Guest Submission by Gene Brown
The Obama administration currently has several potential scandals being brought to light. One that should have been the easiest to avoid is the Solyndra scandal.
Solyndra is (was) a manufacturing company that produces solar panels and was highly touted by the Obama Administration as an example of his Green Energy Jobs Plan. In 2009, Solyndra was granted a loan from the United States Department of Energy (that means your money) for the amount of $535 million, to build a manufacturing plant in the very expensive San Francisco Bay area.
In February of 2011, the loan to Solyndra was refinanced and they received another installment of our money. This time a caveat was added to the loan. The United States government was made “subordinate” to an Obama campaign contributor and Solyndra investor, Oklahoma billionaire George Kaiser. In the event that Solyndra went bankrupt, Mr. Kaiser would get his money, from selling Solyndra assets, first, and then the U.S. treasury (our money) would get whatever was left. As has been my experience, it is standard practice for the government to demand payment first, but obviously, we couldn’t have Mr. Kaiser losing any of his investment.
As it stands today, Solyndra is in bankruptcy, the FBI has “visited” the offices of Solyndra and the home of its CEO, Brian Harris, 1,100 employees have been laid off, four major investigations are underway, and $535 million of taxpayer’s money has vanished!
What this fiasco points out is that government has no business involved in business! When government or factions within government try to push agendas, such as green energy initiatives, they will muck it up. In their defense, they are not playing with their own money, so wisdom and success is not an important goal, just a delightful happenstance.
Even though there have been improvements in solar electricity production, it is not a commercially viable industry. Current electricity producers — coal, nuclear, oil, and natural gas — can produce energy for approximately 11 cents for a kilo watt (1,000 watts) of power (national average). The best that solar panels can do is about $8.00 for only one watt. With government rebates and tax credits, then the cost comes down to somewhere around $3.00 a watt.
I understand that there is a fervent hope that the solar panel market will expand to the point where solar-electricity will actually become cost effective, and I do wish them success. However, it is not the case today. If solar panels really had a market or if they could really produce electricity at comparable prices, then serious investors, such as Mr. Kaiser, would not be needing governmental favors, he would be making lots of money! Electricity producers wouldn’t have solar farms solely for earth-friendly appearances; they would have them to make money.
The marketplace is real, and it has its own rules. When government ignores or bypasses those rules, problems occur. I don’t know if anyone will go to jail over this scandal, but Americans should be seriously angry about another unnecessary waste of our precious dollars.
That’s my nickel.