(By Josh Marks, cross-posted at Green Forward)
Solyndra was never about the facts. It was never meant to be. House Republicans put on a cynical show trial to attack the Obama Administration’s clean energy policies. They dragged Nobel Prize-winning physicist and Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu to Capitol Hill in order to brow beat one of the most respected scientists in the world over the DOE Loan Guarantee Program.
Sadly, Republicans might have committed serious damage to American competitiveness in the global clean energy race. The United States is attempting to compete with China, Germany, Brazil and other nations whose governments are massively investing in the renewable energy sector. The Loan Guarantee Program is crucial to ensuring success in the industries of the future. Now comes the news that because of Solyndra, the DOE is being overly cautious in issuing loans. The first victim could be California-based luxury electric car maker Fisker Automotive’s plans to build a hybrid-electric car factory in Wilmington, Delaware for their new model Atlantic. The project was supposed to create 2,000 factory jobs and more than 3,000 vendor and supplier jobs. Wilmington’s unemployment rate stood at 10.4 percent as of last December so the city could really use those jobs. So Fisker is now considering placing the plant and all those jobs in Finland. Fisker already manufactures its Karma plug-in hybrid luxury sedan in Finland. Fisker founder Henrik Fisker was quoted in ABC News as saying the following:
“There was no contract manufacturer in the U.S. that could actually produce our vehicle. They don’t exist here. We’re not in the business of failing; we’re in the business of winning. So we make the right decision for the business. That’s why we went to Finland.”
Are the Republicans listening to this? Now the United States could lose more manufacturing jobs because of the Solyndra witch hunt.
If the Republicans cared about the actual facts regarding the Solyndra “scandal” instead of pursuing a political witch hunt against anything Obama, they would have brought up the following:
– The Bush Administration advanced the Solyndra loan guarantee for two years, starting in 2007. The Bush Administration also tried to conditionally approve the Solyndra loan just before Obama took office.
– The DOE Loan Guarantee has been a great success. It was enacted in 2005 with bipartisan support and has handed out $34.7 billion in loans on 40 projects around the country, creating more than 60,000 jobs. One of these projects will be one of the largest land-based wind farms in the world — Shepherds Flat Wind Farm is an 845 megawatt wind farm under construction in eastern Oregon. The project has created 400 construction jobs and is estimated to have an annual economic impact of $16 million.
– Solyndra was a victim of the rapid success of the solar industry and the price of solar dropping, which is a good thing for consumers and the planet. The solar industry employs more than 100,000 people in the United States, a figure that has doubled over the past two years and will continue to skyrocket.
Governments must invest in renewable energy research and development. America is no exception. The U.S. must send the right market signals and invest in the clean energy sector so instead of American companies manufacturing solar panels in China, wind turbines in Germany and electric cars in Finland, they are made in the United States.
Some Republicans are starting to get the message. A recent story in Politico points out that that the GOP is “running out of gas on Solyndra.” The article cites Florida Republican investigator Rep. Cliff Stearns as being mired in his own political mess. Stearns is a birther who is being accused of bribery. And Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa’s alleged criminal past is well documented.
And one Republican is even breaking ranks, a politically risky move in the ideologically rigid, foot soldier mentality of the new Republican Party. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) called the attacks on Solyndra “finger pointing,” and called out his GOP colleagues for their hypocritical stance given their own support for energy projects in their districts.
The way to end once and for all the Republican attacks on Obama’s clean energy initiatives is for more courageous individuals such as Simpson to step forward and shame their colleagues, and for the DOE to defy the House GOP investigators by being even more aggressive in issuing loan guarantees to ensure that companies like Fisker keep their thousands of jobs in the United States instead of taking them to Finland.