When green schemes go bad

The gigantic failure of Range Fuel's $300-million cellulosic ethanol "renewable fuel" plant is highly reminiscent of the sudden collapse in 1997 of the hitherto high-flying Molten Metal Inc. In each case, we see Green technology promoters latch-on to an emerging experimental technology that supposedly addresses a newly-identified environmental need:

1.         Range Fuel's is "renewable energy" to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions in the name of reducing Anthropogenic Global Warming.

2.         Molten Metal's is high temperature reaction chambers to destroy toxic waste from dumps such as those left over from the Cold War by the US Defense Dept.

These Green promoters then arrange through political connections to get large financial grants to the companies developing these technologies to rapidly scale up these processes for industrial use, tens to hundreds of millions of dollars through the US Department of Energy. Impressed by the large US Government investment, private investors provide additional tens of millions.  Only later is it discovered that this scale-up was technically ill-conceived at best.

By then, the Green promoters have long cashed out, possibly being well aware all along that the fundamentals of these businesses were flawed from the start.  The beauty of this swindle is that the companies pass any audits of the government's contracts to detect diversion of funds  because the swindlers make their money by pumping and dumping the company's stock over the months' long trajectory of these frauds.  If the SEC can't catch Bernie Madoff, how are they to find "insider traders" who operate over prolonged periods?

According to the NY Times article linked above, it was said following a congressional investigation of the Molten Metal scandal at the time:

But today, Christina Gungoll, deputy director of communications for the House Commerce Committee, said: ''There may not be a smoking gun, but it sure is hot, and it has Al Gore's people's fingerprints all over it.'

Doubtless Al Gore's cronies have learned in the interim even better methods to cover their tracks.  I do hope they follow the money behind the Range Fuel collapse.