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Red China's Lessons for Green Boondogglers?


David Kreutzer of Heritage has a great item up on The Foundry, on WaPo’s remarkable (it was WaPo!) exposé of the miracle Chinese bullet trains actually leaving a trail of, well, leaving fiscal and other wreckage in their wake. He concludes, “Well, the Chinese finally have a green-energy idea worth stealing: arrest government officials who foist overpriced, underperforming, debt-ballooning, money-losing projects on taxpayers.”

In case you missed the WaPo piece, the man in charge of China’s model train set:

“is ruined, and his high-speed rail project is in trouble. … his ministry has run up $271 billion in debt — roughly five times the level that bankrupted General Motors. But ticket sales can’t cover debt service that will total $27.7 billion in 2011 alone. Safety concerns also are cropping up.

Faced with a financial and public relations disaster, China put the brakes on Liu’s program. On April 13, the government cut bullet-train speeds 30 mph to improve safety, energy efficiency and affordability. The Railway Ministry’s tangled finances are being audited. Construction plans, too, are being reviewed.

Liu’s legacy, in short, is a system that could drain China’s economic resources for years. So much for the grand project that Thomas Friedman of the New York Times likened to a “moon shot” and that President Obama held up as a model for the United States.”

In short, it’s an awful lot like Spain’s wind- and solar program President Obama also longs to impose here.

That’s our Obama administration for you — ever-enamored of that faculty lounge worldview that it is the rest of the world, or at least its more statist quarters, that has so much to teach us, on everything — swooning over disasters that are hard to see from the faculty lounge, when wearing ideological blinders.

Pardon me for thinking it’s wonderful to see the facade cascade down upon these folks who are just too reminiscent, in their fawning over glorious people’s projects, of the cast in P.J. O’Rourke’s essay “Ship of Fools” chronicling his cruise down the Volga and otherwise eyeballing the decrepit Soviet Union, Lefties ooohing and aahing “Did you know there’s no unemployment? The Soviet constitution guarantees everyone a job”, “‘Isn’t it wonderful’, she said, presenting Red Square as if she’d just knitted it”, “And where do they get all the water?” while passing through a canal.

Standard water cooler talk at the administration’s agi-tank, Center for American Progress. And, as Kreutzer writes:

“Bullet-train cheerleaders at the Center for American Progress also seem swayed by [the argument embraced by Chinese leaders of] bigness and national prestige: ‘Today, it is China that is leading the world in a key next-generation transportation technology: high-speed rail. … China already boasts a rail network that, including both standard and high-speed rail, is more than 53,000 miles long.’

[WaPo’s Charles] Lane had additional insight regarding the process that led to such a hugely costly mistake: “Rather than demonstrating the advantages of centrally planned long-term investment, as its foreign admirers sometimes suggested, China’s bullet-train experience shows what can go wrong when an unelected elite, influenced by corrupt opportunists, gives orders that all must follow–without the robust public discussion we would have in the states.”

How much better the process would be with honest opportunists is not clear…”

Heh. On a completely unrelated note (I assure you), an eagle-eyed colleague at the Institute for Energy Research passed something along he spotted in an apologist E&E News item, “DOE loan chief pleads case for Solyndra credit line” (I think we now know how the Solyndra financiers in our government would fare in China).

It turns out you should have no fear that a place handing out taxpayer money isn’t sufficiently scrupulous, diligent and tightly run.

The Department of Energy’s ‘green’ Loan Guarantee Program head actually tells us that they’ve gone from 14 employees in 2009, when they handed out $30 billion in loan guarantees, to…’more than 170 today’.

That’s ‘more than’ a 1,114% increase in DOE loan office employment in 2 years. Can’t wait to see what other Solyndras are out there we’ll learn about! Hello, Beijing?

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