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LAMBRO: Renewable energy dollars for Obama’s cronies

Public sees corruption in misuse of tax dollars

- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 2, 2012

Anyone who follows the news or is unemployed knows the lack of jobs in President Obama's economy and an exploding $15.9 trillion debt are two of the voters' top

concerns this year, according to all the polls.

A third issue has shot to the top tier of the public's priorities, even though it draws relatively little attention in the news. It is government corruption, and Americans are angry about it, according to a recent Gallup survey.

Gallup said "reducing federal government corruption" came in second, between "creating jobs" and cutting the budget deficit. A hefty 87 percent said it was "extremely" or "very important" on their list of current concerns.

I suspect this has a lot to do with one of the nation's costliest political-corruption scandals in recent times: the president's boondoggle-plagued green-energy spending program to develop alternative energy resources.

An 18-month congressional investigation into Mr. Obama's $40 billion giveaway program shows that it has been a colossal failure, riddled with embarrassing bankruptcies, favored treatment for Mr. Obama's rich cronies and campaign contributors, and political lobbying pressure to approve bad business deals that should have been rejected.

An investigation by The Washington Post concluded that Mr. Obama's guaranteed loans, tax credits and grant programs to well-connected supporters were "infused with politics" at virtually every level of the approval process.

Mr. Obama's re-election campaign has sharply attacked his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, for his investments in businesses that didn't work out in the end and led to job layoffs. But Mr. Romney was using private risk capital in an effort to turn around troubled businesses, enterprises that do not always succeed -- though many if not most of them do.

Mr. Obama, in contrast, was risking hard-earned tax dollars on shaky, often politically driven energy deals that in many cases were given thumbs down by government auditors whose advice frequently was overridden by politically powerful deal-makers at the highest levels of government.

The lengthening list of bad business deals Mr. Obama and his advisers pushed, promoted and approved has been, for the most part, ignored by the liberal media, especially the nightly network news programs.

Among the multi-million-dollar deals that have tarred Mr. Obama's green-technology program:

A $535 million federal loan guarantee to the Solyndra solar-panel corporation that Mr. Obama made the flagship of his efforts to mount a new government-backed industry in alternative energy. Memos flew fast and furiously within the administration, warning about Solyndra's endangered financial foundation and whether the plug should be pulled on what some said was a legally questionable deal. Under internal pressure from the president, a restructured contract was written that left taxpayers on the hook to pay off the failed half-billion-dollar loan.

Solyndra went into bankruptcy last summer, as many of its critics warned it would; 1,100 employees lost their jobs, and the plant was shuttered.

Mr. Romney, who later visited the barbed-wire-encircled plant, attacked it as a classic example of Mr. Obama's waste-ridden $831 billion job stimulus program, which created few permanent jobs.

Then there was ECOtality, a firm that was given $126 million to install 14,000 electric car chargers. It has since suffered $45 million in losses and told the government, "We may not achieve profitability in the future."

Abound Solar received a $400 million loan guarantee to manufacture photovoltaic panels. It ended up halting production, laying off 180 workers and filing for bankruptcy.

Nevada Geothermal Power won a $98.5 million loan guarantee from Mr. Obama but has since fallen into "financial turmoil." In a financial statement earlier this year, NGP said "material uncertainties exist which cast significant doubt upon the company's ability to continue as a going concern," The Washington Times reported last month.

Ener1: After a $118 million stimulus package deal from the administration, the manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries for electric cars filed for bankruptcy last year.

Amonix, a solar-panel firm in North Las Vegas, gave 700 workers pink slips after receiving a $6 million tax credit and $15.6 million federal grant.

Mr. Obama made preposterous claims that these and other green-energy projects would create millions of new jobs in the years to come, comparing his program to President Kennedy's space program to put men on the moon.

Some of the administration's own economic advisers said the tens of billions of dollars Mr. Obama has pumped into these programs have created few jobs.

"I was very active in the implementation of the Recovery Act," said economist Jared Bernstein, an administration adviser, "and one thing we found about clean energy was that if you build a solar plant, you're going to hire a lot of people. [I]f you run a solar plant, it doesn't take a ton of people to run some of these plants. ... So some of these firms don't employ as many people as you might hope," he told the American Action Forum last April.

The Republican House Energy Committee passed the No More Solyndras Act on Wednesday to begin phasing out the loan program for green-energy projects. Don't hold your breath for any similar action in the Democrat-run Senate.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.

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