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Last Thursday, the story took a turn towards the criminal side. The FBI conducted a search of the company’s headquarters and either spoke to CEO Brain Harrison or searched his home. These raids were characterized by the Wall Street Journal as a “criminal probe,” and Mr. Waxman’s previous reticence with respect to subpoenas was seemingly gone. Both he and Diana DeGette, ranking members of the committee, sent a letter to Chairman Stearns contending that ”any thorough examination of the Solyndra loan guarantee should include the opportunity to ask Mr. Harrison about his representations. He did not convey to us the perilous condition of the company and the Committee should know why,” they wrote. Mr. Harrison is being called on to testify on September 14th.
Perhaps part of that testimony should include questions resulting from information provided by energy writer Eric Wesoff, who has covered Solyndra since 2008. In a column published on September 6th, Mr. Wesoff revealed that Solyndra was not exactly the cutting-edge company it was purported to be. “Years ago,” he wrote, “one of Solyndra’s founders and a co-inventor of the original design…had already realized that the design was flawed from a commercial standpoint and let me know that the packaging requirements and costs would prevent the Solyndra product from ever being competitive.” He further noted that, with respect to Solyndra’s board members, “there’s not a single utility executive or a person from the power industry amongst this gang of 14 men.”
Thus at this juncture, one can only speculate as to why Solyndra received so much money from both the government and private investors. The loan is not without its defenders. Forbes magazine contends that Solyndra’s bankruptcy is “hardly an indictment of federal energy technology policy,” and that the DOE’s Loan Guarantee Program, “when judged by its entire diverse portfolio of investments…has performed remarkably well.” Yet even Forbes, which notes that Solyndra’s failure centered around the “fatal factors” of its “central innovation,” was forced to admit that “better vetting from DOE,” or removing the Department from “the pressures of a fast-paced stimulus environment,” might have allowed it to avoid “this bad bet.”
One might contend that better vetting is a function of economics. But carelessness ostensibly engendered by the Obama administration’s determination to dole out stimulus funds as quickly as possible reeks of politics. Critics contend this is what happens when the administration, by way of the DOE, is more concerned with “employment for the sake of employment” (politics), than turning a profit (economics). That argument is legitimized by the DOE’s online Loans Program Office, which notes that $37.8 billion in federal loans has produced 60,168 jobs. That’s a cost of more than $628,000 per job produced.
That may not be criminal — but it ought to be.
There is no question that American needs to expand it sources of energy, that enviro-friendly development should be part of the mix, and that government, via public financing, has a role to play in that development. But it is hard to shake the suspicion that this particular administration’s energy policies are overtly political. Their progressive agenda has included moratoriums on domestic drilling for oil, some of which were lifted only after a contempt of court citation for Energy Secretary Ken Salazar; the president’s stated intention to bankrupt the coal industry, which provides 50 percent of Americans electricity; the closing of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility further hampering the development of nuclear power; and use of the EPA to bypass Congressional resistance to economy-destroying regulations.
It remains to be seen if Solyndra was nothing more than a government-sponsored business investment gone sour, or yet another of the Obama administration’s ham-fisted attempts to impose a “green agenda” on the nation, irrespective of fiscal prudence. Or maybe it was, as the investigation reveals, a criminal manner involving possible accounting fraud and/or a payback to politically connected friends. Whatever the eventual outcome, it appears that, much like the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal, Congress has every intention of getting to the bottom of what appears to be another burgeoning scandal for the administration.
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