EPA Administrator. If an agreement is reached and finalized within the 90-day time frame, it will be harder to reverse. But if a decision is not made, and another stay is granted, it could be a win. We could have a re-think and sanity could return to electricity costs and pricing.

But winning will take citizen engagement on several fronts. If we sit back and watch, we’ll deserve what we get—which could include outrageously high energy prices.

First, in New Mexico, and other states facing similar circumstances, we need to pummel the Attorney General with phone calls, emails, and letters telling him (or her) to represent us, the ratepayers.

He needs to fight for abundant and affordable electricity rather than acquiesce to the politically correct notion that CO2 emissions are ruining the planet. Sadly, in New Mexico, it is not likely that the AG will stand up for us.

Second, we all need to vote! Mitt Romney may not be our first choice, but he is a choice. Sitting the election out will give us four more years of punitive energy regulation—on steroids.

Lastly, assuming we get a change on November 6, we cannot breathe a sigh of relief, sit back, and relax. We must stay engaged. The era of spectator citizenship is over.

We, the people, will need to stay on top of the Romney Administration to insist that he appoint people to positions, such as the Secretary of Energy and the EPA Administrator, who understand the important role energy plays in America. Stephen Moore called it “the central nervous system of our modern economy and our 21st-century lifestyles.”

I am optimistic because I have seen citizen engagement work.

We had a victory in New Mexico with the sand dune lizard. I believe it was citizen engagement that kept it from being listed as an endangered species—which could have severely crippled the economy in Southeastern New Mexico and West Texas and reduced oil and gas development throughout the region that produces 20% of the domestic supply.

Like the utility company executive didn’t see the “stay” as a win, not all the oil and gas stakeholders saw the sand dune lizard decision as a win.

Back in December of 2011, the sand dune lizard decision was delayed for six months. Many industry executives would have liked to have had the decision made, not delayed, so they could move on to the next step: court.

At the time, I wrote that the “delay” option, was a good thing as it allowed for more public engagement and it put the decision just months away from the presidential election. I posited that I didn’t think the Obama Administration would want to make a decision that would hurt such a large portion of the state’s economy months before the election in a swing state.

There was more public engagement and last month the decision was handed down. The lizard was not listed.

One of the reasons the lizard was not listed was because of the Candidate Conservation Agreements (CCA), in which many in the industry have engaged. Some complain that the CCAs are really extortion, and they are.

The CCA requires companies that want to drill in the lizard’s habitat to pay money to an organization for habitat restoration—but they can still operate (albeit at a higher cost, which results in higher prices to the consumers).

However, as the environmental groups have complained, the CCAs are nonbinding. With a new administration and new leadership in the agencies, the CCAs could be abandoned much more easily than the lizard could be de-listed.

Again, citizens will need to be engaged to keep pressure on a President-elect Romney to appoint appropriate agency leadership.

The “stay” over the regional haze regulations in New Mexico can be a win. The “delay” over the sand dune lizard was a win.

Likewise, the Supreme Court decision on the healthcare law could be a win—but we have to embrace it and get engaged. Agree or disagree with the decision, it is the decision; it is what we have to work with.

The campaign cash that flowed in following the announcement ($4.6 million to the Romney campaign from 47,000 donors in less than a day) shows that, perhaps, the Chief Justice has done us a favor. In opining, “It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices,” he has reminded all of us of the importance of our vote.

Whom we elect has far broader implications than just who occupies the White House. The President appoints people to leadership positions and they pick the people who implement the rules and regulations—like Al Armendariz. We often call these people “unelected bureaucrats,” when in fact, they are there as a result of our vote.

We have 16 weeks to save America. Are you engaged? Are you talking to your friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers about the importance of this election?

Polls following the SCOTUS decision show that nearly half of the public didn’t even know that a decision had been made or what it was. For us, that translates to an understanding that a large percentage of the population—including nearly half of your friends and family—isn’t paying attention to the news. They need us to talk to them.

Each week as you read my column, you should be outraged! I aim to expose under-covered issues that point out the danger of this administration’s energy policy. In doing so, I’m giving you fresh talking points so you can engage in the process. I also hope to encourage you to keep at it; to not give up. As citizens of the United States of America, we can no longer be spectators. It is time to get engaged.

