Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise has been watching the climate world since 2009. What she sees isn't pretty.

Solyndra Solar Scandal Gains Traction

Solar and wind energy sound like wonderful ideas – until you take a look at the math. Then it becomes apparent they’re actually nightmares that produce a pathetically small number of permanent jobs and only a trickle of erratic, outrageously expensive power.

Every time a government grant (or loan guarantee) is awarded in any context we should be told two figures: the amount in dollars – and the number of taxpayers whose annual taxes will be required to pay for it. Government money doesn’t come out of nowhere. It’s deducted from the paycheques of real people who’ve already sweated for it and who otherwise might have spent it on dental care for their kids.

Which brings me to the Solyndra solar disaster now attracting sustained mainstream media attention. As an editorial in the current edition of USA Today recounts:

In March 2010, the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers issued a standard but stern warning about Solyndra, a California solar panel manufacturer: The company wasn’t making money and never had, which raised “substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern.” Yet when President Obama visited Solyndra’s plant in Fremont two months later, he gave a rousing pep talk and declared that “the future is here.” [bold added, backup link here]

Please note the phrases I’ve bolded. Warnings were issued, reputable people said there was cause for concern. And what happened? In his eagerness to appear green (because environmental organizations are now a large and wealthy lobby group in their own right) the president of the United States ignored these warnings and instead made Solyndra a poster child for his vision of the future.

Here’s what that future looks like: Bankruptcy. Half a billion taxpayer dollars flushed down the toilet. A raid by the FBI. An emerging scandal.

According to ABC News, nine days before the Obama administration announced the $535 million loan guarantee in March 2009 a White House budget analyst had declared:

This deal is NOT ready for prime time [backup link here]

But calmer heads did not prevail.

Fast forward two-and-a-half-years and the chickens have come home to roost. The poster child has shut its doors. 1,100 people are now out of work. Some of them may never recover from this disruption to their economic lives. Those who left other jobs in order to participate in the president’s vision of the future may lose their homes.

Welcome to the green dream.

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According to Amanda Carey over at The Daily Caller, White House visitor logs reveal that Solyndra executives “made no fewer than 20 trips to the West Wing” between March 2009 and April 2011. That’s one well-connected company. (Backup link here.)

See also Michael Barone’s coverage of the Solyndra story here (backup link here).

Christopher Booker has been writing some great stuff on the UK’s wind energy policies. See here and here. In that country there’s an ugly class dimension to the debate. Poor people (including fixed-income seniors) are paying significantly more to keep themselves warm as a direct result of green energy policies. What happens to the extra money? It ends up in the pockets of the land-owning aristocracy – see here. (Backup links here, here, and here.)

These kinds of news stories are crucially important. Two years ago scant media coverage of renewable energy was negative in tone. It was primarily pie-in-the-sky, fantasy stuff. Reality, though, is finally starting to break through.

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h/t Tom Nelson

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This entry was posted on September 14, 2011 by in media, money & funding and tagged , , , , , .
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