Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Solyndra’
August 22nd, 2012 at 12:20 pm
Federal Energy Policy in Microcosm
Posted by Troy Senik Print

As a resident of the Los Angeles area, I’m accustomed to the petty indignities of big government. In a number of local communities, I can’t get a plastic bag from a grocery store and remain on the right side of the law. In the bedroom community of Calabasas (where I used to live), lighting up a cigarette is illegal virtually everywhere. There was even a small uproar earlier this year when it looked like L.A. was green-lighting $1,000 fines for playing football on the beach (of course that was the one that actually got the public incensed).

Traveling in South Florida last week, I encountered a new one: jam-packed parking lots where the only open spaces (and yes, they were virtually always open) were set aside for electric cars. In an instance of federalism working in exactly the opposite fashion it should — bad state and local ideas trickling up to Washington — it looks like the Capitol is about to get a taste of similar medicine. From National Journal:

Both the House and Senate approved plans to install public charging stations for electric vehicles earlier this month, and President Barack Obama signed those laws late last week. But in conversations with more than a dozen relevant Capitol Hill offices, the Alley could only track down one staffer with an electric car.

The phenomenon — whether in Miami, Capitol Hill, or anywhere else in the nation — is always the same: No one’s buying what the government’s selling. A better parking spot, a charging station, and a guest pass to the HOV lanes aren’t enough to convince the average American consumer to sacrifice quality, reliability, and safety.

This, I think, is the most telling part of the NJ piece:

Though few staffers currently drive electric cars, the sponsors of the legislation hope the stations will act as incentive for staffers considering purchasing one. There are only about 55,000 electric vehicles on the road, according to a CBS projection, which falls well short of Obama’s goals to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

Count me skeptical of the incentive argument. The proponents of electric cars think they have a chicken and egg problem on their hands: no one will buy electric cars if there aren’t widespread charging stations, but no one will build the charging stations if there aren’t widespread electric cars. There’s an oft-unacknowledged parallel with the infrastructure, of course: conventional vehicles require gasoline, but you don’t see government having to mandate the creation of your local service station. It turns out that when people actually want a good, the logistics normally sort themselves out.

The problem isn’t that the product creates a chicken and egg dilemma. If we stay with this metaphor, the problem is that the consumer is a vegan. No matter how you present the product, they’re just not interested. When we start realizing this — and applying the principle writ large — we’ll save billions in taxpayer dollars, unravel the green crony capitalism represented by firms like Solyndra, and get our energy economy back on track.

June 14th, 2012 at 8:52 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Pinocchio In Chief
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

May 31st, 2012 at 5:08 pm
Romney Dings Obama on Solyndra

Standing across the street from Solyndra’s Fremont, CA headquarters today Mitt Romney articulated well just about everything that’s wrong with President Barack Obama’s Solyndra fiasco.

From CNN:

“This building, this half-a-billion-dollar taxpayer investment, represents a serious conflict of interest on the part of the president and his team. It’s also a symbol of how the president thinks about free enterprise. Free enterprise to the president means taking money from the taxpayers and giving it freely to his friends.”

CFIF readers are no strangers to the Obama administration’s crony capitalism vis-à-vis Solyndra.

The fast-track loan approvals that benefited a major 2008 campaign bundler, the renegotiated terms that leapfrogged private investors in front of taxpayers in the event of a default, and the unnecessary risk of $535 million in taxpayer money on an unproven solar technology that ultimately flamed out are permanent reminders of how this White House’s corrupt politics and bad policies result in debt-exploding outcomes.

Americans can’t afford another day of this fiscal irresponsibility; let alone another four years.

April 4th, 2012 at 7:02 pm
More Bad Solyndra News

Politico reports that an Inspector General’s investigation concluded the Department of Energy’s loan to Solyndra corrupted a process to serve a political agenda.

The Treasury Department’s review of Solyndra’s $535 million federal loan guarantee was “rushed” through in about one day in March 2009, “based on an expedited review request from DOE so that a press release could be issued,” according to a Treasury inspector general report that gives further evidence of the early Obama administration’s eagerness to announce progress in funding clean energy.

