“We need to invest in the jobs of the future and in the industries of the future, because the country that leads in clean energy and energy efficiency today … is going to lead the global economy tomorrow,” Obama said last March. “I want that country to be the United States of America.”
Wishing didn’t make it so, however – nor did $93 billion in “green investment” included in Obama’s failed “stimulus.”
In an effort to get to the bottom of the “green jobs” scam, this month the U.S. House of Representatives began investigating a $535 million federal loan awarded two years ago to Solyndra – a Fremont, California-based solar panel manufacturer which filed for bankruptcy last month (resulting in 1,100 lost jobs).
Of immediate interest to lawmakers is whether the Obama administration pressured officials into prematurely approving Solyndra’s loan so that Vice President Joe Biden could participate in a “major Recovery Act announcement” with the company. Recently-uncovered emails lend credence to this theory, and the Obama administration is already neck deep in denials.
But the Solyndra debacle isn’t just about taxpayers shelling out half a billion dollars on a vice presidential photo opportunity, it’s about the broader failure of command economic intervention – “green” or otherwise.
“These jobs are gonna be permanent jobs,” Biden said in announcing the Solyndra loan. “These are the jobs of the future. These are the green jobs. These are the jobs that won’t be exported.”
Nine months later Obama himself visited the company – touting Solyndra as a “stimulus” success story.
“The true engine of economic growth will always be companies like Solyndra,” he said.
Obviously Obama is flat wrong on that point. The true engine of growth is free market – a lesson Solyndra found out the hard way. With cheap Chinese solar panels flooding the market and a corresponding reduction in global demand, this “industry” was on an unsustainable course – not unlike the government subsidizing its expansion.
A month before Solyndra went belly-up, Massachusetts-based Evergreen Solar – which received $58 million in taxpayer aid – also declared bankruptcy. Months earlier, the company had moved 800 manufacturing jobs to China.
“This is one of the most oversupplied industries I’ve ever seen,” an energy industry analyst noted at the time. “Evergreen is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Losing “green jobs” to overseas competitors has been a hallmark of the Obama “stimulus.” Last February, an American University report revealed that 80 percent of the $2 billion appropriated in the bill for wind power projects had gone to foreign companies.
“Most of the jobs are going overseas,” researcher Russ Choma told ABC. “According to our estimates, about 6,000 jobs have been created overseas, and maybe a couple hundred have been created in the U.S.”
Meanwhile, America is littered with empty “green jobs” promises.
In Nevada, one solar company received $55 million in federal and state tax credits – but hired just five new employees, while $61.5 million in “stimulus” funds were spent on geothermal projects that created only 25 new jobs. In Seattle, a $20 million weatherization grant that was supposed to create 2,000 jobs and retrofit 2,000 homes wound up producing only fourteen jobs and retrofitting three homes.
Even if we accept the Obama administration’s rosy estimates that 225,000 jobs have been “saved or created” as a result of this $93 billion investment– that’s still a price tag of more than $410,000 per job.
Taxpayers certainly deserve a full accounting on the Solyndra scandal, but it would be a mistake to assume that this scam is limited to one bad loan for $535 million. The true cost of government’s “green jobs” scam is much larger than that.
The author is chairman of Americans for Limited Government.