Juan Williams Slams GOP on Solyndra: They’re “Condemning the Entire Solar Industry and Making Themselves into Villians”

As soon as the solar manufacturer Solyndra announced it was closing its doors after receiving a $527 million loan guarantee from the federal government, we knew the politics and the misinformation about the solar industry would get bad.

Leading Republicans have memorized the pro-pollution talking points, calling clean energy an “unproven theory” and “political propaganda” — even after asking the government for hundreds of millions of dollars in support for government-backed clean energy programs in their districts.

And finally, someone affiliated with a conservative media outlet is calling them out. In a column yesterday, Fox News commentator Juan Williams criticized leading House Republicans who seem more interested in bringing down the President than in establishing good government oversight — holding the entire solar industry hostage in the process.

They are so obsessed with discrediting the president that they are condemning the entire solar industry and making themselves into villains.

At a time when unemployment is stubbornly above 9 percent and Congress cannot pass a jobs bill that will get people back to work, the GOP is attacking an industry that employs more than 100,000 Americans. That number has doubled since 2009. And most green energy companies qualify as small businesses.

And with many industries still struggling to recover from the 2008 financial crisis, the U.S. solar energy industry grew 69 percent in 2010. Compare that to overall GDP growth, which was just 3 percent last year.

Stop the presses! Did Fox News really print that? Yes, go ahead and read it again.

These words are unbelievably refreshing to read. By separating the Solyndra debacle from the rest of the fast-growing solar industry (the fastest growing in America), Williams has finally brought some common sense to the conversation, while also explaining that jobs in this sector do indeed exist.

Williams also criticizes Republicans for embarking on a politically-driven witch-hunt rather than a common-sense investigation into the decision to give Solyndra a loan guarantee:

Now that the company is bankrupt the president’s words seem foolish. And there are real questions as to whether the people who ran the company deceived government officials to the point of committing fraud.

But there is zero evidence of any crime by any Obama administration official.

We’ve been supportive of strong government oversight since the beginning. In our first piece after the Solyndra news broke, we asked if Congressional leaders would attempt to make the loan guarantee program better, or if they were going to celebrate through political means. Unfortunately, they chose the latter.

And to Williams, that strategy will only hurt Republicans — as well as the future of the country.

But when China and several European governments are subsidizing their green energy companies in an attempt to corner the global market there is a good bi-partisan argument to be made that the U.S. government has to help American companies stay in the game. That is especially true when there is evidence those companies are already making money and spurring job growth.

President Obama has low approval ratings these days, but the Solyndra story is an illustration of why approval ratings for congressional Republicans are much lower.

Kudos to Williams for attempting to unwind the out-of-control political spin around Solyndra. The growth of the solar industry is a positive story among a flood of bad news about the economy. Why would anyone want to stop that?

12 Responses to Juan Williams Slams GOP on Solyndra: They’re “Condemning the Entire Solar Industry and Making Themselves into Villians”

  1. Leif says:

    “And with many industries still struggling to recover from the 2008 financial crisis, the U.S. solar energy industry grew 69 percent in 2010. Compare that to overall GDP growth, which was just 3 percent last year.” This cannot be repeated enough and EMPHASIZE that growth was accomplished in spite of every road block the GOP and fossil corporate handlers could muster

  2. Jeff Huggins says:

    We Seem Very Good At One Thing: Retreating

    Oh my gosh.

    Here are a few facts:

    1. Science tells us that climate change is a huge problem. All of the major scientific organizations say so.

    2. Even Milton Friedman (as one of zillions of examples) tells us that one of the important types of failures of entirely free markets are (in his terminology) “neighborhood effects” — for example, polluting a stream, dumping into the atmosphere, etc. Even Milton Friedman clearly indicates that regulation is called for in cases where neighborhood effects are substantial. Even he admits that one can’t consider a free market to be genuinely free, and working, when neighborhood effects are present. These days, all economists recognize the problem of externalities (although too few talk about them). Thus there should either be an appropriate price on CO2, or CO2 emissions should be capped and controlled by regulation, or both. Those who believe that our fossil-fuel fueled economy represents a functioning free market are IN ERROR: Fossil fuel is being subsidized greatly by the entire world, and by future generations, and by other species, and even Milton Friedman’s own writing points this out. (See his ‘Capitalism and Freedom’, in the section titled ‘Action Through Government On Grounds Of Technical Monopoly Or Neighborhood Effects’.)

    3. There’s LOTS of work to be done, to build solar plants, wind, the necessary transmission, and so forth, and to generally transition (asap) to a clean-energy economy. LOTS of work to be done. And there’s LOTS of labor — people ready and willing to work — to do it. The work requires people to do it, and the people need work. Period.

    SO, in light of these three facts:

    It amazes me, and disturbs me, that we can’t play “offense” well. We are always, always, always on the defensive — and thus getting absolutely nowhere. Ineffective is the word. Given the three facts listed above, we ought to be able to have a very, very, very powerful “offense”, to be able to carry the day.

    It’s time, I think, for us to look at our “movement” (which isn’t moving much of anything anywhere) and our “leaders”, e.g., President Obama. Our leaders aren’t leading. They aren’t making use of the facts. They apparently prefer to be on the defensive much more than they’re able to play offense, which is strikingly amazing given the facts that we have in our favor.

    I’m sorry, but this is ridiculous. We are LACKING an offense, people. I said LACKING. We are playing “footsie” and “pretty please” with President Obama, choosing (it seems) to ignore or relinquish any real leverage we COULD have.

    Can we please see a post that raises the question, and probes deeply, into why we are failing so dismally, and what we need to do about it if we don’t want to continue failing? And I’m not merely talking about better “messaging”. I’m talking about the whole, deep, and active range of what we’ll need to do if we’re serious about progress.



