Rent-Seeker Glee: It Did Not Begin with Solyndra (remembering Enron’s triumphant Kyoto Memo)
“They about had an orgasm in Biden’s office when we mentioned Solyndra,” read a Feb. 27, 2010, email from [Ken] Levit to [Steve] Mitchell. A follow-up email from Mitchell to Levit later that day responded, “That’s awesome! Get us a [Department of Energy] loan.”
- Quoted in “Emails Reveal Biden Team’s Enthusiasm Over Solyndra Loans,” Fox News, November 9, 2011.
Kids in the taxpayer candy store. That describes the heady days when Solyndra executives and lobbyists gleefully found out that the politicians loved their speculative, defective product. It turns out that Solyndra was a photo-op for President Obama and his “dream ‘green’ team”–one that may well end up being their undoing. (Does Obama use the term ‘green jobs’ anymore?.)
Enron was the canary in the renewable-energy coal mine. Ken Lay had a vision for Enron to become the world’s leading renewable energy company, part of the company’s green and Corporate Social Responsibility imaging. 
Enron’s investments in solar and wind produced financial losses in each year of operation, but many photo ops were generated, including a solar project that duped the New York Times.
Solyndra’s orgasmic glee in Vice President Biden’s office reminds me of the dreamy memo by John Palmisano, Enron’s lobbyist in Kyoto, Japan, written the day after the Kyoto Protocol was ratified in late 1997.
With the tenth anniversary of Enron’s bankruptcy filing just weeks away, this is an opportune time to remind one and all of just what the whole global warming crusade meant for the most rent-seeking of all rent-seeking companies, Enron. Excepts follow….
“ THIS AGREEMENT WILL BE GOOD FOR ENRON STOCK!!”
BY John Palmisano, “Implications of the Climate Change Agreement in Kyoto & What Transpired” (12/12/1997)
“If implemented, [the Kyoto Protocol] will do more to promote Enron’s business than will almost any other regulatory initiative outside of restructuring of the energy and natural gas industries in Europe and the United States. The potential to add incremental gas sales, and additional demand for renewable technology is enormous. In addition, a carbon emissions trading system will be developed. While the trading system will be implemented by 2008, I am sure that reductions will begin to trade with 1-2 years. Finally, Enron has immediate business opportunities which derive directly from this agreement….
“I do not think it is possible to overestimate the importance of this year in shaping every aspect of the agreement. Three issues of specific importance to Enron are: (1)the rules governing emissions trading, (2) the rules governing joint implementation within Annex-1, and (3) the rules governing the proposed clean energy fund (which promises to dwarf the GEF as a fund for wind, solar, and power plant conversions.)….
“The clean development will be a mechanism for funding renewable projects. Again, we won. (We need to push for natural gas firing to be included among the technologies that get preferential treatment from the fund.)
“The endorsement of emissions trading was another victory for us.…
“I gave three speeches and received an award on behalf of Enron. The speeches dealt with emissions trading, energy efficiency/renewable, and the role of business in promoting clean energy outcomes. The award came from the Climate Institute and was for Ken Lay and Enron for our work promoting clean-energy solutions to climate change….
“Through our involvement with the climate change initiatives, Enron now has excellent credentials with many “green” interests including Greenpeace, WWF, NRDC, GermanWatch, the US Climate Action Network, the European Climate Action Network, Ozone Action, WRI, and Worldwatch. This position should be increasingly cultivated and capitalized on (monetized).
“(Parenthetically, I heard many times people refer to Enron in glowing terms. Such praise went like this: “Other companies should be like Enron, seeking out 21st century business opportunities” or “Progressive companies like Enron are….” Or “Proof of the viability of market-based energy and environmental programs is Enron’s success in power and SO2 trading.”)….
“I predict business opportunities [for Enron] within 18 months. I predict this agreement will have very significant influences on the energy sector within OECD and transitional economies and will accelerate renewable markets in developing countries. This agreement will be good for Enron stock!!
 Bradley, Capitalism at Work: Business, Government, and Energy, (2009) pp. 8, 306–312.