The report also found that DOE didn’t consult with Treasury on the terms and conditions of the loan deal before or during the Energy Department’s own review process, including the review of Solyndra’s credit worthiness.

Nor did DOE include Treasury in negotiations that later allowed private investors to skip past taxpayers in the repayment line in the event – which turned into a certainty – that Solyndra went bankrupt.

The corruption in the Solyndra loan process is unique in that – so far – no one inside the government has been accused of being bribed for making so many financially ruinous decisions with taxpayer money.

The only explanation is the triumph of ideology over process.

In the Teapot Dome scandal members of the Harding administration got kickbacks for no-bid contracts on oil drilling.  The HUD scandals of the late 1980’s made some officials, lobbyists, and construction companies rich at the expense of the poor.  But with Solyndra and other failed alternative energy busts, Obama’s DOE blew billions of dollars on nothing more than a bankrupt ideology; namely, the fantasy that green technology can be subsidized into sustainability.

At least with bribes you can follow the money.  The Obama administration’s version of corruption is something arguably new.  The only way to ensure its eradication is to fire the people who hire the ideologically-driven bureaucrats.

March 24th, 2012 at 8:52 am
More Solyndras in Energy Department Loan Scandal?

The Wall Street Journal reports that of the 32 loans made under the Energy Department’s renewable energy loan program, 10 have been put on an internal watch list for being “high risk investments”.  Though the Department redacted the identities of the companies on the list, at least one is Solyndra, the failed California solar panel company that went bankrupt last year, and left taxpayers with over $535 million in losses.

The Journal indicates that another member of the watch list may be Prologis Inc., a company approved for $1.4 billion in federal loans about six months ago.  Now, the firm says it won’t meet an upcoming deadline.

Here’s why:

Prologis originally intended to use Solyndra’s solar panels. Energy Secretary Steven Chu intervened last summer to help move the loan forward and called the Prologis project “remarkable” when it closed Sept. 30.

What’s remarkable is that Chu’s name isn’t on a White House watch list for seriously mismanaging billions in taxpayer money on failed ventures.

March 15th, 2012 at 8:07 pm
Obama Campaigns on Taxpayer’s Dime

Check out this video clip of President Barack Obama speaking to what looks and sounds like a campaign crowd in a community college outside Washington, D.C.

The problem is that federal officeholders – like the U.S. President – aren’t supposed to campaign on the taxpayers’ dime.  That’s why presidential campaigns like Obama for America exist.  The press picked up on this and asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney to comment.  His response: “It’s a policy statement” to call Republicans who won’t subsidize alternative energy boondoggles like Solyndra “members of the flat-earth society.”

And the O-Man wonders why Republicans don’t like him?

March 12th, 2012 at 5:11 pm
GAO Says Energy Department Lacks ‘Internal Control’ Over Loan Program

Here’s some more deservedly bad news for the Energy Department bureaucrats that brought us at least 12 multi-million dollar loser loans like the $535 million sinkhole known as Solyndra — a damning indictment from the Government Accountability Office summarized by The Hill:

The Government Accountability Office, in a new report, said it took Energy Department staff more than three months to provide data on the status of its loan guarantee applications.

“Because it took months to assemble the information required for our review, it is also clear that the [Energy Department’s loan office] could not be conducting timely oversight of the program,” the report says.

With typical understatement, the GAO also concluded that the Energy Department’s failed accounting for billions in taxpayer money “is not consistent with one of the fundamental concepts of internal control”.  Sounds like it’s time for Congress to exercise some external control to get things back to normal.

February 1st, 2012 at 5:44 pm
Who Killed the Electric Car? The People Who Made It
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Over at RealClearMarkets, the American Enterprise Institute’s Kenneth Green has a wonderful take-down of California’s delusional alternative energy mandate, which would “require that 15.4 percent of all vehicles sold by 2025 must be electric cars, plug-in hybrid cars, or (currently non-existent) fuel cell cars.” Green notes that this is the second time the Golden State has gone down this road, after a similar mandate — imposed back in 1990 — had to be scrapped due to its total infeasibility.

