728 x 90
728 x 90
728 x 90
728 x 90
728 x 90

Skeptical of the Big Green Empire

Headline: “Golden’s NREL to shed more than 10 percent of workforce”

Denver Post, October 3, 2011

Well maybe. Read my take on the rest of the story.

Golden’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) dreams of a global green empire may have to be scaled back but just a wee bit.  According to the Denver Post‘s Chuck Plunkett, the “crown jewel” of the green empire is looking for $8 million in savings and may have to lay off 10 percent or more (100-150 people) of its work force of 1,350 through “voluntary buy-outs.”  Plunkett writes:

In both a symbolic and real-world blow to green energy development and the jobs renewable industries are meant to create, the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden announced significant job cuts today.

NREL spokesman Bob Noun told the DP that “gridlock” in Congress is to blame, forcing the lab to be “proactive” in dealing with budget forecasts.

To put the $8 million into perspective, it is a mere 1.5 percent of NREL’s 2010 funding, which was $536.5 million. Compare that to $328.3 million in 2008, and it’s obvious that $8 million in “savings” hardly throws the lab into poverty. The real story is that after hundreds of millions of stimulus dollars, NREL and the big green dream just aren’t viable. The math doesn’t work. Plus the stimulus money was meant to be temporary anyway.

It’s likely that the “savings” will have little impact on the lab overall other than for PR purposes. Consider this response from democrat Congressman Ed Perlmutter’s office,whose district includes NREL. Perlmutter’s spokesperson Leslie Oliver lamented:

cuts at the “crown jewel” in the nation’s green energy development represented a setback “that is a concern.”

“What about next year?” Oliver said. “Where does this stop?”

Wondering where you’ve read the “crown jewel” comment before? Back in June 2011, when republican Congressman Doug Lamborn had the nerve to question NREL funding, the Denver Post had this quote from Oliver in response:

‘NREL is a crown jewel in the world of renewable energy,’ said Leslie Oliver, a spokeswoman for Perlmutter. ‘It’s providing a lot of jobs; those are things we need to be fostering.’

That same story also reported Perlmutter’s claim that NREL “generates 5,500 jobs.”

It seems that NREL and Perlmutter like playing with numbers. The workforce is 1,350 when the percentage laid off needs to make an impact such as “more than 10 percent.” Suppose the story read, NREL may consider a voluntary buy out of up to 150 employees, less than 2.8 percent of the number of jobs “generated,” in a proactive move to address possible 2012 budget “savings.” That 2.8 percentage doesn’t have quite the same chicken little, sky is falling appeal to it.

Significant layoffs. Crown jewel. Blame Congress (no one likes them anyway, ask Brandon Shaffer). Where does this stop?

This story seems a little too convenient.  It’s seems too much of an attempt by NREL to gin up public support for funding and for an industry that has been rocked by mismanagement of taxpayer money and outlandish employment promises.

Color me skeptical of Big Green.