Solyndra and the End of Green Jobs

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 13 2011 1:26 PM

Solyndra and the End of Green Jobs

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Photo by Paul Chinn-Pool/Getty Images

The collapse of Solyndra isn't a complicated story. The solar tech company had received $535 million in loan guarantees from the government, a beneficiary of the focus on "green jobs." The guarantees had been kicked off in the Bush years; they became a reality under Barack Obama. And then the company started to go pear-shaped, the federal government stuck with it; it collapsed, and taxpayers stood to recoup only some of their investment.

Democrats are bracing for this to become a big problem. The RNC has been attacking on the issue, and the oversight subcommittee of House Energy and Commerce is starting hearings this week, inviting DOE and OMB officials in. They say the collapse proved a point: Green investment isn't something the government should try to do.

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"This whole idea that the president is going to create jobs from this green technology is suspect," said Cliff Stearns, chairman of that oversight committee, during a luncheon at the Heritage Foundation. He rattled off statistics about coal and shale oil reserves that should be tapped ASAP. "The president should realize that green energy isn't going to be the solution." Asked if the whole industry was worth stiffing, he gave an unequivocal yes. "I'm convinced that there are more that are going to go bankrupt," he said. "I think the president is unwise to spend the government's money on industries that are not viable."

Republicans talk like this because the scandalous part of the story doesn't hold up. As Chris Frates reports, the first RNC attack -- a key Solyndra backer was an Obama bundler! -- is blunted by the fact that other Solyndra backers are Republicans. So before we find any malfeasance -- if we ever find it -- we get the denunciation of green investment. Just like former green tax credit booster Newt Gingrich, who now says they're a boondoggle, the post-Bush consensus is that any green spending is money down a rathole.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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