American Elephants

Shining? Or a Shining Example of Being Stuck on Stupid?. by The Elephant's Child

The same week that another green energy firm that wasted more than a half billion dollars of Department of Energy loan guarantees and filed for bankruptcy, the Obama administration made a multimillion dollar loan to another solar power project.

Last week Solyndra,  a Fremont California manufacturer of industrial solar panels, filed for bankruptcy, and their 1,100 employees joined the lists of the unemployed.  Bummer.

In 2008,  a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) warned that the Department of Energy’s loan program was insufficiently protected from the risk that green companies would not succeed. In 2009, Goldman Sachs, who was advising the DOE on the Solyndra purchase, had just downgraded the solar industry as a whole, warning of an oversupply. In February, PricewaterhouseCoopers (Solyndras’s own accountants) considered  the company’s business model to be shaky and expressed “considerable doubt about its ability to continue.” So Obama visited and gave a major speech at Solyndra not long after the report, and praised  it as an example of “the true engine of economic growth.”

It is, of course, merely a coincidence that a major investor in Solyndra, billionaire investor George Kaiser, who donated $53,000 to Obama’s 2008 campaign and raised $50,000 to $100,000 from others for the senator’s campaign, is a frequent visitor to the White House.  Solyndra executives and investors have also been regular visitors to the White House.  This would seem to be an example of crony capitalism— the Chicago Way.  The Department of Energy says that the Solyndra bankruptcy is all China’s fault.

The FBI has raided Solyndra headquarters, where there is only a skeleton crew to shut everything down, and the homes of company executives.

Evergreen Solar in Lexington, Massachusetts, filed for bankruptcy in early August, ending Massachusetts’ 20 year $15 million property tax waiver, and the $7.5 million the state offered in tax credits, eliminating around 800 jobs.  Nothing seems to dim the administration’s enthusiasm for clean energy.  They claim that the oil and gas industry get subsidies too,  as justification, but the oil and gas industry can get along fine without government subsidy. The solar industry cannot exist without it.  Greg Pollowitz who writes for Planet Gore at NRO noted:

And just to evaluate how Team Obama has done on the “Green Jobs” front, via the Department of Energy, roughly $38.7 billion invested in clean energy has saved/created/unicorned 65,578 jobs. This comes out to staggering $590,000 per job. “This isn’t political grandstanding” from me on the cost of a “green” job under President Obama, “it’s simple math.”

President Obama did not mention solar energy in his big jobs speech. He was busy trying to set up the Republicans as the obstructionists who kept the unemployed from having new jobs thanks to his American Jobs Act.  In spite of his continued rhetorical trick of shouted “Pass this Bill right away,” there is no bill to pass.  It does not yet exist, so nobody knows what will be in it.

In his Labor Day address in Detroit, Obama bragged about his administration’s investment in green technology as a success story.  A new loan initiative recently passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that would expand on the DOE’s Loan Programs Office—from whence came Solyndra’s half billion.  The speculation says it may be based on the “Clean Energy Deployment Administration (CEDA) or “green energy bank.” According to the committee summary CEDA’s mission is “to encourage the deployment of technologies that are perceived as too risky by commercial lenders.” The agency would be “encouraged to back riskier technologies.”

The administration did not consider Solyndra to be a risky investment. You would think that after the failure of the big mortgage giants Fannie and Freddie, and the clear opposition to Obama’s “Infrastructure Bank” he might back off a little on new banks.

Taxpayer money, once acquired by the government, becomes “government money,” available to play with, speculating on eco-fantasies. Easy come, easy go.

Solar energy is too diffuse, and too expensive .  The sun has a nasty habit of going beneath the horizon once a day, for many hours.  They call it night.  David Bergeron, founder, President and CEO of SunDancer, and a lifetime solar enthusiast explains:

If and when solar PV becomes economical, the market will come to us in places such as Arizona where the sun really shines. But for now, and the foreseeable future, solar has a niche: not here but in developing countries where they can provide electricity where there is none. As such, solar panels can be a bridge to the denser, consistent energies that the developed world enjoys today.

Installing PV solar on U.S. roofs, on the other hand, does nothing except make us feel good and drain our economy of more productive employment.

SunDancer performs R&D for NASA and the Dept. of Defense in the area of solar-powered cooling equipment, manufactures in the USA , and exports refrigeration equipment to every continent. They make a solar powered vaccine refrigerator that uses ice packs rather than batteries to store energy and maintain cold temperatures. This is a key component of the distribution chain for vaccines and part of the global effort to eradicate polio and other diseases.


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