COMMENTARY | A California solar energy company into which President Obama's Recovery Act poured $475 million dollars announced bankruptcy yesterday and laid off more than 1,000 workers. The layoffs would have been even larger had the company measured up to Obama administration projections of job growth.
The announcement of the Solyndra shutdown pulled down alternative energy stocks across the board today. The announcement of another energy company bankruptcy filing is bad news for an administration that saw two other solar energy companies fail previously.
The White House and Solyndra both claimed that the taxpayer "investment" would create 4,000 new jobs. In fact, only 585 jobs were actually created, according to ABC News.
Solar energy should be explored to the fullest, and perhaps given tax breaks, but the blind obeisance of the energy department to green ideology appears desperate and political . Perhaps down the road to the future, solar energy will provide more than the current one percent of America's energy needs.
Surely, green energy sources have been of little use in the current energy crisis caused by Hurricane Irene. Flat-plate solar panels in the path of the hurricane would likely have made good kites or perhaps deadly projectiles.
The thousands of people still without power today would be happy now with any energy sources.
But why can't the solar industry stand up on its own without taking money from strapped taxpayers?
The answer provided by Solyndra CEO Brian Harrison provides clues.
"Regulatory and policy uncertainties in recent months created significant near-term excess supply and price erosion. Raising incremental capital in this environment was not possible."
What is that "regulatory and policy uncertainties" Mr. Harrison is talking about? Isn't that what Republican business economists are saying is responsible for their inability to invest and create jobs?
Does that mean that Solyndra was encumbered by too much governmental regulation and uncertainty about taxes, interest rates, employee benefits?
Harrison claims that it was impossible to raise private capital in the current environment. That would explain why the company announced a public stock offering and then retracted the idea, when private investors decided that the solar manufacturing facility would lose money to foreign competition.
If the Obama White House failed to recognize the potential waste of taxpayer money, an independent watchdog group and the White House budget office didn't. Several agencies suggested the U.S. Energy Department of cutting corners and playing to connected special interests in guaranteeing Solyndra's loans.
Solar and wind energy production would have the best chance of investment, development, and growth if it wasn't so much tied up into White House political ideology. When President Obama visited Solyndra's new plant last year after making the $565 million dollar loan guarantee, he described Solyndra as a company "leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future."
Apparently not without continuous full funding by U.S. taxpayers. The timing couldn't be worse as the economy shows signs of permanent paralysis and American corporations make profits by transferring operations overseas.
Overseas manufacture is key to the success of First Solar Inc., a successful global solar energy company which manufactures most of its components in Malaysia. First Solar trades currently on the NASDAQ exchange at $97 per share, and has worldwide operations with tentacles into research and manufacturing.
Perhaps President Obama should visit there and find out what First Solar is doing right and the White House is doing wrong.
Anthony Ventre is a freelance writer who has written for weekly and daily newspapers and several online publications. He is a frequent Yahoo contributor, concentrating in news and financial writing.
- solar energy