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EDITORIAL: The solar swindle
Subsidies are the only thing green about the Solyndra scandal
Question of the Day
The O Force has been running up America's credit card by doling out cash to energy firms claiming to be green. Bosses at solar panel manufacturer Solyndra are busy taking the Fifth, and Obama administration officials are pleading ignorance over how an unsustainable enterprise was able to bag $535 million in taxpayer loot. In the coming days, Congress is likely to get to the bottom of exactly who knew what and when. There's more to come with this scandal, but for now, one conclusion is clear already: You can't outsmart the market.
At the outset of his presidency, Barack Obama thought he could do just that. His agenda was designed to drive up the cost of efficient, carbon-based energy to match the price of expensive power wearing the trendy "renewable" label. The rationale: When artificially inflated prices for oil, natural gas and coal begin to bleed consumers dry, they'll have no choice but to turn to politically correct forms of energy like sunlight, wind and biofuels. The "greenhouse gas" menace would end, according to liberal belief, purported global warming would be remedied, and we finally would "get ourselves back to the Garden," as the iconic Woodstock-era song urged.
The administration has spent nearly three years blocking access to America's abundant carbon-based energy resources and throwing cash at "green" manufacturers. In effect, it has been an attempt to ruin a proven market and replace it with a government-approved one. California-based Solyndra's state-of-the-art manufacturing plant was built with hundreds of millions in taxpayer cash. The location was completed in time to host a photo-op last year where President Obama boasted, "It is here that companies like Solyndra are leading the way toward a brighter, more prosperous future."
The favored firm, however, failed to construct its liberal-chic solar panels cheaply enough to turn a profit. Company executives hid behind the Fifth Amendment and stonewalled House subcommittee questions Friday on why the company collapsed so quickly. Former employees have freely admitted they had doubts from the get-go that the enterprise would ever make money.
For their part, Obama officials are trying to deflect blame in China's direction. Earlier this month, Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman lamented in a USA Today article, "Last year ... the China Development Bank offered more than $30 billion in financing to Chinese solar manufacturers, about 20 times more than U.S.-backed loans to solar manufacturers."
It should come as no surprise that China would jump on the solar bandwagon. The Middle Kingdom is renowned for its ability to beg, borrow or steal advanced technology, then use its advantage of lower labor costs to undersell all competitors. But China didn't create the demand for solar - the Obama administration did, by flashing billions in taxpayer cash to prop up otherwise unsustainable green products. The market seeks the best item at the lowest price. Once Solyndra burned through its federal loan, the market pronounced judgment on its product: no sale.
Solar power costs more than twice as much to produce as coal-powered electricity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Given the precarious state of the global economy, the green conversion is nothing more than an expensive sham.
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