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Solyndra and Its Defenders

The more green energy advocates either ignore or defend what happened with Solyndra, the worse they look.

3:35 PM, Sep 19, 2011 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
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Over at Reason, Tim Cavanaugh observes that the few defenses being mounted for loaning failed solar company Solyndra $535 million in stimulus funds are really, really wanting. "Democrats appear to be backing into a strategy of vilifying the company (previous efforts to blame perfidious China and wish the story into a cornfield having failed)," he writes.

Solyndra.jpg

Elsewhere they're just ignoring the story. Former White House chief of staff, now Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel claims he didn't know anything about the loan, which is highly unlikely, and the fine folks at MSNBC are leaning forward so far that they're falling down on the job. Over the weekend, it was observed that in the over two weeks since the company went belly-up, taking all that taxpayer cash with them, there hasn't been one mention of the scandal on any of the cable news network's primetime programs. 

Still, the award for most obdurate defender of Solyndra has to go to Time's Michael Grunwald. Grunwald, you might recall, was responsible for this less-than-prescient defense of the Solyndra loan this past July: 

But the loan won’t cost the government anything unless Solyndra defaults. And for now the company looks healthier. Shutting down the inefficient older factory and ramping up production in the cutting-edge new factory has driven down costs. Harrison, a former pitcher in the Seattle Mariners organization who spent 24 years at Intel, has also doubled his sales and marketing staff in just the last six months to address the demand problems. Despite all the hubbub about layoffs, Solyndra now employs 166 employees more than it did when Obama visited—and that doesn’t include the 3,000 temporary jobs created during construction.

And yes, sales are recovering. Solyndra had $140 million in revenue last year, and Harrison says it’s on track to double its shipments this year. Skeptics point out that the company’s modules are still more expensive than traditional panels on a cost-per-watt basis, but because they’re so easy to install—they just sit flat on the roof, they interconnect like Legos, and they don’t even require tools, much less a sophisticated mounting and tracking system—Harrison says they’re already competitive on overall cost.  And he believes Solyndra will get much more cost-effective as it expands volume.' ...

As for Solyndra, I can report to the Republicans who seemed so concerned about the company’s viability that it no longer seems to be on the verge of a humiliating collapse. I’m sure they’ll be relieved.

Oops. In fairness to Grunwald, he later served himself some crow -- see "Department of I’m an Idiot: A Solar Company Goes Bust." That was big of him, but as of a few days ago, he was still defending the loan program that responsible for this debacle. "I doubt the facts are going to matter much now that Republicans have latched onto the Solyndra solar 'scandal,' and even if they did matter, I’d be the wrong guy to defend the Obama administration (and some of the world’s top venture capitalists) for making the same honest mistake I made," he wrote last week.

Yes, he really did put scare quotes around the word "scandal." One of the President's major fundraisers, George Kaiser, was one of the biggest investors in the company, and the government restructured the loan earlier this year to prioritize the billionaire fundraiser over taxpayers -- but who says we have a "scandal" on our hands?

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