As you may recall, it used to be fashionable amongst conspiracy-minded greens to posit that the electric car had been undermined by some nefarious cabal of big oil, the auto industry, and hydrogen fuel cell advocates. They even made a film about it: 2006’s “Who Killed the Electric Car?”, which included the contributions of such noted experts in transportation economics as Martin Sheen, Mel Gibson, and Phyllis Diller. As Green points out, however, the electric car and its alternative fuel cousins have never taken the market by storm for a much simpler reason — they’re just not economically viable:

The GM Volt sells for a non-competitive $40,000, and is barely selling despite federal tax subsidies up to $7,500, and some state subsidies that further sweeten the pot. Plug-in hybrid technology is more expensive to manufacture, more expensive to repair, more expensive to insure, and, after 22 years, they still have overheating and fire problems.

As Robert Bryce points out in his book Power Hungry, electric cars are the “Next Big Thing. And they always will be.” Bryce observes that EV-boosters have been flogging electric cars since 1911, when the New York Times declared that “the electric car “has long been recognized as the ideal solution” because it “is cleaner and quieter” and “much more economical.”

Scan the hard data on any alternative energy source being promoted as a panacea and you’ll find much the same thing: Too little performance for too much money and too little convenience. And that’s the real tragedy of mandates like California’s or federal handouts to firms like Solyndra. The reality is that we probably will shift away from our reliance on conventional sources of energy like coal and oil in the future. But in order to do so, alternative energy sources will have to be scalable, affordable, and efficient. Providing subsidies for those technologies before they reach that point only delays their viability by reducing the financial incentive to get a better product to market.

The upshot? Reliable green energy may indeed be on the horizon for California. But if it does arrive, it will be because of the efforts of businessmen, not bureaucrats.

January 27th, 2012 at 3:25 pm
Now Biden’s Solyndra Goes Belly Up

During a visit to Solyndra’s Fremont, CA, headquarters President Barack Obama infamously proclaimed “we can see the positive impacts [of Recovery Act stimulus money] right here at Solyndra.”  A year later, Solyndra filed for bankruptcy.  Less noticed was Vice President Joe Biden’s equally presumptuous statement last year that Indiana-based EnerDel – a maker of government subsidized batteries for electric cars – was the “start” to reorienting “the way Americans power their lives.”   As of yesterday, exactly one year after Biden uttered those words, the latest green energy fiasco declared bankruptcy.

For those keeping score, that’s Solyndra costing $535 million, EnerDel $118 million, with more failures to follow.  Had enough, America?

January 27th, 2012 at 9:22 am
Video: The Pipeline to Nowhere
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

From the recent decision to block construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline to Solyndra-like “green energy” initiatives, CFIF’s Renee Giachino discusses the Obama Administration’s failed energy policies in the week’s Freedom Minute.

January 23rd, 2012 at 9:12 pm
Mapping Obama’s Energy Winners & Losers

A funny thing happens when you overlay two of President Barack Obama’s recent energy proclamations onto a 2008 electoral map: You find out just how political is his decision to kill the Keystone XL pipeline and embrace natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation.

Here’s a map of the Keystone XL project.  And this is a map of the 2008 presidential election.  Note that the path of Keystone XL runs from Canada directly south through six states: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.  All of these states voted for John McCain in 2008.  (Incidentally, not even a sideline to Obama’s Illinois during the pipeline’s initial phase could placate the anti-fossil fuel President.)

Now look at this map of the Marcellus Shale natural gas formation that the Obama White House now says would be a great place to start drilling for America’s energy future.  It touches vast swaths of New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, with a large portion covering West Virginia.  Obama won New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio in 2008, and will need to do so again in 2012 to stay in the Oval Office.

As I said in my column last week, expect to hear Obama make the pitch that natural gas from Marcellus Shale is the new way forward as a way to placate blue collar energy workers in states he needs to maintain – and in the case of West Virginia, possibly pick up.  (Reports are coming in that the President will devote a significant portion of his State of the Union Address to promoting domestic natural gas production.)

It’ll be a tough sale.  Obama’s EPA is trying to regulate the West Virginia coal industry out of existence, while working class voters are rightfully suspicious of a President who promises everything from expanded offshore drilling to solar powered miracles (Solyndra, anyone?), only to be exposed as a fraud.  Natural gas may be the next big thing, but it won’t mean anything to a coal worker out of work because his industry went out of business thanks to Obama’s latest round of picking winners and losers.

The big question is: Will the GOP be able to turn Obama’s politicization of America’s energy future into an articulate appeal for an all-of-the-above approach?

December 2nd, 2011 at 6:45 pm
Cut Obama’s Crony Loan Programs to Help Balance Budget

Here’s my contribution to the debate on how to cut the federal deficit: Congress should cut the criminally mismanaged loan program administered by the Department of Energy.  Under Secretary Steven Chu’s watch, the department has doled out $535 million to the now-bankrupt Solyndra, with a separate $400 million sweetheart deal to Abound Solar.  Both firms are financially backed by top-dollar campaign bundlers for President Barack Obama’s presidential runs.

Had this program not been in place nearly $1 billion of taxpayer money would not have been parceled out to crony capitalists.  (Add the $548 million steered to Siga Technologies Inc. for a smallpox drug America doesn’t need, and you’re at nearly $1.5 billion to pay for products the private market doesn’t want.)  Is there a Democrat in Congress willing to defend this massive waste of taxpayer money, money that could have been spent to pay down the debt, shore-up Social Security, or extend the payroll tax holiday?

The best reason to get a Republican nominee quickly is so that the broader American electorate can be educated on the enormous amounts of waste, fraud, and abuse inflicted on the nation’s fisc by the Occupiers in the White House.

November 16th, 2011 at 5:50 pm
Michelle Malkin Blasts Growing Siga Scandal

Michelle Malkin takes no prisoners with her analysis of the newest example of Obama’s crony capitalism gone wild.  As I wrote about yesterday, the $433 million taxpayer giveaway to the politically connected pharmaceutical firm Siga Technologies will rival the $535 debt incurred thanks to Solyndra going belly-up.  When you tack on an additional $115 billion in R&D the feds gave Siga to create the drug they’re selling to HHS, these two scandals combined have cost American taxpayers over $1 trillion.

When will any of the GOP presidential candidates make this a theme of their campaign?

October 7th, 2011 at 2:40 pm
Time to “Occupy” the White House

With the unwashed masses “occupying” Wall Street and other financial centers throughout the country, Community-Organizer-in-Chief Barack Obama is trying to convince the protesters of crony capitalism that their grievance is really his.  From today’s Wall Street Journal:

Asked about the demonstrations that have spread to cities across the U.S., Mr. Obama empathized with protesters’ frustrations without embracing the movement: “The American people understand that not everybody has been following the rules; that Wall Street is an example of that.”

Haven’t been following the rules? How’s this for a list of people not following the rules:

  • Energy Secretary Steven Chu rubber stamps another taxpayer subsidy to Solyndra after the company defaulted on a $535 million loan (the company couldn’t get sufficient venture capital funding but did grease the skids to get taxpayer money thanks to an Obama fundraiser – who was also an investor – pulling strings)
  • Attorney General Eric Holder lies to Congress about allowing a criminally stupid ‘gun-walking’ program at ATF to continue that sends 2,000 guns to Mexican drug cartels, killing a Border Patrol Agent
  • Education Secretary Arne Duncan violates the No Child Left Behind law by unilaterally issuing waivers that require recipients to accept White House dictated regulations that cannot get through Congress – an unheard of abuse of the waiver process

I could go on, but I think the point is made.  The American people are viscerally aware of a politically connected elite waging war on the rule of law.  But it’s the Tea Party, not those squatting outside America’s nodes of commerce, that has identified the biggest threat to prosperity.  It’s time to occupy the White House and the Cabinet with people who not only respect the law, but also know how to grow the economy in a real, free market fashion.

