WashPost: Politics powered decisions on Solyndra

“Documents on green-energy program portray an administration concerned with appearances.”

In the latest installment of its surprising attack on green energy subsidies, the Washington Post reports,

… Since the failure of [Solyndra], Obama’s entire $80 billion clean-technology program has begun to look like a political liability for an administration about to enter a bruising reelection campaign.

Meant to create jobs and cut reliance on foreign oil, Obama’s green-technology program was infused with politics at every level, The Washington Post found in an analysis of thousands of memos, company records and internal ­e-mails. Political considerations were raised repeatedly by company investors, Energy Department bureaucrats and White House officials.

The records, some previously unreported, show that when warned that financial disaster might lie ahead, the administration remained steadfast in its support for Solyndra.

The documents reviewed by The Post, which began examining the clean-technology program a year ago, provide a detailed look inside the day-to-day workings of the upper levels of the Obama administration. They also give an unprecedented glimpse into high-level maneuvering by politically connected clean-technology investors.

They show that as Solyndra tottered, officials discussed the political fallout from its troubles, the “optics” in Washington and the impact that the company’s failure could have on the president’s prospects for a second term. Rarely, if ever, was there discussion of the impact that Solyndra’s collapse would have on laid-off workers or on the development of clean-
energy technology.

“What’s so troubling is that politics seems to be the dominant factor,” said Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan watchdog group. “They’re not talking about what the taxpayers are losing; they’re not talking about the failure of the technology, whether we bet on the wrong horse. What they are talking about is ‘How are we going to manage this politically?’…”

Check out the WashPost’s prior assaults on Obama’s green subsidies:

One thought on “WashPost: Politics powered decisions on Solyndra”

  1. As an engineer involved in alternate energy evaluations I have to say that “symbolism over substance” occurs all too often with “Green Technologies.”

    The optimism about the “green future” and an unrealistic technical understanding of the systems they are replacing often leads to uncritical evaluations of an alternate technology’s actual performance and true operating costs for a competitive reliability.

    I have found demonstration installations of photovoltaic (PV) systems with only a fraction of the battery storage capacity installed that is realistically needed for reliable operation – in one case the battery room was not built large enough to be filled in the future – the reality was perhaps to scary for the promoters to risk revealing. Purchasing a complete set of backup electronics for a site to allow a recovery from a lightening induced surge is generally not even discussed since the surge suppression is always assumed to be adequate.

    In another situation a wind turbine was designed and located close to the living facility for aesthetics and not performance but no one told the buyer of the trade offs that were made – try a downgrade from promoted expectations to less than 1/10 of their expectations and published stories.

    I was also witness to a location that proudly stated that it used bio-diesel for its vehicles but it was later found that apparently due to filtration and/or related maintenance problems the vehicles using bio-diesel were not functional – but they looked good on the outside and were proudly identified as alternative fuel vehicles at the site. We eventually noticed that they did not move from week to week and asked about their operation…

    A common observation is that the alternative energy system operators seldom plan and budget to maintain themselves with the reliability that the existing utility companies have – if they did, the real costs would be very unattractive. How many wind turbine sites have purchased a suitable high-reach crane to remain on site or local to an area wind farm with spare blades and spare generators to recover from lightning strikes within days rather than weeks or months? Similarly, how many PV sites carry spare panels and suitable re-installation equipment to recover from major storm damage?

    The final frustration is that realistic energy efficiency and the costs of the alternative technology are seldom compared accurately to the system it replaces. Often, as is the case of coal, the technology has to be handicapped (e.g. requiring clean coal techniques to be applied regardless of their cost effectiveness and efficiency penalties) to make the alternative technology attractive.

    The political miscalculation is that unlike the man-made global warming issues that have taken tens of years to become clearly exposed, a close look at the immediate costs and measurable efficiencies reveals the inadequacy of the green technologies in just a few years or one presidential term.

Comments are closed.