Clean Line LLD., parent company to Rock Island Clean Line (RICL), is similar to the 1990s’ infamous Enron.
- Energy. Enron was interstate management and transport of natural gas. Clean Line’s “dream” is to construct interstate overhead a high voltage D.C. transmission system to manage wind energy.
- Monopolize. In 1992 Enron was the largest seller of natural gas in the U.S. Clean Line “dreams” to become the “Wal-Mart of Transmission Lines”. If dreams are approved by state utilities boards and federal agencies, per eminent domain, Clean Line will own more than 70,000 U.S. acres. The 500-mile Iowa and Illinois line, that may run through our area, is just one of five long distance lines. Clean Line may become the largest transmission system in the U.S.
- Leaders or owners. Enron’s CEO was the wealthy Ken Lay. Clean Line owners are billionaires, the Zilkha family of Texas and Ziff brothers of Connecticut. Enron was staffed with brilliant brokers and sales people. Clean Line is staff with bright, shrewd promoters. Both headquarters are/were in Houston.
- Enterprises. Enron interest range from gas pipelines, electrical plants, water plant, broadband service, and weather derivatives, Clean Line ZBI Venture in Canadian and Gulf oil and gas exploration, coal mining. They call themselves “energy merchants.” Zilkha’s interests include music companies, a golf magazine, Motherwear clothing stores, and Horizon Wind.
- Wall Street: Both families are close with Wall Street. Enron’s bank was now-defunct Lehman Brothers. In 2007, Zilkha sold Horizon Wind to EDP Renewable of Portugal through Goldman Sachs. This bank remains Clean Line’s investment bank. A note of interest, Timothy F. Geithner, U.S. Treasury Secretary, was an executive with Goldman Sachs.
- Politics. The Zilkhas and Ziffs both are in “seduction of the political world of crony capitalism.” In the 1990s, Enron “sold” Congress to pass legislation to de-regulate the sale of natural gas. This action enabled Enron to set prices and outbid competitors. Clean Line has paid millions to Washington, D.C. lobby firms. In spite of objections, wind energy continues to be granted generous subsidies and tax breaks, including Wind Productive Tax Credit and Wind Investment Tax Credit. Although an inefficient form of energy, wind power receives more subsidies than other energy producers. This enables negative pricing.
- Market speculation. Enron ran on market speculation. It assumed no matter what the price, the need for gas would be there. Enron collapsed because the government did not bail it out in time. Clean Line speculating on how the wind will blow in the Great Plains. It assumed the public always would be eager to buy expensive, unreliable wind energy and the government will continue liberal subsidies and tax breaks.
- Environment. In 1997, Enron paid Paul Krugman $50,000, a huge sum at that time, to be their environmental adviser. This was the year Enron influenced Congress to defeat attempts to reform nation’s environmental laws. American Wind Energy Association, Horizon’s friend, pushed the 2007 Climate Bill through Congress. This 946-page bill is geared to the wind industry. It recommended a percentage of wind energy usage standards for some states. Since 30 states have poor- or fair-rated wind, cap and trade was established. Outside of Lake Michigan, Illinois is rated fair. As an interstate transmission company, Clean Line will assist States to meet their wind energy use standards. As with Enron, it will set the price.
- Misleading public. Both employ misleading or half-truths statements. Enron was not fully honest with the media, financial rating system, or their auditor Arthur Andersen. Clean Line makes statements as: “Along U.S. 52” (one mile north of 52 across center of farm operations), “preferred provider” (lack written contracts), “attempts to use local labor” (demand for all available motel rooms), “intend to use monopoles” (RICL power of three Hoover Dams requires lattice structures). Et cetera, et cetera.
- Public abuse. Enron actions cost thousands jobs and caused drastic cuts in mutual funds. Teachers, state workers and hard-working individuals’ pension funds were big losers. Clean Line, will be able to charge high rates. Long-distance transmission is expensive and nature, not wealthy investors, decides how wind blows. A stable growing economy depends on low-cost reliable electricity. Clean Line does not fit these basic requirements. The public will be big losers.
Mr. Zilkha is quoted “There are business that offer the potential for greater monetary rewards. Few, however, combine profit with societal improvement.” Whose social improvement? Whose profit?
As Mark Twain said: “History does not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme.”
MARY AUCHSTETTER lives in Peru.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding