Bill Clinton On Claims That Solyndra Means All Green Energy Is Bad: ‘Don’t Insult My Intelligence’

Republicans and other conservatives have argued that the Solyndra bankruptcy means that all clean-energy investment is disastrous. The Heritage Foundation claimed Solyndra “ends the green jobs myth.” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) said the bankruptcy is “Exhibit A in the case for why the president’s economic policies have failed.” “A green jobs fueled recovery is a theory, and is yet unproven,” argued Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) at a hearing on Solyndra.

Last week, former president Bill Clinton met with a small group of bloggers on the sidelines of the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting in New York City and blasted these right-wing attacks on technology innovation. Asked by ThinkProgress Green about how to fight the corrupting influence of climate deniers, Clinton said that people need to defend the facts about the green economy as vigorously as the opponents of the clean economy promote lies:

They can take nothing like Solyndra and say that proves all green energy is bad. Why? Because those of us on the other side don’t say: Whatever the truth is, here’s the mega truth. We can’t burn up the planet. We’ve got to find an economically sustainable way to save it. Green energy jobs have grown at twice the rate of overall economy jobs in the last decade, they pay 20 to 30 percent more, they’re directly responsible for a $60 billion trade surplus.

Do whatever you want about Solyndra, but do not insult my intelligence by trying to say that the big oil compaires are right and the green tech people are wrong.

Clinton was citing the analysis by the Brookings Institution of the clean energy economy, which found that employment in the clean-tech sector, which includes companies like Solyndra, grew at 8.3 percent from 2003 to 2010, twice as fast the overall economy.


Many of the Republicans attacking clean-energy jobs seem to just be seeking to score political points against a Democratic administration, especially those who helped put the clean-tech loan program in place. Other conservatives, as Clinton noted, are attacking technological innovation as a way of defending the continued dominance of fossil interests.

Later in the roundtable, Clinton offered some thoughtful analysis of why the government is “picking winners and losers,” as some have described the loan guarantee program that supported Solyndra. He explained that the understanding that corporations have a responsibility to all stakeholders has been lost to the idea that they only answer to shareholders. The role of government in setting market fundamentals has been attacked relentlessly. So government policies that define the market — like clean energy standards, cap and trade, or carbon taxes — can’t get passed, even though those are the most efficient at supporting economic innovation.

People need to understand that the government should play a role in making markets, Clinton said, and “part of the market making should be designed be create a mentality of shared value rather than just shareholder value.”

Read more coverage of the Clinton Global Initiative from ThinkProgress.