Guest Post from Tom Lester:
In this day and age, I’m saddened by the lack of desire by most people to read history. It seems Americans are typically much more interested in the gratification of instant amusement, eschewing some of the greatest entertainment that is contained in the history of the world and of our country. The movie industry occasionally captures a significant event in history but will often alter it to make it bigger than life and “more entertaining”.
Ask people about European or American history and you’ll likely get a blank stare and the comment, “What good does knowing that do me?” In the greater scheme of things, knowing about the battle of Trenton during the American Revolution will not yield benefits to the average person. But what of recent history?
Do the names Solyndra and Abound Solar ring any bells? Solyndra LLC, the solar-panel maker received a $535 million U.S. Energy Department loan guarantee which left taxpayers on the hook before going bankrupt. Abound Solar Inc., had hoped to hire up to 1,200 people in Indiana by the end of next year. It will have its assets sold at auctions this month and in October under authority granted last week by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court under Chapter 7 liquidation, again part of the more than $30 billion in 2010 to subsidize the U.S. solar industry.
One would think that recent history would cause our government to use caution but the Federal government is making another big bet on solar panel manufacturing with taxpayer money, hoping the third time will be the charm. This time SoloPower in Portland, Oregon, has a guaranteed government loan of $197 million. Industry analysts are not optimistic about SoloPower’s prospects. “It’s questionable …,” says Lux Research’s Andrew Soare, “It’s uncertain if solar power will be able to produce efficiently and economically at scale. It’s something that has not been done yet, and it’s still risky.” Soare points to the price advantage enjoyed by Chinese manufacturers which has helped them grab a majority of the U.S. market share.
Chinese solar panels are about 30 percent cheaper than ones made in America and the Commerce Department is urging President Obama to slap a tariff on Chinese imports. But William Yeatman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute says the Energy Department’s green loan program created with Federal stimulus money has been a failure by any measure. Congress appropriated $4.5 billion for it. Solar panel bankruptcies alone have cost taxpayers $600 million and if SoloPower stumbles, the losses will go even higher. A fourth company, 1366 Technologies, received a $150 million loan but has not even built its manufacturing plant yet. Yeatman has little faith in SoloPower: “It looks like it will fail for the same reasons as Solyndra.”
“Damn the torpedoes,” said Admiral Farragut, “full speed ahead!” In the face of recent historical failures of the “Green” program, our government proceeds as if it has no standard to judge. Add insult to injury when one considers that the U.S. now borrows 40 cents of every dollar it spends, much of it from China. It stretches logic when taxpayer money is loaned to finance an industry whose major competition is from China. And the loan probably has nothing to do with the fact that SoloPower’s chief executive Tim Harris donated more than $30,000 to Obama’s 2008 campaign?