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Not-So-Clean Energy Efforts In Italy Under Investigation

Jan 27, 2013
Originally published on January 27, 2013 8:00 am
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Fracking may be a dirty word in the U.S., but in Italy, even so-called clean energy - wind and solar power - isn't so clean these days.


MARTIN: The Washington Post reported this week that the Italian Mafia controls a sizeable portion of Italy's thriving renewable energy industry. Probably because it's one of the country's fastest growing businesses. Another reason - the billions of euros in subsidies that the Italian government shells out for wind farms and solar power plants.


MARTIN: Guess which part of Italy gets the most sun and wind? Sicily, which also happens to be home to some of Italy's most powerful crime families.

Last month, the Italian government launched a series of sting operations, seizing as many as one third of Sicily's wind farms, along with a number of its solar power plants. They've also arrested more than 10 alleged crime bosses.

The investigation is ongoing. Still, you have to marvel at Italy's Mafia dons for their ability to adapt and innovate. As one Mafia member who was caught in a government wiretap is reported to have said, quote, "For the love of our sons, renewable energy is important. It's a business we can live on."

But Sicily's energy minister says, what's been good for the mob hasn't been good for Italy. Criminal organizations were allowed to do business, he said. We lost a vital opportunity for development and the region lost a chance to profit from it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.