Solyndra Dead Enders: Our Talking Points Are News


“Republican talking points are delivered as first-order news,” writes Grist’s David Roberts. “Liberal talking points are wrapped in meta-news about liberals and their talking points. It makes liberals sound defensive and manipulative, and it’s condescending as sh*t.”

Roberts isn’t alone in believing the “faux scandal” over Fremont, California-based solar panel innovator Solyndra LLC is getting too much coverage from the mainstream media. Joe Romm, a global warming blogger at the Center for American Progress (an organization that recently had to bid a fond adieu to Steven Spinner, the Harry Lime of the Soyndra scandal), calls Solyndra “the royal wedding of energy stories.” 

This Solyndra coverage is enough to drive a man bald.

What’s got Roberts and Romm’s carbon emissions up? It’s a story by Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn acknowledging that environmental activists are uncomfortable with the amount of scrutiny the Solyndra story is getting. 

Since these are tough times for green pork consumers, it’s only sporting to acknowledge where the Solyndra dead enders have a point. Roberts is correct that liberals sound defensive and manipulative â€" an impression that the Obama administration is enhancing with its Solyndra stonewalling. The House Energy and Commerce Committee is still trying to get the administration to cough up more documentation on the Solyndra scandal, which encompasses not only the original half-billion-dollar taxpayer guaranteed loan but a subsequent restructuring of the loan that subordinated taxpayers to Solyndra’s investors. 

The Department of Energy, under the leadership of Nobel prize winner Steven Chu, has also been stonewalling the House, most recently with its refusal to let Susan Richardson, chief counsel of the DOE’s loan programs office, testify. (Here’s the House letter on that matter [pdf]). On the plus side, a Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee says the taciturn Chu may finally appear next week â€" nearly two months after Solyndra’s bankruptcy became national news and nearly 10 months after the depth of the company’s troubles became known to the administration. 

As for Romm’s claim, well, I guess you could say that Prince William did in fact marry Kate Middleton, that the media reported assiduously (and as far as I know, accurately) on this event, and that people were interested in it. Similarly, taxpayers did in fact lose $528 million on a company backed by Obama cronies, this outrage has attracted the attention of news consumers, and the media have done a competent job of covering it. I’ve mentioned the fine work of the Washington Post, but ABC News and Politico itself have also been instrumental in piecing together the story, while the Los Angeles Times turned up the detail that Obama’s own economic brain trust tried to head off the disastrous deal. 

And by the way, the Solyndra news keeps moving even when you’re standing still. National Review has an interesting report on the favorable treatment the company got from the IRS, which did a rules clarification [pdf] allowing Solyndra clients to get a 30 percent tax break. The IRS ruling was widely publicized at the time, by Solyndra [pdf] and others. That the company still managed to fail so spectacularly despite all this help from Uncle Sam almost takes the story from the farcical to the heroic. Almost. 

Meanwhile, the Sunlight Foundation provides details on the taxpayer-fleecing career of George Kaiser, the billionaire Obama fundraiser and bundler whose investment vehicles owned the largest stake in Solyndra. And Fox Business had an excellent report recently on the Federal Financing Bank, which funnels your money to questionable companies. As Elizabeth MacDonald reports, the FFB actually fits President Obama’s mocking description of China’s own  green subsidies: “basically state-run banks giving money to state-run companies and ignoring losses and ignoring, you know, bad management."

Speaking of China, here’s the latest attempt to blame the Middle Kingdom for creating an environment where Solyndra was unable to carry out its novel strategy of selling panels for less than it cost to make them. 

The competition for the title “Second Solyndra” has become somewhat like the search for the New Dylan in the seventies. The New York Times nominates San Jose-based SoloPower, which got a cool $197 million from the Energy Department. Previous contenders have included SunPower and the Solar Power Project (which came in for its own $737 million DOE loan shortly after Solyndra went south). You’ll also be relieved to know your tax money is helping to build low-emissions sports cars in Finland. And in a rare moment of efficient stimulus, a Tennessee electric truck terminal has managed to go bankrupt with only $400,000 in federal green stimulus. At that rate, profits must be right around the corner. 

The Solyndra dead enders should remember an essential rule of ballooning: If the rope you’re holding starts pulling you off the ground, let go. Getting further away from Planet Earth won’t make your situation any better.