Chart of the Day: The Solyndra Effect

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 8 2011 3:33 PM

Chart of the Day: The Solyndra Effect

The Solyndra scandal is still churning, and -- assuming we know most of what will be known -- it will reach an end when we determine whether or not the Obama administration intervened to get the company to delay layoff announcements. But most of the scandal has already occured, and most of its effect should already be felt. "Solyndra," the story, isn't just about one company. Listen to the GOP candidates for president. "Solyndra" is a one-word summary of the idea that the government should not invest in "green" tech that can't survive on its own.

Has it worked? I missed this at the time, but a month ago Pew asked voters whether or not they were souring on the idea of government funding green/alternative tech. The result of months of Solyndra stories: An overall 12-point dip in support for these grants. It went from a 74-21 positive image to a 68-26 image. Start at the beginning of the Obama presidency, and it had declined by 25 points. Only... well, look at the partisan breakdown.

The drop-off in support is largely a function of dropped-off Republican support. At the start of the Obama years, Democrats and Republicans were both pretty high on alternative energy grants -- 85 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of Republicans liked them. A year into Obama, Democrats were more warm on green energy grants by a 24-point margin. And after Solyndra, the margin is up to 30 points. Early conclusion: Solyndra has convinced around half of Republicans that green energy is a scam, but they've made only inchward progress with everybody else. In the aggregate, it's a small win for enviro-skeptics. Two years ago, if you were a green lobbyist, you probably couldn't interest your local congressman in massive carbon taxes. But! You could sell him on this great idea for green energy grants. Post-Solyndra, the second slide in your powerpoint, about how tossing some money to solar companies will benefit everybody -- it isn't such an obvious win.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.