More Steps with Solyndra

Photo by jurvetson. Some rights reserved.

Last week, I wrote about the federal government’s unfortunately timed $535 million federal loan to solar panel manufacturer Solyndra for research into new technologies and infrastructure, a program that was cut short at the news of the company’s bankruptcy last month. Well, in the time since last week’s post, Democrats in the House Energy & Commerce Committee released a seven-page memo consisting of emails that indicate that the White House may have known regarding the company’s shaky financial situation prior to bankruptcy, a move which has only fanned the flames of controversy surrounding the details of the story. Yes, Solyndra has proven to be the story that wouldn’t die, as it offers a minor scandal with which those in opposition of President Obama’s energy policies can hold up as defense of this White House’s inability to act efficiently and intelligently to lead the global energy market.

It was used as ammo by none other than right wing mega-pundit Bill O’Reily in his appearance on the Daily Show last week for just such a purpose, arguing that he wouldn’t mind paying the higher taxes that Obama’s American Jobs Act calls for, if the feds would simply “stop wasting the money,” and coyly adding “one word – Solyndra.” Their exchange plays out thusly:

Stewart: “Are you saying the government should no longer subsidize new industries, because without that, no internet, no roads to Long Island…”

O’Reily: “You’ve got to downsize the government so they can watch what’s happening and make intelligent decisions.”

O’Reily’s point here seems to echo what many Republicans in Congress feel the Solyndra scandal is representative of, as Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) lashed out against the actions of the White House in an interview with NPR, stating that the U.S. “can’t compete with China to make solar and wind turbines,” and that such efforts to federally fund green-energy programs are useless. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer responded to Stearns interview aggressively in a White House blog post titled “Now Is Not the Time to Wave the White Flag on Clean Energy Jobs,” which sums up the contents of the post about as neatly as I could. Stearns has since backtracked on his initial comments, criticizing NPR for glossing over his point of view, and stating that he does support loan guarantees, but that “the only way we can compete is to bring the technological advantage we’ve got in the computer industry and the aerospace industry and to manufacture out products with that [information technology] advantage.”

“The basic flaw is that [President Obama] thinks he’s going to create a thriving economy by manufacturing solar panels and I think he’s mistaken,” Stearns said in conclusion at the Capitol Tuesday night. Stearns and those others in Congress concerned about government subsidizing green energy may make things difficult for the 28 other financed projects and their $16 billion in loan guarantees now on the books with the DOE.

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