Photo: Wikimedia Commons
I could not believe my eyes when I saw on my blackberry, the UK Daily Mail’s article about SolarReserve. Is our government really funding more loan deals to solar boondoggles? Fool me once shame on you…fool me twice …you know the old adage.
SolarReserve is getting a $737 million loan guarantee which was announced Wednesday by U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
Coincidentally, the project which is risking $737 million to power 43K homes, is located in the Majority Leader’s home state of Nevada. It turns out that none other than Nancy Pelosi’s Brother-in-Law, Ronald Pelosi was the number two man at an energy fund PCG Clean Energy & Technology Fund (East) LLC which has invested $100 million in SolarReserve based in Santa Monica, California.
While I hope and would like to believe that the personal interests of the above named politicians and their family and geographical connections are mere coincidences, I cannot BELIEVE that the Energy Department would not put on the breaks and rethink this decision in shadow of Solyndra.
Florida U.S. Representative Cliff Stearns (R) perhaps summed it best up when he said:
“The administration’s flagship project Solyndra is bankrupt and being investigated by the FBI, the promised jobs never materialised, and now the Department of Energy is preparing to rush out nearly $5 billion in loans in the final 48 hours before stimulus funds expire — that’s nearly $105 million every hour that must be finalised until the deadline.”
The Congressman is right on target here, just because the funds are authorised does not mean them MUST BE SPENT! Especially when the process seems to be flawed and mistakes have been made. This is the part where bureaucracy takes over from a representative democracy and the Legislative Branch now needs to reassert oversight!
While I am all for developing new technology and state of the art facilities to relieve our dependence on foreign sources of energy (not to mention a cleaner environment), I have stated before that this money could have been put too much better use. For starters, this is a LARGE amount of money we are talking about! To put it in perspective this loan guarantee is a little more than half the GDP of Belize. That is a lot of money to gamble with when you could have put it to so many better uses:
- Invest in research. We should be pouring dollars like this into outcome based research that will leverage one of our primary strengths – the American university research. Create a better solar mousetrap – instead of just trying to be the “cool hip kid in the solar green club”.
- Upgrading our country’s nearly 100 year old electricity infrastructure (smart grid) or building new natural gas or coal facilities that would provide 7 times the amount of power for the same money. While at the same time creating significantly more long term permanent jobs and short term construction jobs.
- Take that money and break it up into 737 $1 million loans to small businesses (who actually employ the majority of Americans) with incentives to hire the unemployed. This would build what we need badly – JOBS . The entire SolarReserve project is slated to result in only 52 permanent jobs and 900 temporary construction jobs. Couldn’t these massive resources be better suited to growing and (Ummm…cash flowing) small businesses? As hard as it is for Successful businesses to get a loan these days WHY ARE WE GIVING LOANS TO NON-COMPETITIVE (government subsidized ) BUSINESSES THAT BUILD FEW JOBS??
- There is always the case to be made that in the long term we could use this money to pay down the debt or just not spend it in the first place.
I doubt in the end that any single politician is at the root of this grant, my real concern and fear is in the “groupthink” or “herd mentality” that people get pulled into. Just because it is “Green” does not mean it is smart. At this point in this Great Recession the emphasis and focus from Washington D.C. and from all of America should be JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!
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