Valentine: Government meddling: we will ever see the light?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Here we go again with another unintended consequence of government meddling. As you may (or may not) know, your incandescent light bulb will begin to go the way of VHS and vinyl records as of Jan. 1. By decree of Queen Nancy and King George W the light bulb as we know it will be phased out to be replaced by the confounded compact fluorescent light bulb.

CFLs are made with what are called rare earth metals. The mining of these rare earth metals is so polluting that we banned mining of them in the United States back in 2002. Naturally, China picked up the slack since they don't seem to have a problem with pollution and now they account for about 95 percent of the planet's rare earth minerals.

Well, guess what? Apparently rare earth metal mining has become too polluting even for China. They've halted production for three months until they can figure out what to do with the pollution. We're talking radioactive runoff and all sorts of air and water quality issues.

And here's the ironic part. These rare earth metals, which are some of the most polluting materials in the world, are used not only in CFLs but in solar modules for solar panels, hybrid car batteries like the one used in the beloved Prius and wind turbines. In fact, a large wind turbine can use as much as a ton and a half of rare earth metals for magnets.

That's right. Most of this so-called "green" technology is some of the most polluting on earth. And you want to hear the real ironic part? The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration is quietly working to reopen rare earth metal production here in the U.S. That's so all of these so-called "green jobs" can continue.

And now that Solargate is upon us we're starting to understand why these green jobs are so important. They mean more green in campaign contributions. The debacle of Solyndra going belly up after getting $535 million in loans from the federal government should focus media attention on people like Solyndra investor George Kaiser who raised lots of money for Obama and made 20-some visits to the White House.

Were all of this left to the free market we wouldn't find ourselves in this situation. Our government playing favorites skews the market and produces anomalies like Solyndra that bleed us unnecessarily of precious revenue resources. Solyndra couldn't get enough private funding to become viable and that should have been a red flag for this administration. It was for the last, which turned them down.

On top of that, this green technology is anything but. Greenies here in the U.S. can drive by a wind turbine in their Prius with a smile on their face then go home and read about how green they are by the light of their CFLs. All the while they've been contributing to the environmental destruction of a place like China whose people can ill-afford more exposure to toxic pollution.

We need environmental restrictions so companies don't pollute our air and water while they build their products. Not only have jobs moved to China where there are few environmental controls, now the price of CFLs and all this other "green" technology are going through the roof because China owns the market. At this rate, CFLs will be unaffordable by many people but will be mandated by the government. Once every household and business is required to cough up the cash for these overly-expensive bulbs what will that do to our economy?

The so-called do-gooders just don't care.

Phil Valentine is a syndicated talk-show host. His web site is