Gallery: Republicans Use Solyndra Bankruptcy to Fuel Anti-Green Sentime...

 

As expected, Solyndra’s filing for bankruptcy has sparked political arguments and caused Republicans to sling anti-green and anti-Obama allegations focused around the company receiving $535 million in federally-backed stimulus act loans. Critics are crying foul, saying that spending government money on green technologies is a waste and blaming Obama for rushing through the loan guarantee. But, just like any controversial situation, much of what is being said is exaggerated or just not true at all. For starters, the Solyndra loan process was launched by President Bush, who pushed for a loan guarantee - before Obama even took office.

Solyndra is now under investigation by the federal government as they try to determine what exactly went wrong. Many are accusing the White House of croynism (giving money or favoring to political supporters and allies), claiming that Solyndra investors were Obama donors and Democrat supporters. But in fact, Solyndra’s investors came from a wide range of political backgrounds, with one major player being Madrone Capital Partners, run by Walmart’s Walton family, known for being big GOP donors.

As for the claim that Solyndra’s bankruptcy proves investing in green energy is futile, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The Energy Department loan guarantee program was created in 2005 with bipartisan support, and since then, it has authorized more than $38 billion for 40 projects around the country. Solyndra represents just 1.3 percent of that, and more importantly, it is the only company that’s had issues. Plus, only a small fraction of the loans go to renewable energy. The bulk have gone to nuclear plants.

But this doesn’t mean that solar power isn’t ready for the mainstream yet, which is another claim that critics have made. On the contrary, plenty of solar companies — including SunPower and First Solar, which received Energy Dept. loans — are seeing great success and innovation that have allowed for solar panels to become cheaper and more readily available.

While there’s no doubt that something clearly went wrong with Solyndra, we can safely say that the fault doesn’t lie entirely on Obama and, furthermore, solar power’s viability had little to nothing to do with it. No doubt, we’ll see the topic rehashed again and again as the investigation continues and the presidential campaigns pick up speed. For more information about the Solyndra situation, Think Progress has a detailed timeline of the Solyndra loan guarantee, and Brad Plumer at the Washington Post outlines a few more myths about the backlash.

Via Washington Post and Huffington Post

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  1. lazyreader September 15, 2011 at 11:51 am

    Don’t think of it as anti-green sentiments, think of it as anti-waste sentiments based on empty promises. Claims by green energy and green jobs proponents that we can improve the economy and the environment, almost risk free, by spending billions of dollars on what are ultimately false promises. Green energy promises an alluring future, more jobs in a cleaner environment. a new economy driven by clean electricity, less pollution, and, of course, the gratitude of generations to come. There’s just one problem: the lack of credible evidence that any of that is true. Proponents of green energy are a large, vocal alliance of special interests corporations, politicians and environmentalists with common cause in demanding huge taxpayer subsidies for an assortment of stuff that no one wanted to purchase. Does the ‘green’ in green energy refer to environmental benefits or to the vast sums of money wasted on subsidies. Wind and solar are neither cheap or reliable. Even improved new generation renewable capacity is, on average, twice as expensive as new capacity from the most economical fossil-fuel alternative and triple the cost of surplus electricity. Solar power for bulk generation is substantially more uneconomic than the average; biomass, hydroelectric power, and geothermal projects are less uneconomic. The uncompetitiveness of renewable generation explains the emphasis pro-renewable energy lobbyists on both the state and federal levels put on quota requirements, as well as continued or expanded subsidies. Yet every major renewable energy source has drawn criticism from environmental groups: hydro for river habitat destruction, wind for avian deaths, solar for desert overdevelopment, biomass for air emissions, and geothermal for depletion and toxic discharges. Hydropower has lost favor with environmentalists because of the damage it has done to river habitats and freshwater fish populations. Photovoltaic power, at least when relied on for central-station or grid electricity generation, is not environmentally benign on a total fuel cycle basis and is highly uneconomic, land intensive, and thus a fringe electric power source for the foreseeable future. Geothermal has turned out to be “depletable,” with limited capacity, falling output, and despite it’s growth has yielded modest new investment. Biomass is also uneconomic and an air-pollution-intensive renewable. wind remains uneconomic despite heavy subsidies from ratepayers and taxpayers over the last two decades. Second, from an environmental viewpoint, wind farms are noisy, land intensive, unsightly, and hazardous to birds, including endangered species. With the National Audubon Society calling for a moratorium on new wind development in bird-sensitive areas, and an impending electricity industry restructuring that could force all generation resources to compete on a marginal cost basis, wind power is a problematic choice for future electricity generation without a new round of government subsidies. Many wind-power providers have encountered financial difficulty, and capacity will appear to retire as likely as new projects in the United States without major new government subsidy. Wind does not blow around the clock to generate electricity, much less at peak speeds where as conventional power has reliable capacity factor. A study by San Diego Gas & Electric in August 1992 concluded that wind’s dependable on-peak capacity was only 7.5 megawatts per 50 MW of nameplate capacity (a 15 percent factor). I want the government out of the energy sector. Warnings that foreign companies will replace U.S. renewable energy companies just when commercialization is in sight have been heard about since the 1980′s. Not surprisingly, however, U.S. companies are finding the best markets abroad where electricity is more scarce and the cost of new power is higher. Whereas almost 80 percent of the world’s wind-power capacity was based in the United States in 1990, less than 50 percent is in the United States today. If U.S. subsidies contract, the wind-power industry will likely be a foreign-subsidized experiment rather than a U.S.-subsidized experiment as in the past. oday’s renewable export industry is a very small portion of total U.S. energy-related export activities. A $500 million annual renewable export industry accounts for under 1/10 of 1 percent of the total U.S. export market so it’s not exactly the prime economic mover we thought it was. Solar represents represents .05 percent (1/20 of 1 percent) of total U.S. generation capacity. New solar-power capacity is triple the cost of new gas-generated electricity and is limited to the desert Southwest and other selected locales and often involves transmission investments and is only a daytime electricity source, and intermittent at that (damn clouds), unless fossil-fuel generation, pumped storage (very expensive), battery storage, or nuclear power provides back-up reliability. Central-station solar requires between 5 and 17 acres per megawatt compared to gas-fired plants today that can average as low as 1/25th of an acre per megawatt. They are expensive to build, their very scale escalates financial risks–as with nuclear power–and their massive height (in excess of 200 meters) may attract opposition (even deserts are habitats).

    http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/11/brightsource-alters-solar-plant-plan-to-address-concerns-over-desert-tortoise/

    A major environmental cost of photovoltaic solar energy is toxic chemical pollution (arsenic, gallium, and cadmium all of which are toxic but essential chemicals in panel manufacture).

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