Nobody likes to see $500 million in taxpayer funds lost. But as Congress investigates the loan guarantee given to the now-bankrupt solar manufacturer Solyndra, it’s important to put the failed loan into historical context.
America spends a staggering amount on the military (see here and chart to the right, which is NOT the Chart of the Day). Heck, the U.S. Military spends $20 billion a year just on air conditioning in Iraq and Afghanistan!
America has always backed ambitious military ventures — many of which have ended up as spectacular failures after sucking up tens of billions in taxpayer dollars. Political leaders accept these failures because advances in military technologies are deemed strategically important.
Clean energy plays an equally-important strategic role for our energy security, economic security, environmental security, and, most especially, national security. Unrestricted emissions of greenhouse gases are now the greatest preventable threat to the security of Americans. Yet the Solyndra failure is being used to label clean energy as a “pet” project of the Obama Administration. Some politicians are now threatening to derail an industry that every other country in the world sees as an important driver of economic growth.
Somehow, we can tolerate hundreds of billions of dollars in spending on military programs that may not produce results. But when a solar company goes bankrupt, the whole idea of making strategic investments in renewable energy is called into question. It doesn’t make sense.
So where does the Solyndra loan guarantee match up with previous security programs? The chart of the day, created by Philip Bump, says it all:
The original source is what the NY Times called the Pentagon’s “biggest boondoogles” [click on that link for details on each bar in the above chart].