$200 million green-tech subsidy results in -100 jobs

What happens when job-stimulus funds get spent on a company that reduces its workforce?  It looks like Barack Obama and Energy Secretary Stephen Chu made another “bad bet” in 2009, sinking $200 million into the non-profit National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado.  NREL isn’t going under, but it’s cutting back staff after getting a big taxpayer subsidy from Porkulus:


President Barack Obama’s “green jobs” initiatives suffered another major blow late Monday, as the nonprofit National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colorado, announced a plan to lay off roughly 10 percent of its staff through a voluntary buy-out plan.

According to the Denver Post, the lab plans to eliminate between 100 and 150 of its 1,350 jobs. The Obama administration supported the NREL in 2009 with roughly $200 million in stimulus grants. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu visited Golden in May 2009 to promote the NREL as a beneficiary of those funds.

Are you getting the impression that a visit from Obama or Chu might be the kiss of death for green-tech companies?  Obama shows up to promote Solyndra and the company sinks into bankruptcy, taking over a half-billion taxpayer dollars with it.  Chu personally delivers the jobs-stimulus check to NREL, which then starts trimming jobs.

Why is NREL cutting staff?  Because Congress won’t give them even more money:

NREL spokesman Bob Noun blames Congress for the organization’s failures. The Denver Post reports that he believes the gridlocked U.S. Congress forced the NREL to find $8 million in new budgetary savings.

“We don’t see any budget scenario where the lab doesn’t face budget cuts,” Noun said. “We just want to be proactive in managing the budget so we continue our core mission.”


Well, let’s talk about their budget.  In 2008, according to the Independence Institute, NREL’s budget was $328 million.  In 2010, it grew to $536.5 million, a 64% increase in funding.  Now they see an $8 million haircut — which amounts to only 1.5% of its budget — and they want to lay off at least 7.4% of their staff.

Here’s a question that budget makers should consider.  If the entire $200 million funded all 1350 of NREL’s jobs (which it didn’t, as NREL obviously had a significant staff before the stimulus), it would have been at a cost of $148,150 per job.  If an $8 million cut costs 100 jobs, that’s only $80,000 per job.  Why does it cost twice as much or more to add jobs at NREL as it does to cut them?  Do they get marked down as being used jobs?

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John Sexton 7:00 PM on December 09, 2023
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