In 2010, as a part of the Treasury Department’s 1603 Renewable Energy Grant Program (a program created under the first failed stimulus package), the federal government dispensed $170 million of taxpayer money to Spanish energy company Iberdrola. To build a wind farm. In Illinois.

In light of the president’s renewed calls for even more stimulus spending, the facts of the case are worth revisiting. As the first part of a new series “Easy Being Green,” Sen. Jim DeMint’s office has conveniently provided us with a vid that reviews the circumstances under which the government so heavily subsidized Iberdrola — and shows us what we can expect from our $170 million, umm, “investment.”

A better way exists. The advanced technologies of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have made it possible to access abundant reserves of natural gas from deep shale formations. Natural gas is clean, affordable, abundant and American. It’s been buried beneath American soil for hundreds of years — but, thanks to the technological breakthroughs of the past few years, it has at last become possible to extract it economically and, yes, safely. Yet, environmentalists still object, insisting that hydraulic fracturing leads to groundwater contamination.

At the Marcellus Shale Insights Conference in Philadelphia a couple weeks ago, in a speech well worth reading in its entirety, Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon called the fractivists’ bluff:

It’s not the fracking process itself that truly upsets our opponents; it’s the outcome of the fracking – clean, affordable, abundant, American natural gas. Our success has disrupted their dreams of a fantasy world of no fossil fuels.

So their game plan is not to protect water resources, per se. If it were, of course they’d be outraged by the 2 billion pounds of rock salt used by PennDot every winter that ends up in Pennsylvania waterways and then into the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays. If it were, of course they would be outraged by the billions of pounds of agricultural chemicals that run off farm lands into Pennsylvania’s waterways every year – but, of course, they don’t seem to be concerned by that very real pollution because it doesn’t directly threaten their fantasyland of no fossil fuels.

The real game plan is to use political pressure to force Americans to pay exorbitant energy costs for the so-called “green” fuel sources that they prefer. To win, they have chosen to demonize the one fuel that makes their plan look economically and environmentally ridiculous – natural gas. Therefore, it’s far more productive to examine what our critics are for than to shadow-box them on what they claim to be against.

Consider, if you will, the consequences of following their lead. Our opponents are FOR shutting down all natural gas drilling. What does that reality look like?

For starters, the price of natural gas shoots through the roof. This will immediately hit consumers in the pocketbook and businesses on the bottom line. Our fears of a double dip recession will be compounded by the loss of the shale gas economic engine that has been putting our economy back on track. All those jobs I talked about earlier? Gone. And those tax receipts are not just gone, they are reverted into expenditures for unemployment benefits and other social services that are already stretched to the breaking point. Balanced state budgets? No way. The reality is that wind and solar can never be more than about 15% of our power requirements. So, 70% of American homes on natural gas heat – cold. And the 35% of American homes and businesses and factories that use electricity from natural gas – dark. All those crops that require natural gas based fertilizer – not grown.

What a great vision of the future! We’re cold, it’s dark and we’re hungry. I have no interest in turning the clock back to the Dark Ages as our opponents do. And I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that way. My guess is that they would have far fewer followers and much less favorable press coverage if the true consequences of their “vision” were better known and understood.

Yep — and more people would be on board with natural gas if they knew it could easily be the key to energy independence. Natural gas could completely supply U.S. energy needs for the next couple hundred years. Consider: We export American wealth at the rate of nearly $1 million a minute to import foreign oil. That’s money we could invest in our own economy.

The facts are so painfully obvious it hurts. That it’s easy to be green — but hard to persuade the federal government of the efficacy of natural gas drilling — is nothing short of a travesty.