Going Green: Big Politics, Big Business and Big Money

Sometimes I wonder if Generation Z and whatever comes next will grow up thinking the color green was named after an environmental cause. After all, we no longer teach the basics in school. Why bother? If you want to learn about something, you just Google it.

Try Googling “green.”

The first entry is the obligatory Wikipedia page, which does identify green as a color in the middle of the visible light spectrum. But nearly every result after that, at least as far as I could scroll without going blind, is related to the most famous cause -- or infamous fad, depending on your perspective -- in the history of mankind. The environment.

The vast majority of results reference the Green Party, green energy, Greenpeace, green environment, green building, green technology, green climate, green festivals, green initiatives, green living, green empowerment, green hotels, Green Corps, green bonds, green diet, green toys and just about every other noun you can stick green in front of.

Of course there were a few notable exceptions: Soylent Green, Bowling Green State University, Green Bay, Green Day, Simple Green, green card, A.J. Green, green onions, green tea, and of course, an entry or two related to St. Patrick’s Day. (Yes, I know that’s today. No, that’s not why I wrote the article.)

Even Google has Google Green, an initiative to build a better web that’s better for the environment. At least that’s the first sentence. The second says, “Google is greening our company.” And the third is, “That means when you use Google products, you’re being better to the environment.” And there it is.

Green is also the color of money. The American flag may be red, white and blue, but America’s real color of choice is green. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a bad thing. Neither is a clean and sustainable environment. But when business leaders, politicians, bureaucrats, environmentalists and researchers act like hypocrites, that’s another story.

Look at it this way. To the eyes of someone just showing up on the scene and reading the overwhelming body of content and commentary, going green has been nothing but a noble global pursuit. And it was, until it became big politics, big business and big money. Therein lies the rub.

The fanatical pursuit of all things green is not a rising tide that lifts all boats. It’s a zero-sum game with a few winners and a lot of losers.

Clearly, the federal government’s energy policies have dramatically altered the playing field in terms of energy investment. The Energy Department’s website has a long list of funding programs. That would be great if there wasn’t so much cronyism involved in the selection process, as Peter Schweizer described in his book, Throw Them All Out.

Of the laundry list of renewable energy companies in my first article on the alternative energy bubble back in 2008 -- from GT Solar (aka GT Advanced Technologies) and Nanosolar to HelioVolt and OptiSolar, to name a few -- just about every single one has since gone belly up. And Solyndra wasn’t even on my radar yet.

I don’t know how much of that American taxpayers are on the hook for and, frankly, I don’t want to know. It’s too depressing. What I do know is, if the federal government put a fraction of its weight behind fracking that it puts behind doomed alternative energy plays, we’d be well on our way to energy independence and greater foreign policy leverage.

Meanwhile, a handful of environmental activists, lawyers and lobbyists have more and more to say about how you can and can’t use your property, build your home, landscape, get rid of pests, fish, hunt, eat, paint, even deal with waste than any of us want to know.

The hypocrisy is not just in Washington, mind you. As the state of California continues its relentless push to shove zero-emission vehicles (ZEV) down all of our throats, Tesla and Nissan make thousands on every ZEV car they make by selling zero-emission vehicle credits to competitors Mercedes, GM, Chrysler and Honda.

I don’t know about you but where I live the local fire department drops by to make sure you have defensible space around your home and the insurance company won’t cover you unless you do. And yet, the environmental nuts at the county put all sorts of crazy restrictions on which trees you can drop and how and when you can burn brush.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

Here’s a brainteaser for you. You’re a climatologist. If you kowtow to the global climate change hysteria you get work, grants and notoriety. If you don’t, you’re the crazy uncle in the scientific community’s closet. Which do you choose? I mean, who’d even heard of climatology 20 years ago?

When Al Gore ran for President in 2000, he was worth about $1.7 million. Today he’s got more than $200 million, much of it derived through his political and technology industry connections and global warming push. Never mind that he lives a famously gas-guzzling lifestyle. Ah, the hypocrisy.

Perhaps that’s the real inconvenient truth.