Can Green Bank Proposal Pass the Laugh Test?

Michael Giberson

The Houston Chronicle has an article on a proposal to set up a federally-chartered bank to lend billions of dollars to renewable energy projects.

Renewable energy ‘green bank’ idea takes root

By TOM FOWLER Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle

A coalition of energy companies hopes to reinvigorate the market for funding renewable energy projects by creating a government-backed “green bank” to serve as a conduit for billions of dollars in federal loans.

Under the plan, outlined in federal legislation sponsored by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the bank would be an independent, wholly owned corporation of the federal government focused solely on loaning money to a range of projects deemed to promote clean energy.

I might have had something intelligent to say about the proposal, but I started laughing too hard  at the phrase “independent, wholly owned corporation of the federal government”.

While I can’t imagine that the federal government is better suited than the banking and investment community in lending to renewable energy projects, my lack of an imagination is not a critique.

I really don’t have anything to say about the substance of the proposal, I just can’t get passed the “independent, wholly owned corporation” part.

10 thoughts on “Can Green Bank Proposal Pass the Laugh Test?

  1. Well, if the private corporations won’t do it…Never mind that private corporations all over the first world, and even the second and the third are doing it.

    Here’s another news story for you, all about how America’s energy companies are fighting green energy proposals for all they’re worth, just like they did in the 60’s and 70’s when they bought up the beginnings of these industries and mothballed them.

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  3. I agree with Mike A.; have our elected so-called representatives learned nothing of substance from how badly they distorted real estate markets with Fannie and Freddie? Or have they learned the most poisonous and destructive lesson, that they can create the appearance of social benefit through their attempts to gain individual benefits from the appearance of doing something?

  4. Ah, good old doublespeak. Today Gordon Brown said he wanted to introduce compulsory voluntary work for teenagers. In politics any oxymoron is possible.

  5. Yes, in the UK, community service is considered a basic of citizenship, so much so that it is one thing they look at before granting citizenship. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, particularly considering the huge variety of activities included under that description “voluntary work”.

  6. The range of things that can count as voluntary work in the UK is much narrower than it is in the US. I have been involved with non-profit organizations on both sides of the Atlantic.

  7. Firstly I guess I should have said California, not “US”, as I know things are different in different states. However…

    In CA it is relatively easy to set up a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. So if you want to found, say, an astronomy club, or a chess club, or a fan club for a new comic, you can do so and run it as a non-profit. If you spend a lot of money working for the club, that’s allowable against tax. Officers of the club are protected from personal liability as long as they discharge their duties with due diligence.

    In the UK there is an equivalent not-for-profit corporation, but it is much harder to set up and most clubs apparently don’t bother. Even if you do, you probably can’t write off money against tax because that’s only for registered charities, which are even harder to set up. One of the effects of this is that if you want to stage any sort of public event, in addition to having to abide by draconian health and safety legislation, the officers of the club also end up being personally liable for any debts.

    I’m not an expert on the legislation, but I have a good friend who has been a director of a non-profit in the US, UK and Canada who has been through the whole rigmarole.

  8. Thanks, Cheryl,

    And interesting. I’ve known folks here in the UK who have set up non-profits. One was an allotment project working with immigrants and asylum seekers to plant familiar foods, learn about Brit produce and how to cook it, and how to work an allotment while building support relationships. The others were both art centres established in unused churches, with the object of keeping the old churches open for public viewing without paying anyone for manning them and helping artists get established at the same time.

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