A Democrat President Again Wastes Taxpayer Money On Useless Renewables
This past week, the Senate passed the Biden administration’s “Inflation Reduction Act,” which includes $368 billion for green energy spending targeted to reduce CO2 emissions by 40 percent by 2030, a move that will almost certainly increase inflation. In a repeat of the renewable energy project failures that the Obama administration financed with federal grants and tax breaks, the Biden administration is betting more potentially inflationary deficit spending against the odds that renewable energy will be profitable this time.
Ironically, on September 4, 2009, then-Vice President Joe Biden was the one who announced that the Department of Energy (DOE) had just finalized a $535 million loan guarantee for Solyndra, LLC. This green energy company manufactured “innovative cylindrical solar photovoltaic panels that provide clean, renewable energy.” Biden enthusiastically noted the DOE loan guarantee aimed to finance the construction of Solyndra’s manufacturing plant. He also bragged that the annual production of solar panels from the first phase of Solyndra’s plans would provide energy equivalent to powering 24,000 homes a year for over half a million homes during the project’s lifetime.
On September 6, 2011, Solyndra filed for bankruptcy, suspended operations at its headquarters, and laid off 1,100 workers. Solyndra went bankrupt despite $535 million in federal loan guarantees and more than $700 million in venture capital funding. The U.S. Department of Energy blamed the Solyndra bankruptcy on the Chinese, claiming the China Development Bank offered more than $30 billion in financing to Chinese solar manufacturers, “about 20 times more than U.S.-backed loans to solar manufacturers.”
On December 25, 2011, after analyzing thousands of memos, company records, and internal emails, the Washington Post provided interesting insights into Obama’s entire $80 billion clean energy technology program.
Image: Solyndra for sale (cropped) by Pedro Xing. Public domain.
First, it concluded that the Obama administration gave preferred access to investors in Solyndra who had donated to Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Some of these select investors even took jobs in the administration and helped manage the clean energy program. “Documents show that senior officials pushed career bureaucrats to rush their decision on the [Solyndra] loan so Vice President Biden could announce it during a trip to California.” The same article noted that Obama’s May 2010 stop at Solyndra’s headquarters, “like most presidential appearances,” was “closely managed political theater.”
Second, it noted that Solyndra’s most substantial political connection was George Kaiser, a Democratic fundraiser and oil industry billionaire who happened to be an Obama campaign bundler in 2008. Kaiser had hosted Obama at his home, and his family’s foundation owned more than a third of Solyndra. Kaiser “took a direct interest in its [Solyndra’s] operations.”
Peter Schweizer, head of the Government Accountability Institute, reported that 80% of the money spent in Obama’s 2009 Recovery Act on green energy companies went to companies with individual owners who sat on Obama’s finance committee for his 2008 presidential campaign. Given the number of influential donors in Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign who have considerable financial stakes in green energy companies, Schweizer predicts Biden’s “Build Back Better” green energy program amounts to nothing more than “a wealth transfer to Biden’s biggest bundlers.”
By 2015, the Obama administration had used taxpayer funds to subside solar and other renewable energy in the United States at an average of $39 billion per year over five years, for a total of nearly $200 billion. This massive investment in renewable energy resulted in less than 1% of additional electrical generation.
In total, the Obama administration financed some thirty-four faltering or bankrupt green energy companies, including the following: solar panel manufacturers Solyndra LLC ($535 million loss in federal loan guarantees) and Abound Solar Manufacturing, LLC ($400 million loss); Fisker Automotive ($529 million), a green vehicles program; and green energy storage companies Beacon Power ($43 million) and A123 Systems ($132 million).
On May 5, 2021, Wyoming Republican Senator John Barrasso, M.D., the ranking member of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, introduced an investigative report that the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources had released about a concept he called the “Solyndra Syndrome.” The report contended Biden is heading down the same green energy path as Obama. Throwing billions of taxpayer jobs at various clean energy ventures didn’t work for Obama, and Barrasso argued it wouldn’t work for Biden either. Moreover, like Obama, Biden was putting a stranglehold on the oil and gas industries, where jobs were being created.
The reality is that green energy is an expensive chimera. With today’s technology, it can’t come close to satisfying America’s energy needs.
In a perfect world, batteries the size of flashlight batteries could store enough wind or solar energy to light a city; and ten wind turbines placed a few miles outside a metropolitan area could provide all the electricity that the city and suburbs needed for a week, whether or not the wind blew. If that technology existed, the entire world would instantly switch to these new, powerful solar batteries. Instead, in the real world, renewable energy use in utility-scale electricity generation will remain dependent upon government grants and tax credits for the foreseeable future.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), renewable fuels in 2020 were only 12% of all U.S. energy consumption. When we break down the renewable energy category, solar energy and wind energy together were 37% of the renewable energy used, but only 4.44% of all energy the United States used that year. These numbers would surprise those who consume only the mainstream media.
In September 2019, the EIA released an International Energy Outlook that included global energy projections from 2019 to 2050. The EIA noted that, while renewables are “the world’s fastest growing form of energy,” hydrocarbon fuels “continue to meet much of the world’s energy demand.” The report projected that by 2050, world energy consumption would grow nearly 50%, even as 70% of global energy consumption would remain using oil, natural gas, and coal, with the oil price possibly reaching as high as $175/barrel. Despite the worldwide push for renewable fuels, the EIA projected that, by 2050, renewable fuels would still be only 28% of global energy consumption.
While Trump was still president, the left turned to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to propose an FDR-like, government-mandated, sweeping Green New Deal to shove hydrocarbon fuels into the dustbin of world energy history. On January 19, 2019, at the Women’s Unity Rally at Foley Square in New York City, Ocasio-Cortez declared that young Americans fear “the world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change.” She called the fight to mitigate the effects of climate change her generation’s “World War II.”
Guided by Ocasio-Cortez and her understanding of climate science, the Biden administration appears determined to repeat the Obama administration’s failure by once again pursuing an aggressive taxpayer-subsidized green energy policy designed to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions, even if reducing the use of hydrocarbon fuels amounts to the United States committing economic suicide.
Meanwhile, Alexandria Ocasio-Ortez has captured the neo-Marxist critical theory left by doubling down on her hysteria that we are facing a world-ending global warming crisis if we fail to declare a climate emergency to force decarbonization. Her argument is only convincing to those whose selective memory chooses to ignore the Obama era “Solyndra Syndrome,” instead believing the global-warming climate catastrophes Al Gore predicted 16 years ago in his 2006 An Inconvenient Truth documentary has come true.
Since 2004, Jerome R. Corsi has published 25 books on economics, history, and politics, including two #1 New York Times bestsellers. In 1972, he received his Ph.D. from the Department of Government at Harvard University. He currently resides in New Jersey with his family. His current book, The Truth About Energy, Global Warming, and Climate Change: Exposing Climate Lies in an Age of Disinformation, published on June 28, 2022, was listed by Amazon.com as a “Best Seller” in the first week of sales. Dr. Corsi’s new website, DrJeromeCorsi.com, is now on the Internet in its first phase of redevelopment.