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?