Obama’s ‘Green’ Energy Failures

By ASHE SCHOW | THE FOUNDRY | OCTOBER 19, 2012

It is no secret that President Obama’s and green-energy supporters’ (from both parties) foray into venture capitalism has not gone well. But the extent of its failure has been largely ignored by the press. Sure, single instances garner attention as they happen, but they ignore past failures in order to make it seem like a rare case.

The truth is that the problem is widespread. The government’s picking winners and losers in the energy market has cost taxpayers billions of dollars, and the rate of failure, cronyism, and corruption at the companies receiving the subsidies is substantial. The fact that some companies are not under financial duress does not make the policy a success. It simply means that our taxpayer dollars subsidized companies that would’ve found the financial support in the private market.

So far, 36 companies that have received federal support from taxpayers are faltering — either having gone bankrupt or laying off workers or heading for bankruptcy. This list includes only those companies that received federal money from the Obama Administration’s Department of Energy and other agencies. The amount of money indicated does not reflect how much was actually received or spent but how much was offered. The amount also does not include other state, local, and federal tax credits and subsidies, which push the amount of money these companies have received from taxpayers even higher.

The complete list of faltering or bankrupt green-energy companies:

  • Evergreen Solar ($24 million)*
  • SpectraWatt ($500,000)*
  • Solyndra ($535 million)*
  • Beacon Power ($69 million)*
  • AES’s subsidiary Eastern Energy ($17.1 million)
  • Nevada Geothermal ($98.5 million)
  • SunPower ($1.5 billion)
  • First Solar ($1.46 billion)
  • Babcock and Brown ($178 million)
  • EnerDel’s subsidiary Ener1 ($118.5 million)*
  • Amonix ($5.9 million)
  • National Renewable Energy Lab ($200 million)
  • Fisker Automotive ($528 million)
  • Abound Solar ($374 million)*
  • A123 Systems ($279 million)*
  • Willard and Kelsey Solar Group ($6 million)
  • Johnson Controls ($299 million)
  • Schneider Electric ($86 million)
  • Brightsource ($1.6 billion)
  • ECOtality ($126.2 million)
  • Raser Technologies ($33 million)*
  • Energy Conversion Devices ($13.3 million)*
  • Mountain Plaza, Inc. ($2 million)*
  • Olsen’s Crop Service and Olsen’s Mills Acquisition Company ($10 million)*
  • Range Fuels ($80 million)*
  • Thompson River Power ($6.4 million)*
  • Stirling Energy Systems ($7 million)*
  • LSP Energy ($2.1 billion)*
  • UniSolar ($100 million)*
  • Azure Dynamics ($120 million)*
  • GreenVolts ($500,000)
  • Vestas ($50 million)
  • LG Chem’s subsidiary Compact Power ($150 million)
  • Nordic Windpower ($16 million)*
  • Navistar ($10 million)
  • Satcon ($3 million)*

*Denotes companies that have filed for bankruptcy.

The problem begins with the issue of government picking winners and losers in the first place. Venture capitalist firms exist for this very reason, and they choose what to invest in by looking at companies’ business models and deciding if they are worthy. When the government plays venture capitalist, it tends to reward companies that are connected to the policymakers themselves or because it sounds nice to “invest” in green energy.

The 2009 stimulus set aside $80 billion to subsidize politically preferred energy projects. Since that time, 1,900 investigations have been opened to look into stimulus waste, fraud, and abuse (although not all are linked to the green-energy funds), and nearly 600 convictions have been made. Of that $80 billion in clean energy loans, grants, and tax credits, at least 10 percent has gone to companies that have since either gone bankrupt or are circling the drain.

UPDATE: Some of the companies on this list received money from government agencies other than or in addition to the Department of Energy. We are updating the numbers to reflect the most accurate figures available.

What is the White House Trying to Hide?

The Obama administration refuses to make public the log of visitors as well as documents from the Solyndra scandal.

Politico.com
October 15, 2011

The Obama administration is appealing a judge’s ruling that Secret Service records of visitors to the White House complex are subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Justice Department filed a formal notice of appeal Friday afternoon regarding U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell’s August ruling rejecting arguments that the so-called WAVES records belong to the White House even though they are maintained and used by the Secret Service.

The decision to appeal the ruling to the D.C. Circuit would appear to be in tension with Obama’s repeated pledges to operate the most transparent administration in history. The White House announced in Sept. 2009 that it was voluntarily releasing the names of most White House visitors from Sept. 15 forward. However, the conservative group Judicial Watch sought information on visits before that date.

The position taken by the Obama Justice Department, namely that White House visitor records are presidential records and not agency records, is essentially the same one that the department took under President George W. Bush.

Howell did not rule that every White House visit had to be disclosed. However, she concluded that all the data had to be made public unless the government asserted a specific exemption from FOIA, such as provisions protecting national security and privacy.

There was no immediate comment on the appeal from the White House or the Justice Department.

And on Solyndra…

CNN.com
October 15, 2011

Congress isn’t getting a glimpse of what’s on President Barack Obama’s Blackberry – or any more internal White House communications related to the bankrupt solar company Solyndra, which received a $535 million loan guarantee from the federal government.

House Republicans investigating the loan controversy had requested all internal White House documents about the issue. House Energy and Commerce subcommittee chair Rep. Cliff Stearns said that includes emails on the President’s Blackberry.

On Friday the White House Counsel sent a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee explaining they won’t comply with the request because it “implicates longstanding and significant institutional Executive Branch confidentiality interests.”

The response is hardly a surprise given past administrations’ refusal to comply with similar congressional requests. The difference here? President Obama is the first Chief Executive to carry a Blackberry, so it’s the first time a White House counsel has – even indirectly – turned down an attempt to peek at his email. Neither the Blackberry nor his personal email is explicitly mentioned in the letter.

On October 5, Republican Chairmen Fred Upton and Cliff Stearns requested “all communications among White House staff and officials related to the $535 million loan guarantee to Solyndra” because they believed “the White House was closely involved in the monitoring of the Solyndra loan guarantee after it was issued.”

They said these documents are necessary “to better understand the involvement of the White house in the review of the Solyndra loan guarantee and the Administration’s support of this guarantee.’

In her letter Friday, White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said, “the three federal agencies most directly involved in the Solyndra loan guarantee, the Department of Energy, the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of the Treasury, are all cooperating with the Committee’s investigation into the Solyndra loan guarantee.”

Together she says the three agencies have turned over 70,000 pages of documents and are continuing to do so “on a rolling basis.” The letter states the White House has turned over another 900 pages related to communications between the White House and Solyndra, its representatives and investors. She offers to cooperate further with the investigators.

CNN has attempted to reach the Chairs of the Energy and Commerce Committee for comment. Expect some kind of political fallout.

Solyndra is a California solar panel manufacturer that had received $535 million in federal loan guarantees before it was forced to halt operations and file for bankruptcy at the end of August, putting more than 1,000 workers out of work.

Before its failure, the company had been touted as an example of the benefits of creating green jobs by the Obama administration. But since then, it has become the center of congressional criticism and a probe by the FBI.

Brian Harrison, the CEO of Solyndra, resigned Wednesday amidst the scandal.