  3. Bill Walker says:

    While I applaud Mr. Williams’ column, we have to realize that he is one of Fox News’ token liberals, there to provide the illusion of “balance”, while actually providing a punching bag for the conservative hosts. No regular Fox viewer/reader is going to take his words to heart.

  4. Wes Rolley says:

    I am pretty much in agreement with Jeff. There are a couple of additional things to consider as we try to build more.

    1. The only people who think that McKibben had much of an effect with OWS are those who are already activists regarding climate change. What I am hearing from those involved in OWS is that most protesters have no background or interest in the subject.

    2. I am also in agreement with Jay Rosen (NYU Professor) in his analysis of current media. He says that those with media access are intent on showing how “savvy” they are. From Rosen’s Pressthink blog;
    ” In politics, our journalists believe, it is better to be savvy than it is to be honest or correct on the facts. It’s better to be savvy than it is to be just, good, fair, decent, strictly lawful, civilized, sincere, thoughtful or humane. Savviness is what journalists admire in others. Savvy is what they themselves dearly wish to be. (And to be unsavvy is far worse than being wrong.)

    Savviness is that quality of being shrewd, practical, hyper-informed, perceptive, ironic, ‘with it,’ and unsentimental in all things political. And what is the truest mark of savviness? Winning, of course! Or knowing who the winners are.”

    3. So all of the savvy folks on television have no idea that the real impact of OWS might just be that they will abandon the electoral process. One observation I have read by a participant is that most OWS folks are not really interested in electoral politics. This will lead them to strongly resist the efforts of Democrats to take over the movement.

    I am not sure where this will end up. I am hoping that the Green Party nominates either Dr. Jill Stein or Dr. Kent Mesplay and that we end up with a candidate who understands the implications of science. I know that Mesplay campaigned in the past on the idea that climate change mitigation / peak oil are national security issues.

    With Republicans in power, we would be subjected to the right wing echo chamber and their anti-scientific agenda. With the Democrats, we get better language, but the game is still rigged. (The OWS protesters have that right.) Consider the manner in which the Keystone XL pipeline environmental impact report was rigged: Clinton fundraiser with ties to the tar sands industrial complex delivered the expected result: nothing negative.

    When you consider results, it seems that there really is little difference in what gets delivered, or how the story is spun. Makes me think that Nader was essentially right.

  5. Michael Tucker says:

    “The growth of the solar industry is a positive story among a flood of bad news about the economy. Why would anyone want to stop that?” Excellent question but they do…the House and Senate Republicans are determined to destroy anything that resembles a green economy in the US. Hell, they do not want to create ANY new jobs, green or otherwise. They are determined to see even more Americans lose their jobs and they are happy to do that at the beginning of the most important time of the year for retail spending. When will Americans wake-up? When will Americans realize that the Republican Party has declared war on the US economy and every retail store and retail operation in the country? When will America realize the Republican ideology is the problem? Republican’s are holding back the economic recovery and trying their best to kill it completely.

  6. Patrick Linsley says:

    How long before we hear from Fox News Accolytes ‘Fox has balance we have people like Sean Hannity and Alan Col- er Juan Williams, he’s a lefty ya know see look he’s defending solar!’ I actually heard something like this about the local bird liner that it’s editorial page was balanced with Bill O’ Reilly for the conservative readers……and David Brooks for the liberals. Seriously no [horse hockey].

  7. DRT says:

    I’m with you Jeff. Undoubtedly I am naive in thinking this would have any effect, but here is an idea for the offense. Let’s crowd source our own climate bill, preferably based on fee and dividend, one that would get the job done, one that would actually have an effect in reducing GHGs, one that climate scientists think would work. And then let’s pummel all the climate and environmental organizations with it and in turn have those organizations have their members pummel the president and the congress and the NYTimes and the LATimes and anyone else who could make a difference.

    We, the environmental community, need to coalesce on something; this is the something I suggest.

  8. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Capitalism is simply a system for imposing ‘externalities’ on other people and the planetary ecosystem. It is a system of radical self-interest, which hides behind the loony silliness of a crass misrepresentation of one tiny aspect of Adam Smith’s thought, the so-called ‘Invisible Hand’. We now have centuries of evidence that greedy, self-promoting individuals, (let alone plutocrats and mega-corporations)do not produce the optimal results for society or the planet’s life-sustaining systems. We must get back to other verities, and more benign simplicities, like ‘From each according to their abilities, and to each according to their needs’.

  9. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    ‘Savviness’ is a mixture of egomania and cynical amorality-the perfect formula for success in end-stage capitalism.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    High unemployment, underemployment and precarious, contingent, casual and poverty-level employment creates a docile, fearful workforce-for a while.

  11. Elizabeth T says:

    As wonderful as it would be to have a 3rd Party serious contender, the Green Party has a snowball’s chance in hell of being any major threat to the Big Two, unless they figure out how to overcome their ‘no corporate’ funding.

    Elizabeth T.
    Green Party of Minnesota

  12. Elizabeth T says:

    How much of a free-market capitalist are you, really? Well, if you are a Real Capitalist, you don’t accept subsidies, which manipulate the prices which would otherwise be imposed upon you by The Market.

    The Green Movement has presented the United States with the greatest opportunity in decades to assure our position as a world-class *manufacturer* export-based economy. Making wind-mills/solar panels/green-energy insulation/renewable resource-based heating/etc.

    Oil-based business has manipulated the market. Want to understand a group’s Real position? Follow the money. They ask for subsidies to programs they ridicule; they prevent new business development. Preventing these new businesses is preventing job development.

    Elizabeth T.