Posts Tagged ‘green nonsense’

Green Pipe Dreams I

An article yesterday morning in Mercury News’ SilconValley.com tells the story of a “rough patch” that “high-flying Solyndra” has hit. The company manufactures solar panels. Despite $1 billion venture capital funding and a $535 million loan guarantee from DOE, the company is struggling and analysts don’t see a way forward.

President Obama held the firm up as a “green” poster child during a visit less than a year ago.

Jumping to conclusions from one anecdotal data point, in one article, does not generally indicate reasoned understanding. Nonetheless, Mercury News is no right wing puppet and the story includes some damning facts.

The article also raises the obligatory China card (who can compete with their labor costs?), but contains its own refutation of that scaremongering.

Solyndra’s manufacturing costs are $3/watt, but the distractingly vague “many low-cost Chinese manufacturers” have costs in the $1.10-$1.20/watt range. There, that’s it. Those damn Chinese and their “massive government support.” Except Solyndra has received similar support (what is $535 million, if not massive?). Still more relevant is that another competitor, First Solar of Tempe, AZ, has manufacturing costs of $.75/watt, expected to be at $.53 by 2014.

Even if Solyndra could compete with the Chinese, they’d be beat by a company right here in the good ol’ US of A. So why raise China? Maybe to fill the story without having to ask the question: What in God’s green earth makes people believe the gubbermint can pick winners and losers?

I’m not even asking whether government should make such choices (the consequences of which — abuse of power for personal gain — should give liberals the heebie-jeebies, rather than the orgasms it seems to do).  No, the objection is to whether they can make such choices effectively. Government “investment” (a misnomer if there ever was one) will inevitably lead to misallocation of limited resources, making us all worse off.

Before I get the obligatory “ok government hater, don’t call 911 the next time you have an emergency” straw man objections, I’m not advocating no government, but a properly limited one. $535 million (even if “only” loan guarantees) to a company with a possibly fundamentally flawed business model, no matter how great a product, is $535 million down the toilet. It is unavailable (whether privately or publicly, capital is fungible and this capital is gone) for investment  in a viable enterprise that might create 1000 jobs rather than scuttle such plans as Solyndra has done.

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A company spokeswoman is quoted, “The company didn’t tell its story as well as it should have.” That sounds like some politicians, who can’t admit their schemes don’t work and aren’t wanted by the citizens. They delude themselves into believing they simply failed to effectively sell them to the ignorant masses.
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If those in public positions want to be hedge fund managers, or venture capitalists, then they should choose that route. Decisions like this, and mountains more just like them, prove why they don’t. They couldn’t succeed. But as a politician, or bureaucrat, they’re able to play assume a can opener all day long, with other people’s hard-earned money and without personal accountability. Don’t talk to me about the accountability of the ballot box. There are enough voters with short memories that we’re still electing politicians based on the same failed promises of the last 40 years. (Probably longer, but that’s all I remember.)

Stop already with “green jobs of the future” promoted by those who don’t even know the past. Enough with government “investment.” With apologies to the many teachers who don’t deserve it, consider this epigram: Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. Without apology I add the corollary: Those who can’t teach become politicians and bureaucrats.

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