This article was submitted by the author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon, who serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.


 

 

 

 

Obama’s Green-Energy, Crony-Corruption Story, Part II, The Special Seven

Posted on 09. Jul, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Energy/Environment

The previous green-energy crony-corruption column unraveled SolarReserve and its share of “meaningful” political connections –– Citigroup, a major investor in SolarReserve, also a top 2008 Obama donor, as well as two former Citigroup executives, one of whom is an Obama “buddy and bundler” and now has a “seat” at the White House, while the other served on President Obama’s Transition Team and now sits on his Jobs Council.

Then add more investor connections –– one of whom went on to be a 2008 Obama campaign advisor and then a DOE advisory role under Secretary Chu.

Another was a 2008 Obama bundler who just so happened to be a frequent White House visitor, while the other was related to the former Speaker of the House.

The mix is topped off with a high-powered lobbyist with White House connections, and several SolarReserve board members who just so happen to be 2008 (and 2010) Democrat, Harry Reid, and Obama donors.

The combination is a recipe for SolarReserve’s $737 million DOE “noninvestment” grade loan guarantee, which was rated a BB by Fitch and potential millions in a 1603 tax-free grant—both programs implemented under the 2009 Obama Stimulus package.

SolarReserve is only the first chapter in our green-energy crony-corruption Story. The next is BrightSource Energy. Like SolarReserve, the BrightSource tale also has interesting political ties: Obama, Reid and Democrat donors, as well as a DOE advisor. However, it gets even brighter when you look into its high-powered investors.

As featured in the introduction, here is a quick overview of BrightSource’s green-energy crony-corruption Story:

BrightSource Energy has a three-unit power system project known as “Ivanpah,” located near the California/Nevada border, south of Las Vegas, which uses a proprietary power-tower solar thermal system. Ivanpah I and III have a BB+ rating while Ivanpah II is BB.

On April 11, 2011, the DOE announced the finalization of $1.6 billion in loan guarantees for BrightSource’s Ivanpah project. The apparent “payoffs” to Democrats are myriad—the company having donated at least $21,600 to Democrats since 2008 (and zero dollars to Republicans).

According to a Washington Free Beacon report, Senator Harry “Reid received almost $4,000 from Brightsource executives in the 2010 cycle, including $2,400 from CEO John Woolard, who hosted a fundraiser for the majority leader.

Woolard is also a Barack Obama donor and has visited the White House 10 times since Obama took office.” Additionally, Sanjay Wagle (a significant 2008 Obama campaign supporter and contributor), a principal at Vantage Point Partners (the major stakeholder in BrightSource) was an advisor at the DOE at the time the loan was approved.

And, John Bryson, BrightSource Chairman, became Obama’s Secretary of Commerce (although he resigned in June following a series of mysterious auto accidents) and has ties to an organization that helped craft the stimulus package.

The above thumbnail introduced the key players. Here we’ll really get to know them and, more specifically, their connections to the Obama administration.

John Bryson was Chairman of BrightSource Energy prior to his appointment as Secretary of Commerce with the Obama White House in May 2011—shortly after the BrightSource loan was approved. Bryson’s appointment was confirmed in October.

The Washington Free Beacon reports: “According to financial disclosures, Bryson had up to $500,000 in stock options from BrightSource and a $700,000 advisory fee from Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, an investment group that has bought a number of solar farms in California. He was also the CEO of Edison International, which obtained exclusive power purchase agreements for four of the solar projects, at the time the awards were issued.”

Bryson also has ties to Obama supporter George Soros. In 1970, Bryson was a co-founder of the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which is funded, in part, by the Tides Foundation, to which philanthropist George Soros has donated more than $7 million over the years.

Ron Arnold of the Green Tracking Library says: “the NRDC is one of the richest, most snobbish elite Big Green groups in America.” The NRDC is a member of and funder for the Apollo Alliance, a far left organization, which has boasted about being behind several of the Obama administration’s “green” initiatives, in addition to crafting “green” sections of the stimulus bill. (More on the Apollo Alliance in a future column.)

