Former V.P. Al Gore will be in town this Wednesday to support Jay Inslee’s campaign for governor and he has praise for Inslee’s book on the green economy, “Apollo’s Fire.” Gore called the book, “one of the best books out there” on creating a so-called “green” economy.

The question is whether Gore has actually read it.

Published just a few years ago, none of the book’s predictions have come true, but several of the policies advocated there have already failed.

With great bravado, Inslee and his co-author wrote “It would be comforting to avoid the prospect of being proven wrong by the passage of time. But your authors are built of sterner stock.” Indeed, they have already been proven wrong.

The most glaring error is Inslee’s claim that “About 2011…meaningful amounts of cellulosic ethanol are becoming available at service stations across the country.” Not only are “meaningful amounts” not available, cellulosic ethanol is not available at all. As the U.S. Department of Energy notes, “Cellulosic ethanol has not yet been produced commercially.” Ironically, Congress requires oil companies to purchases cellulosic ethanol even though it is not available. As a result, the companies had to purchase waivers for a product that does not exist.

Other predictions fall short as well.

Inslee also predicted that Grays Harbor County would become a model of the green economy, citing Grays Harbor Paper’s production of all-recycled paper in a plant run by renewable energy.

Earlier this year, however, Grays Harbor Paper’s plant was shut down, laying off 240 people.

Inslee also promised that good things were on the horizon for Imperium Renewables, a biofuel company also located in Grays Harbor County. Inslee praised the creation of new regulations to promote biofuel production like “the very promising development of new policies like the California low-carbon fuel standard, which rewards reductions in the amount of CO2 in fuels…”

Ironically, John Plaza, the head of Imperium, last year called California’s low-carbon fuel standard “a complete and utter disaster.” Plaza said the standard relied on “utopian requirements to meet standards that will just kill off first generation fuels in California, and you never get to the second generation.”

Jay also had high praise for the growth of the solar industry and solar energy. With the high profile failure of Solyndra and other solar panel companies, Inslee’s hopes seem pretty misplaced. Inslee, however, cites a company called Nanosolar which he argues produces panels at a cost “so low that their plant could be producing grid-competitive electricity in a matter of a few years.” Far from being “grid-competitive” with the average cost of electricity today, Nanosolar isn’t even competitive within the industry. Earlier this year their production costs were estimated at $1.35 per watt, nearly twice the cost of another thin-film solar panel manufacturer, First Solar, who reports production costs of 75 cents per watt. Even that cost, however, isn’t low enough and First Solar is downgrading its earnings estimates and has postponed production of a new plant.

Finally, Jay claims government support for renewable energy will create new green jobs and even cites a project in Pennsylvania by Spanish wind turbine manufacturer Gamesa. In his book, Inslee notes Gamesa “is currently building three more manufacturing facilities on the site of a closed steel mill and is investing in eighteen wind farms around the commonwealth, all of which is forecast to create over a thousand jobs during the next five years.”

Today, however, the reality is quite different, with two of the three facilities being closed and Gamesa is in financial difficulty. Since Inslee published the book, Gamesa’ stock price has fallen from $14.45 to $3.47.

From ethanol, to solar energy to green jobs, the predictions Inslee made in his book have consistently fallen short. Given these failures, it would interesting to ask Mr. Gore if he can name a prediction that Inslee’s book got right.


Todd Myers served in the executive team at the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. He has been working in environmental politics for more than a decade.


[photo credit: jdlasica]