Doing Solyndra Over Again

The path that led to the Solyndra bankruptcy is being re-traced by the White House.

I posted a month ago that Barack Obama was “doubling down on the Solyndra model.” I’m sure I wasn’t the only person thinking of what happened to Solyndra at the time, but yesterday I saw someone else mention it. Katie Tubb writes at the Daily Signal, “The Lessons From Solyndra Still Haven’t Been Learned.”

The similarities between what the Executive Branch is doing now and what they did before are more precise than I realized.

In a letter to Department of Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz this week, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology expressed concern over the use of $1 billion in new energy project loan guarantees promised by President Obama at last month’s National Clean Energy Summit.

Just days after Obama’s announcement, the Department of Energy’s Inspector General released a report four years in the making on the infamous Solyndra loan guarantee.

Now the Committee is calling for oversight.

The obvious concern is that lessons from the failed Solyndra loan guarantee have not been learned. The $535 million Solyndra loan guarantee was the first made under the federal loan program. This also happens to be the same Department of Energy program administering Obama’s new $1 billion in loan guarantees promised for “distributed energy projects” like rooftop solar.

Of course, one might cynically ask if this proves the Obama Administration did learn their lessons. What did the Solyndra scandal actually cost the White House? What punishment did they suffer? Nothing. The embarrassment was fleeting. No one cared that much. So why wouldn’t they do it again? The only alternative would be to admit that they don’t know the future and thus can’t direct industry to meet future needs. There is no way the Obama Administration will ever admit such a thing. Their arrogance protects them from even thinking about it. They have complete confidence in their own ability to direct business into the path it should go and not even a string of bankruptcies would ever make them think otherwise.

The report on Solyndra notes that Department of Energy employees “felt tremendous pressure, in general, to process loan guarantee applications.”

Solyndra and other politically favored energy projects like it were supposed to help spur economic growth during the recession. The political goal clearly got ahead of the more important duty to use taxpayer dollars responsibly and taxpayers were left to cover Solyndra’s and others’ bills.

Similarly, the Committee noted the highly political nature of Obama’s $1 billion in loan guarantees in its letter: “According to [Secretary Moniz’s] statement after the [president’s] announcement, these loan guarantees will support energy technologies that ‘will be central to the president’s Clean Power Plan,'” – technologies, it should be noted, which supplied only five percent of the nation’s electricity mix in 2014 and even that much with the provision of more reliable backup power from conventional fuels.

The problem isn’t limited to environmentalism. Until we learn that government should not control industry or investment, but leave such things to private business, we will continue to mess up the economy and spend taxpayer money on corporations.