Does the Solyndra failure mean, as some would assert, that the entire DoE loan guarantee program is a scam that puts taxpayer dollars at undue risk? Hardly. The vast majority of the projects approved under the program present very little risk to taxpayers. So why don’t people know that?
We came across a couple of items today that seem to put this in some perspective. The first was a story on NPR that outlined Republican opposition to the loan program even though 16 of the 28 projects that it supported already have in place long-term energy sales contracts – making them nearly risk free. Nevertheless, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fl), now opposes the program entirely (although he backed it when it originated during the Bush Administration) and he believes that we simply “cannot compete with the Chinese” in solar panels and wind turbines.
Here’s the entire story – it is worth a listen:
By way of contrast, the second piece that came to our attention today is from Rhone Resch, head of the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA). Resch was sending out an update to the SEIA membership – Run on Sun is a proud SEIA member – sharing with them a blog post he received from Dan Pfeiffer, Communications Director at the White House. Drawing a clear distinction from Rep. Stearns, Pfeiffer cited Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s admonition over this past weekend:
The United States faces a choice today: Will we sit on the sidelines and fall behind or will we play to win the clean energy race? Some say this is a race America can’t win. They’re ready to wave the white flag and declare defeat… Others say this is a race America shouldn’t even be in. They say we can’t afford to invest in clean energy. I say we can’t afford not to.
It’s not enough for our country to invent clean energy technologies – we have to make them and use them too. Invented in America, made in America, and sold around the world – that’s how we’ll create good jobs and lead in the 21st century.
Secretary Chu is absolutely right and it should be a matter of pride for all Americans that we not only compete, but that we win this competition. After all, Solyndra notwithstanding, we are competing successfully right now. Consider:
- America’s solar industry accounts for approximately 100,000 jobs right now – despite intermittant rebate programs and lots of bad press.
- The U.S. is a net global exporter of solar technology with $5.6 billion in exports and an overall positive trade balance of $1.8 billion.
- We have enjoyed such positive results despite other governments providing far more lucrative incentives to their renewable energy industries than what the U.S. industry has received. Indeed, China alone has offered its solar manufacturers $30 billion in government financing – vastly exceeding the total U.S. investment.
The solution to our problems is not to throw up our hands in despair and slink from the playing field. Rather, it is time to redouble our efforts and make the sort of investments that will really help our manufacturers – and installers, thank you – thrive.