Last updated: August 24. 2013 5:04AM - 40 Views

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Obama administration defenders argue that high-tech “green energy” companies are inherently risky and need a boost from government subsidies.In principle, that's not inaccurate. We have long supported America's evolving toward cleaner energy sources — like wind, solar and nuclear — and away from higher-polluting oil and coal.In practice, government loan guarantees are made with taxpayer dollars. Taxpayers have every right to expect that the officials lending such large sums are thoroughly and transparently evaluating potential recipients.Does politics play a role? It would be naive to suggest otherwise. In Texas, we're quite familiar with the state's Emerging Technology Fund, from which millions ended up with companies connected to key supporters of Gov. Rick Perry. Whatever your view of the principle, the fund's practices raise legitimate concerns of “crony capitalism.”A similar story is playing out in Washington with the high-tech green company Solyndra. Its anticipated niche was a unique, thin-film solar energy panel — revolutionary but expensive to produce. In fact, regulatory filings show that Solyndra was burning through hundreds of millions of dollars just to stay afloat.Solyndra needed a government loan, but its application was stalled until President Barack Obama's inauguration. Nine months later, Solyndra had a fresh infusion of $535 million, capital it could use to attract private investors. One was the Tulsa, Okla., foundation headed by billionaire George Kaiser, a major Obama contributor and frequent White House visitor.Energy Secretary Steven Chu attended the September 2009 groundbreaking of Solyndra's Silicon Valley plant; Vice President Joe Biden spoke by satellite. Obama visited personally and lauded the company as a new-economy model.Then, this month, Solyndra declared bankruptcy, defaulting on its notes and casting adrift 1,100 workers. Only now do we learn — thanks to email recovered from Energy and Office of Management and Budget officials — that the accountants had serious reservations about Solyndra's business model. One OMB official predicted bankruptcy by, yes, September 2011.Emails also indicate that Energy and OMB officials felt pressed by the administration to hurry up and approve the Solyndra money. The administration even restructured the loan to ensure that private investors — including Kaiser — were paid back ahead of taxpayers, in case of default.When even a liberal commentator like “The Daily Show's” Jon Stewart must concede, “That custom-tailored Obama scandal you ordered is finally here,” the time for stonewalling has ended.It's not yet clear whether Solyndra will prove to be Watergate or even Monica Lewinsky. Having the Justice, Treasury and Labor departments open investigations would be a lousy way to run a cover-up.But, ultimately, even the most determined Obama defenders must realize that the questions swirling around the Solyndra boondoggle wound the entire alternative energy effort. Chu and the Energy and OMB folks who actually signed off on Solyndra must answer them, especially with officials rushing to lend an additional $9 billion in stimulus money to green industries by the end of September.It would be sadly ironic if friendly fire inflicted such grave harm.



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