Solyndra Collapse: The Fallout

by William Yeatman on September 6, 2011

Last week, President Barack Obama’s green jobs agenda suffered a major setback when Solyndra, Inc, a heavily subsidized manufacturer of rooftop solar power components, declared bankruptcy. In a previous post, I explained how the company’s collapse was a long time coming. In this post, I will address the political and policy fallout.

  • For starters, it will embolden Rep. Cliff Stearns’s on-going investigation into whether or not political connections had a role in the Department of Energy Loan Programs Office’s issuance of a $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra.
  • In light of the troubling history of the DOE’s Loan Programs Office, House Republicans might attempt to freeze all pending loan guarantees until Rep. Stearns’s investigation is complete. Last week, the Los Angeles Times editorial board suggested such a course of action. This is notable because the LA Times editorial board is ardently environmentalist.
  • In the Senate, Solyndra’s collapse should throw halt the momentum of legislation to create a Clean Energy Deployment Administration, which would incorporate and expand the DOE’s Loan Programs Office. In July, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed CEDA legislation, on a bipartisan vote (Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski was the only Republican to vote for the green bank). At the time, Senate Harry Reid was expected to make the measure a priority this fall. However, after Solyndra’s announcement—and the potential loss of almost half a billion in taxpayer dollars—it’s difficult to see how the Congress could expand the Loan Programs Office, given its evident mismanagement of taxpayer funds. This is especially true in the current political climate, in which budget concerns are paramount.
  • This week President Barack Obama is slated to issue a major new jobs initiative. Early intimations from the White House suggested that green energy subsidies would be a major pillar of the President’s new jobs plan. In the wake of Solyndra’s embarrassing collapse, will the President stick to his green jobs agenda? We’ll know by the end of the week.

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