A Free-Market Energy Blog

Rent-Seeker Glee: It Did Not Begin with Solyndra (remembering Enron's triumphant Kyoto Memo)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- November 14, 2011

“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. [1]

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….


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!!


[1] Bradley, Capitalism at Work: Business, Government, and Energy, (2009) pp. 8, 306–312.


  1. Noblesse Oblige  

    Yes, we could see it coming. But I still see very little outrage and of course no connecting of dots from the MSM. The narrative survives even though it is by now obvious to all who pause to think about it that renewables are a losing game. There seems no shortage of those looking to game the rest of us via the public trough.


  2. Energy and Environment News  

    […] 101ContributorsEnergy and Environment Newsby William Yeatman on November 14, 2011in Blog Tweet Rent-Seeker Glee Robert Bradley, Jr., Master Resource, 14 November 2011No Free Lunch: Green Energy Is Causing Costs […]


  3. john  

    I just came across and see that some things never change. The Summers Treasury and Fed ties with respect to all the current ‘loans’ situation are still ongoing.





    While Robertson’s Hopkins biography makes no mention of her work at Enron, federal disclosure documents show she joined the company in 2000 after working at the Treasury. Robertson, who signed some of the forms, said she lobbied on energy and tax issues.


  4. Kermit  

    It is good to read about Enron’s efforts regarding Kyoto. In 2003/4 when I first started learning more about Glowarming, the “AHA!” moment came when stumbling upon Enron’s involvement in lobbying worldwide FOR Kyoto. It also took years for Enron’s “Wind Energy” division’s website to be removed, which many were surprised when I could produce it. Long after GE purchased it for almost nothing.

    This went a long way to pull back the curtain on Glowarming’s fraud, for me, along with the blog started by Roger Pielke, Sr. PhD.


  5. Rod Adams  

    Here is a thought exercise for you. Just suppose that the science really is correct and that dumping massive quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere is going to cause uncontrollable and mostly undesirable changes in our shared and only atmosphere.

    Then postulate that there is a source of reliable energy that does not produce any CO2 at all and does not require extraction, processing, distribution, or consumption of massive quantities of valuable hydrocarbon based materials. In this particular thought experiment, that other reliable source of energy has already started making inroads into the fossil fuel market and is starting to refine the machinery needed to take advantage of its properties to the point where costs should be coming down if not supported by ever increasing regulations.

    If that situation existed, wouldn’t the right thing to do for future profits and for the general prosperity of the world economy be to begin shifting emphasis to that other, more reliable and cleaner energy source? Of course, that would be the logical course of action if one assumed that Enron was the only rent seeking player in the hydrocarbon business.

    Instead, the actual decision in the real life case of having an energy source that is so close to zero emission that it can safely be operated inside sealed submarines full of people was to demonize that new power source, allow the spreading of massive amounts of misinformation designed to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt, and to allow the ratcheting of regulations with every little misstep, even the highly publicized ones like Three Mile Island that did not cause any injuries at all.

    Sure, Enron and its leaders were seeking unearned income by driving up market prices and establishing trading products whose prices they could control and manipulate. However, the rest of the hydrocarbon industry played along with the movement that arose against atomic fission because they knew that their profits were going to be under severe pressure if they allowed fission to flourish and drive down the price of energy fuels due to the inevitable interaction between an abundant supply and a moderately growing demand.

    Rod Adams
    Publisher, Atomic Insights

    PS – I happen to believe that the science on fossil fuel emissions of all types is pretty clear – we should be seeking to minimize the need to dump waste products into the environment. We certainly should ensure that the people who use other people’s property as a waste dump pay for the service instead of assuming that the cost is zero.


  6. john  

    Climategate 2, Email

    date: Mon Sep 17 10:17:17 2001
    from: Keith Briffa
    subject: RE: Climate Research at The University of East Anglia
    to: “Jean Palutikof”

    I am interested but happy for you and Phil to meet with him/them . If a visit to CRU is
    requested , I would be happy to take part in a general discussion.
    At 10:11 AM 9/17/01 +0100, you wrote:

    Does anyone have a strong desire to meet him? Otherwise, I guess Phil and I
    can handle it.
    Phil – do you want me to reply?
    REDACTEDOriginal Message—–
    From: Hamilton, Tony [[1]REDACTEDREDACTED]
    Sent: 14 September 2001 19:31
    Subject: Climate Research at The University of East Anglia
    Dear Sirs/Madam,
    I am a senior specialist in statistical forecasting and meteorology with
    the research group at Enron Europe Ltd., based at Grosvenor Place,
    As you will know energy demand and supply is heavily dependant on
    climate, weather and weather forecasts. Also, increasingly, global
    energy demand and supply depends on climate and weather around the whole
    northern hemisphere.
    Our devoted weather research and synoptic forecasting team based in our
    Houston office, and myself here in London, are extremely interested in
    the potential for collaborative University-University and
    University-Industry applied research projects, particularly between
    joint US/European research institutes and ourselves. We are interested
    in all aspects of Meteorology from new ideas in theoretical atmospheric
    physics through more practical aspects such as short-range deterministic
    forecasting, medium-range ensemble forecasting and long-range
    seasonal/climatic forecasting and analysis.
    My colleagues from Houston (who are currently planning visits to
    research institutes on the US side in the near future) will be in London
    in early November and I would very much like to set up an introductory
    meeting with the heads of the research groups at The Climatic Research
    Unit to introduce ourselves to you and discuss possible areas of mutual
    research interest.
    If this is something that you would be interesting in setting up, or if
    you can direct me to a more suitable group or individuals at The
    University of East Anglia, please let me know and we can hopefully
    arrange a date for sometime in early November.
    I am currently in Houston, but hope to be able to return to London early
    next week depending on the current tragic situation here in the US. I
    can be contacted by email in the meantime.
    Look forward to the opportunity of meeting with you in the near future.
    In confidence,
    Tony Hamilton
    Dr. Tony Hamilton
    Senior Specialist, Meteorology and Forecasting
    Weather Research
    Enron Europe Ltd.
    Enron House
    Grosvenor Place
    SW1X 7EN
    email: REDACTED
    This e-mail is the property of Enron Corp. and/or its relevant affiliate and
    may contain confidential and privileged material for the sole use of the
    intended recipient (s). Any review, use, distribution or disclosure by
    others is strictly prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient (or
    authorized to receive for the recipient), please contact the sender or reply
    to Enron Corp. at REDACTED and delete all
    copies of the message. This e-mail (and any attachments hereto) are not
    intended to be an offer (or an acceptance) and do not create or evidence a
    binding and enforceable contract between Enron Corp. (or any of its
    affiliates) and the intended recipient or any other party, and may not be
    relied on by anyone as the basis of a contract by estoppel or otherwise.
    Thank you.


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