By Scott Reeder | Watchdog.org
CHICAGO — Michael Polsky has made himself a wealthy man by harnessing the wind and playing on American fears of global warming.
The Chicago green-energy mogul is a millionaire hundreds of times over and rules an empire of hundreds of wind-turbines that generate more than electricity for Polsky. They also produce lucrative government subsidies.
In fact, Polsky has played up the need to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint as he lobbied for greater federal assistance for his industry. But for a man of such obvious accomplishment, there is one thing that he hasn’t controlled so effectively — his own thermostat.
Among the multiple residences Polsky owns is an imposing Chicago mansion.
“The average Illinois household uses 9,600 kilowatts of electricity per year and Mr. Polsky uses 56,000 kilowatts. So his Chicago home is using almost six times the electricity as the average household,” said James Taylor, managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
“This is just a classic case of “Do as I say but not as I do.’The message to most people is you need to cut consumption, you need to cut your carbon footprint. But wealthy liberals don’t include themselves in that category,” he said.
And Polsky’s energy consumption is conspicuous.
The divorced 62-year-old lives in a 13,500-square-foot, 132-year-old mansion at 25 E. Banks St. in Chicago.
The imposing Gold Coast home with its eight bedrooms and 10 bathrooms would seem more a fitting backdrop for an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel than the abode of an environmentalist.
“There are people who are environmentalists who try to live by the strictures of what they believe,” Schweizer said. “I may not agree with them but I can respect the sincerity of their beliefs. At least they are making a personal commitment to do what they want to compel other people to do. But for those who function with a celebrity mentality — that their views and opinions matter, and they’re going to compel other people to do things that they really aren’t interested in doing themselves – I don’t have any time for. It denotes a lack of seriousness about what they say they really care about.”
Polsky is president and CEO of Invenergy, a privately held concern that develops, owns and operates power generation facilities in North America and Europe with a special emphasis on wind and solar generation.
Polsky declined to be interviewed for this report. A spokeswoman for Invenergy declined to divulge details of federal grants or tax credits the firm has received.
But in other news interviews Polsky has stressed the need for further government subsidies for wind and solar energy — not just for its environmental benefits but also to diversify the nation’s sources of energy.
Polsky immigrated to the United States from the then-Soviet Ukraine in 1978 with his new bride Maya. The couple divorced in 2003 in what was widely reported as the largest divorce settlement in Illinois history.
The 2007 divorce provides a window into Polsky’s own level of personal consumption.
In addition to the $184 million his ex-wife received, she also was awarded the former couple’s $3.7 million Lake Shore Drive home and a house in Glencoe, Ill., valued at $2 million.
According to published reports, Michael Polsky was awarded the couple’s $7 million home in Aspen, Colo.; a $2.9 million residence in Chicago; and $2.1 million home in East Troy, Wisc.
Although Polsky’s company is headquartered in Chicago and he is prominent among the city’s elite, he’s registered to vote in Palm Beach County, Fla., according to Florida voter records.
Palm Beach County property records show he maintains another residence there.
Such consumption by such an outspoken environmentalist underscores either personal hypocrisy or a cynical business calculation, Schweizer said.
“They will package themselves as ‘I’m not a businessman like everyone else. I’m doing this because it’s a sincere and wonderful thing that is going to benefit everybody,’” Schweizer said. “For someone like Polsky, that’s just a sales pitch. It’s not a genuine reflection of what he believes or how he is living his own personal life.”
Scott Reeder is the national investigative reporter for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. His email address is email@example.com.