John Woolard is President and CEO of BrightSource Energy. A March 16 2012 hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (HOGRC) revealed that Woolard used his connections to try to get a “commitment” for the DOE loan for BrightSource—despite the fact that Secretary Chu has repeatedly said the loans were based on merit. During the hearing, Woolard said: “I believe that everything we did in our project was fully on the merits. It was a very solid project.” Yet, a series of emails involving Woolard show him interacting with decision-makers in the administration seeking political influence.

HOGRC Chairman Issa told The Hill: “Clearly we have a discovery of emails showing there was direct conversation intended by the people having those conversations to be lobbying all the way up to and including President Obama.”

The emails reveal communications between Woolard and Matt Rogers, senior adviser to the secretary of energy for the Recovery Act, and between Woolard and Jonathan Silver, executive director of the Energy Department loan program.

The January 2010 Woolard/Rogers email referenced a conversation between Peter Darbee, then-CEO and chairman of Pacific Gas and Electric, and President Obama that addressed the program’s challenges. At the hearing, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, emphasized to Woolard,  PG& E and Darbee “had a vested interest in getting this thing approved because you were providing them their required commitment for green power.”

The March 7, 2011, Woolard/Silver email asked Silver to look over a letter drafted by Woolard and then-Brightsource chairman John Bryson that requested direct White House influence in BrightSource’s loan guarantee application.

The letter, intended to be sent to then-White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, said: “We need a commitment from the WH to quarterback loan closure between OMB and DOE.” It also included a request for “guidance and support from the White House.” One month after the email exchange asking for “direct White House influence,” the $1.6 billion federal loan guarantee was approved. Even the Washington Post confirms that: “venture capitalists who held advisory roles with the Energy Department were given access to Obama’s top advisers.”

According to the Washington Examiner report, “President Obama discussed the Department of Energy loan program with a stakeholder dependent on the DOE, and the conversation appears to have expedited the process.”

The “stakeholder” (Darbee) and Rogers and Silver each have their own interesting “connections” that can be found on the Green Corruption Blog.

Sanjay Wagle, according to the HOGRC report, “has most recently served as Renewable Energy Advisor to DOE under Secretary Chu.” The report continues, “Prior to arriving in Washington, Wagle was a principal at Vantage Point Venture Partners, a cleantech venture capital firm whose investments received $2.4 billion in taxpayer funds….His former firm and the companies it invested in, therefore had a large stake in the financing decisions being made by DOE at the time.”

Wagle joined the DOE just as, according to the Washington Post, “the administration embarked on a massive program to stimulate the economy with federal investments in clean-technology firms.”

In addition to being a major stakeholder in BrightSource, Vantage Point received different types of government funding for at least nine green energy projects. (Note: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is a Partner and Senior Advisor at Vantage Point.) The HOGRC report lists three of the nine projects, so the $2.4 billion cited in the report is probably really much higher.

Wagle was an Obama fundraiser for the 2008 campaign through his Clean Tech for Obama group.  In time for the 2012 election cycle, Wagle left the DOE and has returned to California to work as an investor and clean-tech advisor.  Like some of his DOE peers (Steve Spinner and Steve Westly), he has probably gone back to fundraising for Obama.

Bernie Toon, who served then-Senator Joe Biden as his Chief of Staff, became a lobbyist for BrightSource Energy on March 6, 2011. According to the Wall Street Journal, “BrightSource spent more than $500,000 on lobbying in the third quarter of 2010 through the second quarter of 2011.”

$40,000 of the lobbying money went to Toon—which paid off immediately. Toon, and BrightSource executives made two visits to the White House in March. The loan was approved the following month. Toon’s contract ended the day after BrightSource got the loan.

In addition to these high-profile connections, BrightSource Energy’s investors include other top Obama donors including Google, Morgan Stanley, BP Alternative Energy, and Goldman Sachs—though, according to Forbes, “the federal loan guarantee is financing the bulk of Invanpah’s construction costs.”

As we’ve seen with SolarReserve, and now with BrightSource Energy, the companies who get the government funding are those with inside connections that may be decades old, as in the case of Toon, or current, as in the case of John Bryson, who would still be Secretary of Commerce if not for the recent car incidents.

