On numerous occasions, to tout his own agenda President Obama told America to “take a look at what’s happening in countries like Spain” to witness his model for a “green jobs” economy. Well, a team of Spaniards produced an academic study, officially of King Juan Carlos University in Madrid, which revealed that Spain’s scheme has proven a disaster.
In response, Obama’s administration provided a lesson in how Big Government can be abused when its officials are angered and embarrassed, turning its institutions on a private individual, even a foreign academic whose offense was to produce scholarly research about his own nation’s policy failures.
Here is what happened. The Spanish “green jobs” study received substantial play in the U.S. media and gained favorable attention in the Wall Street Journal’s U.S., Europe and Asia editions, among other outlets. It came up in a White House press conference, embarrassing spokesman Robert Gibbs who boasted how he disagreed with the study and its conclusions while admitting he had not read it.
The rest of administration’s three-fold response was in sum highly troubling. The benign second step was to substitute, without missing a beat, Denmark for Spain in Obama’s ritual “look at what’s happening in…” litany of our environmental superiors (though that experiment, too, has been defrocked). Then things got ugly.
Someone in the administration actually dispatched a taxpayer-funded agency, the Department of Energy through its National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL), to produce a white paper slamming the study, providing the organized Left a risible tool to wave away the inconvenient. But the two young activists who wrote the paper merely further embarrassed the administration with their flailing complaints: the Spanish team failed to speculate in the absence of official data, and eschewed an economic model designed some time ago far to our east for central planners in favor of a real-world “opportunity cost” model used by people who invest their own money. Thus, spaketh our government, the study employs “non-traditional methodology” and is unworthy of consideration. Ahem.
Professor Dr. Gabriel Calzada, who led the research, visited Washington again this past week, issuing invitations in advance to all relevant federal offices to publicly debate or privately discuss the issue of Spain’s experience to which, we were serially lectured, we are to look for guidance. He was never given the courtesy of a response, let alone the satisfaction of a public contest of respective views.
Now consider two of the Spanish government’s three responses to this study which caused so much heartburn for the Obama administration: rhetorically, they slammed it (and the authors personally), while at the same time officially affirming it. In its April 30 Royal Decree, responding to the analyzed disaster, the Spanish government stated its electricity “rate deficit”, mainly caused by its scheme to push windmills and solar panels, “is deeply harming the system and puts at risk not only the financial situation of the electric sector companies but also sustainability of the system itself. This disadjustment turns out to be unsustainable and has grave consequences since it deteriorates the security and financial capacity of the investments necessary for providing electricity at the levels of quality and security the Spanish society demands.”
Translated, that means: yeah, what he said. Just so you fully grasp: the White House engaged a federal agency to (lamely) slam a study by foreign academics about a foreign government’s policies.
This brings us to today, reading that the International Energy Agency, a purportedly non-activist, non-partisan clearing house to which we are to turn for objective advice, has inexplicably published a rather odd praise for Spain’s glorious ‘green’ achievements. Spain, by the way, has increased its CO2 emissions 50% over Kyoto’s 1990 baseline from which they were to reduce said emissions. Can’t afford much more progress, guys.
The Spanish government’s third response – as reported this weekend in El Confidencial, though Prof. Calzada had told me about the numerous overtures as they were occurring – was to demand through its Education Minister that the university rescind the study that was embarrassing so many officials. This sleaze was a private affair, too unseemly even for the Socialist Zapatero government to try publicly, despite its radical green base openly decrying the academics’ “treason” for embarrassing Spain after its wonders were touted by El Uno.
The university has refused, as the paper meets all relevant requirements for an academic paper (unlike the U.S. government’s response, incidentally), and has been favorably received in the academic community, of all places.
Not that Spain’s behavior has been exemplary, but we should expect far better here. Team Obama are presumably done coming after the study and its authors, whose saving grace appears to be that they are not American citizens in these curious times. And I have no words to describe the feelings engendered when typing that sentence.