The recent conviction of a Massachusetts man offers a cautionary tale on where government schemes to promote green energy can lead.
Christopher N. Condron of Acton, Massachusetts was convicted on September 28, 2021 of defrauding the U.S. Department of Treasury of more than $50 million in tax-free energy grants as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
After a 13-day jury trial, Condron was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States multiple counts of wire-fraud and other claims.
Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 4, 2022.
Subsidized federal green energy programs during the Obama administration were modest compared with what is currently contained in President Joe Biden’s and congressional Democrats’ “Build Back Better” plan.
‘Specified Energy Property’
Among the Obama stimulus’s many provisions was one providing tax-free grants to individuals and businesses who put certain “specified energy property” – such as wind farms and gasification systems that convert trash into electricity – into service as a trade or business.
Evidence provided by the United States Attorney’s Office of District of Massachusetts showed that between May 2009 and June 2013, Condron and his partner, Jessica Metivier, submitted fraudulent grant applications to the Treasury Department on behalf of four different Massachusetts companies, Acton Bio Energy, Concord Nurseries, Kansas Green Energy, and Ocean Wave Energy.
“For each of the applications, the pair falsely claimed that Metivier and her entities had acquired, placed into service, or started construction of energy property, which included three different bio-fuels gasification systems, purportedly built at a cost of $88 million, and an $84 million wind farm project,” the U.S. attorney’s office said in a press release.
Condron and Metivier then sought reimbursement for more than $50 million based on these costs, which they never actually incurred, because the projects were fictitious.
“To support their applications, Condron and Metivier submitted fraudulent documentation to a Massachusetts-based attorney, who, in turn, submitted the applications to the Treasury Department on their behalf,” the press release stated. “Evidence at the trial showed that Condron vastly overstated property costs in the grant applications and as a result, defrauded the government out of more than $8.7 million.
Bigger Losses Occurred
Condron and Metivier’s fraud resulted in a relatively small loss to taxpayers compared to other efforts to undertaken to promote green energy undertaken by the administration of President Barack Obama.
The most famous loss of taxpayer money on green energy projects during the Obama-era involved Solyndra, a Freemont, California manufacturer of thin-film solar cells.
The company, received a $535 million loan guarantee in 2009, the first such grant given by the Obama administration.
In 2010, despite the fact that federal auditors raised concerns about whether Solyndra could continue as “going concern,” Obama visited company and tout it as a model for government-private partnerships to promote green energy. In mid-2011, Solyndra closed its plant and declared bankruptcy.
‘Little Impact’ on Climate
The fact that various green energy schemes have little or no impact on climate change is the bigger problem with them, says David Stevenson, director of the Caesar Rodney Institute’s Center for Energy & Environment,
“The bigger fraud is that legitimate ‘green’ projects have little impact,” said Stevenson. “President Biden wants to build 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power, handing perhaps $24 billion in federal subsidies to European developers to cut a claimed 78 tons of CO2.
“An EPA modeling program suggests the projects will reduce global temperatures in the year 2100 by four one-thousandths of a degree Fahrenheit, an amount that cannot be measured,” Stevenson said. “By the way, the states looking to build the projects only emit 44 tons of CO2, so the 78 million tons savings are likely grossly exaggerated.”
Government efforts to promote inefficient wind and solar power invite fraud, says Craig Rucker, president of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), co-publisher of Environment & Climate News.
“No one should be surprised when scammers take advantage of ill-conceived ‘green energy’ handouts,” said Rucker. “The money is too good to pass up. Build it and they will come.”
Bonner R. Cohen, Ph.D., (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research and a senior policy analyst with CFACT.