Sadly, the widely publicized Solyndra story, SolarReserve and BrightSource Energy are just three of the many stories in the green-energy crony-corruption saga. Next week, we’ll profile two energy companies not only in Senator Harry Ried’s back yard, but with unique political connections and even DOE violations.

Author’s note: Thanks to Christine Lakatos, the Green Corruption blogger for research assistance.

This article was submitted by the author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon, who serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.


 

 

 

 

 

 

Schott Solar is no Solyndra

Posted on 05. Jul, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Energy/Environment

When any company closes its doors it creates victims, but the victims are not limited to the immediate workforce.

Plant closings have profound consequences for the communities in which the companies reside, the vendors that serve them, and the local and state governments’ tax bases.

Companies must be treated individually and as part of a larger collective.

In the case of Schott Solar, it is an individual company but very much an integral part of a collective of foreign-owned, U.S.-based businesses and part of the renewable energy industry community.

New Mexico will have to wrestle with the body blow dealt to its high-technology company recruitment strategy by the departure of a world class company.

Collateral damage is still damage

Some people will want to compare the loss of Schott to the bankruptcy of Solyndra since both companies were working in the solar energy field. That would be a big mistake. No two companies could be more different than these two.

Schott’s corporate history goes back to 1884 in Jena, Germany when it started out as a technical laboratory specializing in glass. Today, the company produces a wide variety of innovative glass products for high-technology commercial applications. Its entry into photovoltaics dates back to 1958. Solar panel work, which started in 2001, was a natural outgrowth of that early pioneering work with other glass applications.

Solyndra was a 2006 startup in search of a federal government life support system that it could use to free-ride to the front of the line, whereas Schott wasn’t even standing in line!

Solyndra got its wish when the Department of Energy opened its purse and gave the company $535 million of our taxpayer money – money that is now irrevocably lost – squandered away without any federal provision for pay-back.

To its credit, Schott Solar saw the handwriting on its wall and did not prolong the painful decision to dissolve its operations. This stood in stark contrast to Solyndra that knew it was doomed yet put off the inevitable, spent the Energy Department grant and then waited for another bite of the Federal apple.

Schott’s decision to cut its losses and get out of the business of solar panel production must have been a difficult one for a proud 125-year old company because no company wants to give up the future, especially one in which it has made such a significant investment, but soon Schott will close more factories in Europe and its solar headquarters in Germany, effectively putting itself out of the multi-crystalline photovoltaic business entirely.

Companies cannot pay today’s bills with tomorrow’s hopes

Schott’s strategic position was untenable, especially in the face of an onslaught of cheaply-made Chinese solar panels that were being dumped onto our market. This strategy has gone on for three straight quarters and it has cost Chinese manufacturers hundreds of millions of dollars.

It is, however, a price they are prepared to pay for market domination (Chinese manufacturers are getting credits through their government banks which are supporting their efforts). In the face of this unfair competition, Schott did what any responsible company must do to stem the flow of red ink. It called it quits, globally.

Now I’m not suggesting that we should give them the keys to the city and a going-away party. I’m simply saying that we have to accept the inevitability of losing some companies from time to time. We must learn from the experience, adapt, and redouble our efforts.

While our neighbors may be cutting fancy deals to attract big companies to their states, New Mexico can simply not afford to give a blank check to anyone to locate here anymore.

If our infrastructure, workforce and other strengths aren’t good enough for prospective investors, we must improve them rather than use no-strings cash giveaways as the deal-maker. I’d much rather leave the negotiating table with my shirt still on my back and my reputation intact than to gamble with taxpayer dollars.

Invest in technology or companies

Solyndra has become the poster child for a failed federal policy that has favored companies over technology. It seems that the Feds have adopted the Nancy Pelosi approach to government grant-giving: “We’ll have to pass the bill now so that we can find out what’s in it.” Translated, that means: Trust me. Give me your money, and we’ll deal with the outcome later.

Before we slam the door on Schott as it leaves, we ought to consider that the company has been a great corporate citizen. It has probably paid out nearly $50 million in wages and benefits to its workers over the past three and half years, most of which has trickled down into our local economy. It has taught a few hundred semi-skilled or unskilled workers a valuable trade, and it agreed to be used to entice more companies to come to New Mexico.

