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Solargate: Worse and Worse

The Solyndra scandal threatens to blow up into the first truly major scandal of the Obama administration. This is, as Via Meadia readers know, bad news for the administration on several levels; besides the obvious ethical issues, the Solyndra scandal makes the President appear incompetent or worse when it comes to job creation.  The scandal supports some key Republican attack narratives and as long as it is in the news the Democrats will suffer.

The spectacle of company chiefs taking the Fifth Amendment before Congress means that the scandal has real legs.  At this point the White House must brace itself for a steady drip, drip, drip of Solyndra coverage for some time, creating a public sense that cronyism, green naivete and incompetence cause the federal government to waste stimulus money without creating jobs.

Meanwhile, the damage spreads as a combination of bad economic news, falling energy prices and the ripples from the Solyndra bankruptcy push the alternative energy sector into trouble.  Take the case of First Solar Inc., a major solar-panel maker and solar-farm developer and until very recently the likely recipient of a $1.9 billion loan guarantee from the DOE. The WSJ reports:

The DOE’s disqualification of First Solar’s Topaz project loan guarantee comes as the department faces intense scrutiny following the bankruptcy of solar-panel start-up Solyndra Inc., which obtained a $535 million loan guarantee and a $527 million government loan to build a factory in Fremont, Calif. Solyndra is the subject of a federal criminal probe into whether the company misled the government in connection with the 2009 loan guarantee. It filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this month.

The loss of the loan guarantee for the Topaz project sent First Solar shares tumbling to their lowest point in more than four years…

First Solar still has $2.5 billion in DOE guarantees pending. Without these federal loan guarantees that the industry has relied on to keep itself solvent, investors are panicking. Meanwhile, as the NYT noted,

The bankruptcy’s timing could hardly be worse for the solar industry; about $9 billion in additional loan guarantee money is available, but by law, projects must break ground by Sept. 30. On Thursday, the sponsor of three major projects that had received tentative approval said that at least one of them would certainly not meet the deadline and that the two others might not either. About 1,000 megawatts of power is at risk, according to the industry’s trade association.

But the Republicans, with evidence in hand that the Solyndra loan was moved through quickly in the late stages, has publicly cautioned the Department of Energy and the White House not to act in haste in the last days of the program, which was paid for as part of the stimulus bill.

Everything the environmental movement has pushed the President to do has turned into a political mess.  The green jobs agenda lies in ruins; so does cap and trade — and so does the push for a global carbon treaty.  Yet environmentalists, rather than being ashamed and embarrassed that their agenda flops disastrously when put to the test, are bitter and resentful toward the White House and Democrats generally.

The green movement as it is now led is a politician’s nightmare.  It pushes its political allies toward unpopular and unworkable ideas, but its members are stringent and demanding.  Sooner or later movements like this go under the bus; look for many Democrats to quietly distance themselves from a movement and an agenda that demand a great deal but don’t offer much in return.

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  • Corlyss

    “*** the Solyndra scandal makes the President appear incompetent or worse ***”

    Frankly, anyone who hasn’t gotten THAT message by now either isn’t paying attention, or is an apologist, or too stupid to be allowed to vote.

    The critical question is really, is there anything in the field of governing that he IS competent at? He can’t even give good speeches, from the heart, as opposed to from the teleprompter. He hates the job, spends much of his time trying to avoid making decisions, or committing to policy beyond his reflexive ideological screeds against Republicans, bankers, business in general, and the wealthy. The man is a walking farce.

  • Cynic

    I’m not surprised these folks took the 5th. Given even a single mistake or failure to remember in their testimony, they could be looking at perjury or obstruction of justice criminal charges. Witness what happened to Scooter Libby.

  • Kris

    Corlyss: “Frankly, anyone who hasn’t gotten THAT message by now either isn’t paying attention”

    Unfortunately, if understandably, a substantial portion of the electorate simply doesn’t pay attention until close to the election. If you assume that Obama’s failings are obvious to everyone and that you can just sit back and wait for the inevitable turfing-out, you could be disappointed.

    [ObDisclaimer: this is not meant as a criticism of Corlyss.]

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    Under the Bus with the lying Enviro-Misanthropes.

  • SC Mike

    One hopes that along with the direct subsidies and loan guarantees to the green-energy providers will go the mandates for utilities to provide a certain percentage of power from so-called “alternative sources,” a scam that’s been going on for the last twenty years.

    I call it a scam because the rate-payers are the ones who fund the windmills or whatever at a higher cost, and the utilities generally are only so happy to comply as long as they get their guaranteed rate of return, which is what a state’s public utility commission gladly assures. So the politicians get green points, as do the utilities, with the hapless consumers left footing the bill.

    Of note too is the number of subsidy / TARP / stimulus recipients who’ve happened to make contributions to the Dems. A remarkable coincidence, no? The recycling of funds is just as bad as what one finds with the public employee unions. Talk about evil corporate behavior , but cui bono?

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