John Broder at NYT:
Former Vice President Al Gore thought he had spotted a winner last year when a small California firm sought financing for an energy-saving technology from the venture capital firm where Mr. Gore is a partner.
The company, Silver Spring Networks, produces hardware and software to make the electricity grid more efficient. It came to Mr. Gore’s firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, one of Silicon Valley’s top venture capital providers, looking for $75 million to expand its partnerships with utilities seeking to install millions of so-called smart meters in homes and businesses.
Mr. Gore and his partners decided to back the company, and in gratitude Silver Spring retained him and John Doerr, another Kleiner Perkins partner, as unpaid corporate advisers.
The deal appeared to pay off in a big way last week, when the Energy Department announced $3.4 billion in smart grid grants. Of the total, more than $560 million went to utilities with which Silver Spring has contracts. Kleiner Perkins and its partners, including Mr. Gore, could recoup their investment many times over in coming years.
Nick Loris at Heritage Foundation:
If Al Gore wants to invest his money in green technology, windmills, solar panels or algae, he can do as he pleases. It’s his money. The taxpayer does not have such autonomy. Along with Gore’s investments, the government is taking other people’s money to invest in these projects who do not have a say in the matter. It’s what economist Frederic Bastiat described as legalized plunder: “See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.”
When it comes to investment, that’s exactly what venture capitalist firms are for – to supply funding for the early stages of high risk, potentially high profit start-ups. The government footing a portion of the bill significantly reduces the risk and there’s a reason they need to do so. It’s because these projects are too expensive to compete in the market otherwise and even after years of subsidies and tax breaks, renewable energy still only provides a small fraction of our energy. Maybe wind and solar investments will occur without government support but that’s for the market to decide.
In a speech last year, the former vice president called for the United States to commit to having 100 percent of the country’s electricity supplied by renewable energy within 10 years. With cap and trade, a mandated renewable electricity standard, and billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded green energy investments, it’s no surprise “few have put as much money behind their advocacy as Mr. Gore and are as well positioned to profit from this green transformation, if and when it comes.” But it’s not just Gore. Large energy companies are hedging their bets on political policy designed to make renewable energy more competitive and are pushing for federal funding.
Gore responded to criticism of this saying, “I absolutely believe in investing in ways that are consistent with my values and beliefs. I encourage others to invest in the same way.”
That’s fine. Many Americans do invest in ways consistent with their values and beliefs and many hold stock where they work or in what they think will be profitable. It becomes objectionable when the government forces people to invest in projects, whether they’re profitable or not. But if the government is investing in them, it’s a pretty telling sign they won’t be. This isn’t laissez-faire capitalism; it’s crony capitalism.
Meredith Jessup at Townhall:
Speaking of Al Gore, check out the UK’s Telegraph which reports on how Gore has been cashing-in on his own global warming hysteria. The headline: Al Gore Could Be World’s First Carbon Billionaire.
Mr. Gore of course says he’s putting his “money where my mouth is.” But is it any coincidence that last year, Gore put $56 million in a company that’s now receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in government contracts granted by the Obama administration’s Energy Department? Even the NYTimes is wondering…
I am sure Dick Cheney was proud of the work done by Halliburton in supporting American interests in Iraq and around the world, too. And Michael Moore was a progressive rabble-rouser even before he became rich by being a progressive rabble-rouser. This is a great country.
Gore is not a public official, thank heaven, so it is perfectly reasonable for him to back his ideas with his money. What is not reasonable is the silence of the conflict of interest crowd that screams “cui bono” every time a righty does something like this.
Sam Gustin at Daily Finance:
Gore, the co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace prize for his environmental advocacy, has testified before numerous times before Congress, and given dozens of speeches based on his award-winning film An Inconvenient Truth, which portrayed an ominous future marked by ecological catastrophe.
To be sure, Gore has enemies, and many of them. He picked them up throughout a long career in public service, first as congressman, then as a senator — he was dubbed Sen. Moonbeam — then as vice-president to Bill Clinton, and finally as a green tech evangelist and ecological doomsayer.
Now this foes are fuming that Gore is poised to profit — in a big way — from investments in companies which seek to address the ecological crises he has been warnings about for year. Broder writes that Gore could be viewed as “profiteering from government policies he supports that would direct billions of dollars to the business ventures he has invested in.”
At a hearing earlier this year, Representative Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, attacked Gore for being poised to profit from the very policies he was urging the government to adopt.
“Do you think there is something wrong with being active in business in this country?” Mr. Gore responded. “I am proud of it. I am proud of it.”