I had the privilege of meeting many of Schott’s employees and its management team, and I can honestly say that they are a class act and I wish them well.

If there’s a take-way here, it is that we must deal with prospective investor companies from a position of reasonableness in the future. We must lay out all the benefits of doing business here and not give away the store to get the sale. We should never be like the New York merchant who was selling his goods below cost, and who, when he was asked by his friend how he was able to do it said, “volume.”

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May 2012 New Mexico Sales Number and Median Price Above May 2011

Posted on 01. Jul, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy

May sales numbers in New Mexico out-paced both April 2012 numbers and those reported for May of 2011.  1,358 sales were reported to the REALTORS Association of New Mexico (RANM) during May 2012.  This compares to 1,256 in April 2012 and 1,200 in May 2011.

The reported May 2012 median price was $170,000.  This number is 3% higher than the median reported in May 2011.

Is the New Mexico market really turning around?  According to Debbie Rogers, 2012 President of RANM, “There is optimism.  Brokers have started seeing multiple offers at list price or higher during the past few weeks.  Many distressed properties are still on the market and influence median prices, however, banks are beginning to see the wisdom of short sales over foreclosure, and this is helping our market.”

“Short sales and foreclosures throughout the state are reflected in year to date median prices – $163,000 – which is just over 1% lower than the 2011 January through May median,” according to Steven Anaya, RANM Executive Vice President.  “The good news is the number of sales continues to increase.

Over 10% more sales have been reported to date for 2012 than January through May 2011.”  5,619 sales were reported for the first five months of 2012; 5,094 sales were reported during the same period in 2011.

Again, monthly (and year to date) numbers vary considerably by market.  Comparing May 2011 to May 2012, roughly half the counties reporting showed an increase in sales or median price and half showed decreases.  Bernalillo, Eddy, Grant, Sandoval, Sierra, and Valencia counties all showed an increase in both number of sales and median prices.

The trends and numbers reported are only a snapshot of market activity.  If you are interested in buying or selling, consult a REALTOR familiar with your market area; he/she can provide information on specific trends in your neighborhood.

Statistical information and trends are based on information furnished by New Mexico Member Boards and MLSs to U. S. House Stats. Current reporting participants are: Greater Albuquerque Association of REALTORS, Las Cruces Association of REALTORS MLIS, New Mexico Multi-Board MLS (Artesia, Carlsbad, Clovis/Portales, Deming, Gallup, Grants, Hobbs, Las Vegas, Sierra County areas), Otero County Board of REALTORS, Roswell Association of REALTORS, Ruidoso/Lincoln County Association of REALTORS, Santa Fe Association of REALTORS, San Juan County Board of REALTORS, Silver City Regional Association of REALTORS, and the Taos County Association of REALTORS.

Reports represent single family residential data only.  Information does not necessarily represent all activity in any market/county.  Figures based on reports run 619/12.  Visit www.nmrealtor.com (housing trends) for county and board statistics.

This information was submitted by The REALTORS Association of New Mexico is one of the state’s largest trade associations, representing over 5,500 members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate market.

Obama’s green energy, crony-corruption story: Special Seven Part Series – Part I

Posted on 01. Jul, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Energy/Environment

Everyone who pays any attention to the news knows the name Solyndra. It has become synonymous with the overall failed green energy program administered by the Obama team. Politicos know there are many other companies that have received loan guarantees for various green energy projects that have since become a source of ridicule for the White House.

Some might even be able to name a few. There is the now-bankrupt company that made batteries for electric cars: Ener1. The plug-in electric sports car company, Fisker, that made their cars in Finland and has troubles too numerous to cite.

And, of course, we know about the Chevy Volt—that our taxpayer dollars bailed out only to have demand so low that Chevrolet had to pull the plug on the production line and lay off workers for five weeks earlier this year. But few know the full story.

Connecting the dots will make your head hurt. There are various programs and different kinds of companies that received green energy loans: Solar, wind, and geothermal; car companies, battery manufacturers, and biofuel producers.

