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EDITORIAL: Uncle Sam’s solar eclipse

Federal funds can’t buy success under the sun

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 11, 2012

As much of the nation broils under the merciless July sun, the Obama administration can't resist the urge to burn cash on "green" energy projects. Each time one of these solar-energy firms flames out, American taxpayers get singed. Even a sundial would indicate it's quitting time.

The latest to fail is Abound Solar, a Colorado solar-panel manufacturer. The firm filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation on July 2, two years after being awarded a $400 million stimulus loan guarantee. President Obama personally touted the loan during a 2010 radio address called "A Solar Recovery." That was during "Recovery Summer," when the administration shoveled $831 billion into the federal spending furnace, which was supposed to ignite the American economy by creating millions of jobs. Instead, unemployment has been stuck above 8 percent for 40 months, and for many, the American dream has gone up in smoke.

Abound Solar joins a growing list of Energy Department renewable-energy loan recipients gone bad. Others include the solar firm Solyndra, which triggered an uproar over government waste when it entered bankruptcy protection last August after pocketing $535 million in federal loan guarantees. Beacon Power went belly-up after receiving $43 million. Battery maker Ener1, which was awarded $118.5 million, has closed its doors, and A123 has undergone layoffs after taking $249 million.

The Energy Department's risky business practices are not limited to solar panels. On July 3, Nevada Geothermal Power admitted it is struggling to stay afloat after receiving a $98.5 million loan guarantee. Despite Silver State Sen. Harry Reid's proclamation that Nevada would become "the Saudi Arabia of geothermal energy," the company has not figured out how to turn heat from the state's expansive desert into price-competitive energy.

The Obama administration blamed Abound Solar's predicament on the marketplace. "When the floor fell out on the price of solar panels, Abound's product was no longer cost-competitive," explains an Energy Department spokesman on the agency's website. Only bureaucrats spending public money view the failure to create price-competitive products a legitimate excuse. In contrast, private business won't wager on a venture without a high likelihood of success.

That solar energy is a risky business is no surprise, and House Republicans are growing impatient with the green gambles. Earlier this month, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio took the Energy Department to task for awarding more than 20 loan guarantees to companies with a "junk" credit rating. China has flooded the global market with government-subsidized panels, driving down prices by more than 50 percent during the past year. Uncle Sam shouldn't get in the game of outsubsidizing the Chinese dragon.

It's not house money Mr. Obama is betting on renewable energy but dollars ripped away from hardworking Americans trying to save for an increasingly doubtful future for their families. For him to squander more funds on unviable, unaffordable projects when the nation is in danger of slipping back into recession is to undermine the American dream. Presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney should make it clear he would end the green fantasy if elected in November.

The Washington Times

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