September 29th, 2011 at 5:42 pm
Video: Trio of Scandals Hits the White House
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In this week’s Freedom Minute, CFIF’s Renee Giachino points to the mounting scandals – Solyndra, Fast and Furious, Lightsquared – hitting the White House to refute claims that the Obama Administration has been “scandal free.”

September 23rd, 2011 at 3:54 pm
The Solyndra-Moneyball Connection

Today marks the release of Moneyball, a movie based on a book based on the true story of how the Oakland Athletics baseball team overcame a chintzy payroll to compete with high-dollar teams.  The book revolutionized the way many people think about baseball (and management in general) because of the A’s innovative use of player’s statistical data.

Today also saw top executives from Solyndra stonewalling Congress over how the company went from $535 million in federal subsidies to bankruptcy in less than three years.

Nine years after Moneyball was published – and eight years after Major League Baseball started testing for steroids – the A’s success tapered off in relation to falling production of steroid using players like Jason Giambi, Miguel Tejada, and others.  (National Review’s Neil Minkoff has the details here.)

So, despite the A’s perceived use of a superior technology, it looks more and more like they benefited from their proximity to the steroid capital of baseball: the San Francisco Bay Area (remember the Giants’ Barry Bonds?)

Something similar happened with Solyndra.  When the company’s solar technology was new it looked like the magic bullet for the “green economy,” so much so that investors and the Obama Administration threw caution to the wind, funded a fantasy, and put taxpayers on the hook for half a billion dollars.

The A’s only lost games and perhaps some credibility after their more-than-meets-the-eye initial success.  American taxpayers are losing their collective shirt with bad bets on Keynesian stimulus and market-distorting subsidies.  A’s fans might want to get new management.  Americans should demand it.

September 19th, 2011 at 3:17 pm
Solyndra’s Not the Disease, It’s Just a Symptom
Posted by Troy Senik Print

The bad news about the Obama Administration’s more than half a billion dollar investment in Solyndra — the California solar energy company that has gone bankrupt and laid off approximately 1,100 employees — keeps piling up. In addition to being a waste of taxpayer money, there are also issues about whether or not the federal loan guarantees were properly vetted, about private investors getting to jump in front of the taxpayers as secured creditors, and about why Solyndra received dramatically lower interest rates than similarly situated firms.

While all those issues are both troubling and relevant, the proliferation of trees runs the risk of obscuring the forest here. That’s why this passage from Matthew Continetti’s new piece in the Weekly Standard is so valuable:

In today’s economy, risks are socialized while profit is privatized. The government uses deficit spending to shape investment decisions and support markets that otherwise wouldn’t exist. Political connections determine the recipients of government largesse. Rentiers conceal their self-interest behind the organic hemp cloak of environmentalism and global “competitiveness.” The illusion can be maintained for a time, but in the end the bill comes due. There’s no money left. And everything disappears.

Ably stated. There’s a reason they’re starting to call it “venture socialism”.

September 16th, 2011 at 3:37 pm
WSJ: Fed Loan Ruined Solyndra

While congressional investigators continue to probe into whether the Obama Administration broke federal laws in awarding a $535 million loan to now-bankrupt Solyndra, the Wall Street Journal details how crony capitalism prolonged a series of bad decisions by the solar company’s management.

Here’s the money paragraph:

In mid-2009, Solyndra had a choice: It could hunker down with its existing factory and try to slash costs to meet competition, drawing on additional private capital as needed, according to the people familiar with the company. Or, with a loan from Uncle Sam, it could gamble and build a brand-new, bigger factory in a bid to gain economies of scale and dominate the market.

Choosing to gamble, Solyndra overbuilt its manufacturing capacity, and continued rushing to market a product that was not marketed – or priced – correctly.

As the WSJ article makes clear, not all of Solyndra’s problems were the result of inept management.  An unexpected drop in the price of a competing product turned Solyndra’s profitability upside down.  The market was sending Solyndra’s management a message to rethink their strategies.  The Obama Administration bypassed that all-important-process with huge amounts of money to continue pursuing failure.

Come to think of it, that pretty much sums up the president’s thinking when it comes to government spending.  No wonder his new jobs plan is dead on arrival.