While the projects differ, they have several startling similarities. The vast majority of the green energy loan guarantees were given to companies that could not obtain enough financial backing from private investors.

Their “junk” or “speculative” grade kept people from being willing to put their own money into them—yet your money and mine was given to them and we had no say in the matter. Of the 27 loans issued through the 1705 Loan Guarantee Program to 21 firms, virtually all of them have “connections” to either President Obama or other high-ranking Democrats—or both!

The loans were made to fill a market created not by free-market demand, but by government mandates. And, all of the “special seven” got fast-tracked approvals through the Department of Interior that would have taken any other energy company months, if not years, to get and EPA regulations were applied selectively.

Many of the companies that received the funds had involvement with large donors and/or bundlers for the Obama campaign and there is an amazing revolving door through which the players pass many times. They worked, for example, for Senator Harry Reid.

Then they are on the staff of an investment firm that invested in one, or more, of the companies. Next you find he or she is on some White House commission—or worse, become part of the Obama Department of Energy team. 460 companies applied for DOE loans. 27 projects, 21 companies, got the funds. 85% of these have been found to have “connections.” The remaining 15% may well have connections too, albeit more guarded or hidden.

These are not wild assertions. I have the data to back them up.

Following the publication of my column a couple of weeks ago on crony capitalism, I was connected with Christine Lakatos. She’s a private citizen and a single mom with a nose for research.

She was hired to work on a couple of projects. But when those projects were completed, she didn’t stop digging. She kept finding more and more. With no outlet for her work, she started a blog where she “brain dumps” her findings—which for a total unknown has received an impressive number of readers. For anyone but the most stalwart, her Green Corruption Blog is like getting a drink of water from a fire hydrant.

On Sunday, some of Lakatos’ research was presented in my weekly column. The response prompted us to begin a collaboration.

For each of the next 17 weeks, we will expose one green-energy, crony-corruption story after another (though my travel schedule may require me to skip a week here and there). It will be a “book” released chapter-by-chapter. If you like what you find, we hope you’ll let us know and come back the following week for the next installment. Some single stories of what we’ll expose are “out there”—though surely not covered by the mainstream media and not all in one place or all connected as we’re doing.

If you made a study of the green-energy, crony-corruption story your passion, you likely found out a lot of what we’ll share. If you read the report from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (HOGRC) on the Obama Administration’s green energy gamble word-for-word, or watched the damning hearings, you’ll already know some of what we’ll present.

Or, if you’ve read the chapter in Peter Schweizer’s book Throw Them All Out that addresses alternative energy, you have a good idea of the big picture. If you have made this your passion, have studied the report, and have coordinated with Schweizer, as Lakatos has, you are encouraged to help make these reports as complete as possible. Together, we’ll connect the dots and present it here in bite-sized pieces.

Each of the energy projects we will profile in the “special seven” section were recipients of billions of taxpayer dollars through the 1705 Loan Guarantee Program (LGP) and many will be receiving millions more through the 1603 Grant Program.

The 1705 LGP is an expansion of the 1703 program that was approved in 2005 under President Bush—increasing the expenditures from $17.9 billion in 2007 to $37.2 billion in 2010.

The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act significantly expanded the DOE’s authority, under Energy Secretary Steven Chu, through the newly created 1705 LGP. (Under the Recovery Act, $86 billion—approximately 10% of the stimulus package, was earmarked for green energy projects.) The LGP means that companies get risk-free money.

If the company succeeds, the low-interest loan gets paid back. If they fail—as many have, we, the taxpayers, lose. In contrast, the 1603 Grant Program—started by the Obama administration—is administered by the Treasury Department with the goal of reimbursing eligible applicants for a portion of the costs of installing specified energy property used in a trade or business or for the production of income. Basically 1603 gives favored businesses tax-free cash gifts that do not have to be paid back.

While we can prove that cronyism has run amok within the majority of 1705 LGP, we’ll stay focused on the Special Seven. Here, in Part 1, we present a complete overview of the connecting dots on one project: SolarReserve, LLC. With this introduction made, we’ll likely address several companies, with a common denominator, in subsequent releases.

