The Green Behind ‘Green’

My eye-opening experience with Enron revealed the sort of interests that really drive Big Green and that too often make otherwise inconceivable policy into reality. It also left me wondering why the obvious isn’t quite so clear to those who never had a similar experience. The deep pockets now scrambling to protect their bets on poor investments and other rent-seeking schemes — by defeating Proposition 23 in California — offer another object lesson: The “green economy” — as we were reminded again with the president’s examples of Spain, Denmark, and Germany — amounts to nothing more than robbing Peter to pay Paul to cheerlead the latest version of central planning.

As for funding the campaign, the question “Cui bono?” is readily answered by taking a gander at who is digging deep to battle Prop 23, in order to make sure the gravy train isn’t derailed (regardless of the fairly obvious economic consequences if they are successful).

As things heat up in Cali, this item from out west offers some clues about who stands to gain if the political class defeats Prop 23 (meaning, whose beak was wetted by AB 32, hailed as a “world’s-first” greenhouse-gas and “green-economy” law — notwithstanding the serial collapses of similar schemes wherever they had already been tried, such as in Spain, Ireland, and Portugal):

Over the past few days, the No forces have collected $5 million from venture capitalists, New York financiers, renewable energy companies, and other deep-pocketed backers, according to California Secretary of State records.

The Yes campaign, meanwhile, has received only a single $10,000 donation over the past week, from a Houston company that provides services to the oil and petrochemical industries. The last big contribution to the Yes coffers was a $100,000 donation made on Sept. 13.

Of course, Texas oil companies Tesoro and Valero and the billionaire Koch brothers, who earlier contributed $1 million to the Yes effort, could drop $10 million on the campaign tomorrow. But there appears to be a fundraising enthusiasm gap between the campaigns during the home stretch sprint to Election Day.

Take a look at the growing roster of No partisans willing to put their money where their mouths are — not to mention their self-interest.

Ann Doerr, the wife of leading Silicon Valley capitalist John Doerr, gave $1 million to the No campaign on Thursday while her husband contributed $500,000 (in addition to the half million dollars he previously donated). Thomas Steyer, founder of the Farallon Capital Management hedge fund and co-chair of the No on 23 effort, put another $2.5 million into the campaign. San Francisco venture capitalist Paul Klingenstein contributed $100,000.

On the other coast, New York hedge fund manager Julian Robertson of Tiger Management kicked in half a million dollars on Thursday.

Renewable energy companies stepped to the plate as well. The U.S. division of Spanish wind giant Iberdrola Renewables gave $25,000; Santa Monica-based Solar Reserve, a developer of solar power plants, pitched in $50,000; and Google executive Jonathan Rosenberg contributed $10,000.

The Consumers Union, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, and Working Assets also gave a collective $100,000 over the past week.

The latter parties remind us how this green spin on central planning is catnip to ideologues. But see, e.g., the VC guy Steyer’s website touting “Core Investment Strategies,” one of which is “Value Investments,” which according to him means “securities . . . which are expected to appreciate in value due to a catalyzing event or a change in circumstances, including regulatory or legislative change, changing business models . . .” and so on, which suggests that he’s putting his money where his mouth already is (yes, I’ve got a screenshot of it). Someone might ask him if he’s ever had $5 million pay off like he’s hoping this $5 million will.

Regardless, it provides a little more perspective on the cries that moneyed interests are behind Prop 23 — which certainly originated as a grassroots effort to delay a scheme that is proving to be a disaster everywhere it is tried. Which, of course, is why no one opposing Prop 23 is telling you to look at the successes elsewhere. Instead, they’re fibbing about “world’s first” and all that. So, as they say, people who might have money at stake support it, so you know it must be sinister. Peter, meet Paul; goose, meet gander.

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