Ad­min­is­tra­tion blows an­other bil­lion on green fan­tasies

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Depart­ment of En­ergy re­cently an­nounced it is ex­tend­ing an $852 mil­lion loan guar­an­tee to some­thing called the Gen­e­sis So­lar Project in Cal­i­for­nia.

Gen­e­sis, ac­cord­ing to En­ergy Sec­re­tary Steven Chu, will be built on fed­eral land and ul­ti­mately em­ploy per­haps 800 peo­ple dur­ing its con­struc­tion and 47 peo­ple once it is up and run­ning. This would seem to be a lot of money to gen­er­ate very few jobs at a time when the na­tion is on the verge of bank­ruptcy, but the project re­ally isn’t about jobs.

It’s the lat­est in the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s at­tempt to turn us away from de­pen­dence on fos­sil fu­els re­gard­less of cost and re­al­ity. This project, ac­cord­ing to Mr. Chu, “will en­able the de­ploy­ment of clean, re­new­able sources at scale, which will help bring down the cost of so­lar power in the years to come.” Maybe, but one has to re­mem­ber that this man is part of an ad­min­is­tra­tion with nei­ther a learn­ing curve nor much re­gard for the in­tel­li­gence of the peo­ple who elected the pres­i­dent.

You see, Mr. Chu and his boss have been there and done that al­ready in Cal­i­for­nia, us­ing tax money to guar­an­tee a mas­sive in­vest­ment in a com­pany that was go­ing to help usher in a brave, new and a very green world.

That com­pany, Solyn­dra, de­clared bank­ruptcy not 48 hours af­ter Mr. Chu an­nounced his faith in Gen­e­sis. Solyn­dra’s founders man­aged to pro­cure and eat up roughly half a bil­lion dol­lars in fed­er­ally guar­an­teed loans with­out mak­ing a penny in profit be­fore declar­ing bank­ruptcy.

The com­pany got its guar­an­tee as part Mr. Obama’s Amer­i­can Re­cov­ery and Rein­vest­ment Act af­ter its founders and board mem­bers made ex­ten­sive con­tri­bu­tions to the Obama cam­paign and the Demo­cratic Party and mounted a mighty lob­by­ing ef­fort be­fore Congress. Its grant was the first in a se­ries of mas­sive sub­si­dies to sim­i­lar enterprises and was made just weeks af­ter Mr. Obama took of­fice.

Solyn­dra is his­tory to­day, but when the guar­an­tees were an­nounced as part of the Obama stim­u­lus pro­gram, the fan­fare and hul­la­baloo ex­ceeded even those of last week’s an­nounce­ment. Mr. Chu, like the man who ap­pointed him, is rarely right about any­thing, but he con­tin­ues to ex­ude con­fi­dence in schemes that have al­ready proved un­work­able.

Solyn­dra was go­ing to build so­lar panels and pro­vide thou­sands of Cal­i­for­ni­ans with high­pay­ing jobs in the new, green econ­omy Mr. Obama and his friends seem to­tally ded­i­cated to con­jur­ing up in the face of op­po­si­tion from the laws of eco­nomics.

When the stim­u­lus act passed and Mr. Obama wanted to shovel some of the cash to his po­lit­i­cal friends on the West Coast, he and his min­ions were warned by the Govern­ment Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice that they might want to look for a more suit­able re­cip­i­ent than Solyn­dra, but they went ahead any­way. Ac­tu­ally, they did more than just go ahead. They waved Solyn­dra’s cor­po­rate flag and as­sured those of us be­ing asked to throw our tax money into the ven­ture that it was the smartest thing we had ever done.

Vice Pres­i­dent Joseph R. Bi­den, no doubt bas­ing his pro­jec­tions on an in­ti­mate fa­mil­iar­ity with Amer­i­can busi­ness gained dur­ing a life­time as a politi­cian, pre­dicted con­fi­dently that Solyn­dra would “al­low Amer­ica to com­pete and to lead like we did in the 20th cen­tury.”

Not to be out­done, the pres­i­dent him­self scur­ried out to Cal­i­for­nia to stand in front of the new fac­tory you and I helped build and called the com­pany “a tes­ta­ment to Amer­i­can in­ge­nu­ity and dy­namism.”

When the loan guar­an­tee was ex­tended to Solyn­dra back in 2010, Mr. Obama, Mr. Bi­den, Mr. Chu and those of their con­trib­u­tors who made up the com­pany’s board promised a new era and 4,000 jobs.

Some tes­ti­mony. The 4,000 jobs never ma­te­ri­al­ized, and Solyn­dra never turned a profit. It is go­ing to be some time be­fore the bank­ruptcy courts fig­ure out just how much of the half-bil­lion dol­lars the Obama team gave the com­pany will be lost for­ever, but this didn’t stop Mr. Chu’s spokesman from declar­ing even as the Solyn­dra bank­ruptcy pa­pers were be­ing filed that the in­vest­ment had been a great suc­cess.

Mr. Chu’s spokesman ar­gued that “the project that we sup­ported suc­ceeded. The fa­cil­ity was pro­duc­ing the prod­uct it said it would pro­duce, and con­sumers were buy­ing the prod­uct.”

He failed to note that the so­lar panels Solyn­dra de­signed and man­u­fac­tured were too com­pli­cated and ex­pen­sive to com­pete in the mar­ket­place. Those that were sold were sold at a sig­nif­i­cant loss, and the com­pany would have closed its doors even ear­lier but for the fed­eral loan guar­an­tee.

Many mem­bers of Congress, in­clud­ing House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee Chair­man Fred Up­ton, are seek­ing ev­i­dence as to whether Solyn­dra paid to play in Mr. Obama’s new, green econ­omy, but such ev­i­dence is go­ing to be hard to find be­cause the ad­min­is­tra­tion some­how man­aged to de­stroy the records of emails, cor­re­spon­dence and other con­tacts with the folks at Solyn­dra re­gard­ing the grant­ing of the guar­an­tee.

What a shock.

David A. Keene, former chair­man of the Amer­i­can Con­ser­va­tive Union, is a mem­ber of the board for the ACU, the National Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion, the Con­sti­tu­tion Project and the Cen­ter for the National In­ter­est.

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