In Sunday’s column, the following thumbnail was presented: “SolarReserve’s Crescent Dunes project is a solar thermal power tower plant utilizing the advanced molten salt power tower technology with integrated storage located in Tonopah, NV.

The company’s Fitch rating is BB, yet in September 2011, it was the recipient of $737 million in DOE loan guarantees. Obama’s law school buddy and 2008 Obama campaign bundler, Michael Froman, was managing director of alternative investments at Citigroup—which became a major investor in SolarReserve. Froman currently serves on the White House staff. Additionally, other high profile Democrats are involved with SolarReserve.”

But there is more.

More about Michael Froman. Peter Schweizer reports that “Froman helped raise large sums of money on Wall Street” for Obama’s 2008 campaign.”

The HOGRC report (page 47) confirms Peter’s findings and adds that Froman was a $200,000 bundler: “Michael Froman currently serves as the Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs.

He was a friend of President Obama’s from law school, and supported his political career by bundling over $200,000 for his 2008 presidential candidacy. Prior to his arrival at the White House, Froman was the Managing Director of Alternative Investments at Citigroup, where he managed infrastructure and sustainable development investments. Citigroup became a major investor in SolarReserve, which ultimately received a $737 million loan guarantee in September 2011.”

The Citigroup connection is tighter. Richard Parsons was Chairman for Citigroup from 2009 until he announced stepping down in March 2012. Citigroup was a top Obama donor in 2008. Parsons served on the Obama Transition Team and on the Economic Advisory Board. In 2011 Parsons was appointed to the President’s Council on Jobs and Competiveness.

Next, David Sandalow—who is currently “the Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs at DOE, where he acts as Secretary’s Chu’s principal adviser on energy policy as well as coordinates DOE’s foreign policy involvement.”

(HOGRC report page 49) “Sandalow’s ties to the White House date back to the Clinton Administration, during which he worked with President Clinton on environmental issues.

After having gained this experience, Sandalow became the influential Chair of the Energy & Climate Working Group of the Clinton Global Initiative. He went on to advise President Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008. Prior to joining the Obama Administration, Sandalow was a senior advisor to Good Energies, Inc., an energy-focused venture capital firm. Good Energies is an investor in SolarReserve.”

Other SolarReserve connections to the Democratic Party include:

Ronald Pelosi—Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s brother-in-law, Ronald Pelosi, holds a leadership position with Pacific Corporate Group Asset Management—which is an investor in SolarReserve. Additionally, his colleague, Jasandra Nyker, has served as a member of SolarReserve’s board of directors.

George Kaiser—Argonaut Private Equity is an Investor in SolarReserve. Argonaut Private Equity is owned by major Democratic fundraiser George Kaiser—who also invested in Solyndra. The Managing Director for Argonaut Private Equity, Steve Mitchell, serves on SolarReserves Board of Directors.

Tony PodestaOpenSecrets.org shows that SolarReserve paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in lobbying fees to the Podesta Group. Tony Podesta is the principal at the Podesta Group—which he started with his brother John. John Podesta ran Barack Obama’s presidential transition team and is the Director of the Center for American Progress—which is reportedly highly influential in helping to craft White House Policy.

Lee Bailey—SolarReserve’s Chairman of the Board is Lee Bailey, a Managing Director with U.S. Renewables Group—who holds a significant financial stake in SolarReserve. Baily has donated $21,850 since 2008 to Democratic candidates including President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, California Sen. Barbara Boxer and then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

James McDermottSolarReserve board member James McDermott is also a Managing Director with U.S. Renewables Group. He contributed $61,500 to various Democratic campaigns since 2008, including $30,800 to Obama’s presidential election campaign. U.S Renewable Energy Group has ties with Senator Harry Reid.

If there was only one connect-the-dots story, it would be easy to dismiss it as coincidence. But here, with just one company, you can see the dots connect, and connect, and connect.

As you will continue to see, they keep on connecting. In this case, connect-the-dots is no innocent childhood game. It is a high-stakes gamble and only those with connections get to play. Obama and his Democratic friends are the winners. We the taxpayers, the losers. We lose the financial invest of our tax dollars and our electricity rates go up—all to support the discredited ruse of manmade climate change.

This article was submitted by the author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon who serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.


 


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