Stimulus follies: $535 million down the drain in California in “green jobs”

posted at 9:25 am on November 5, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

The Obama administration made Solyndra, a solar-power manufacturing company, a symbol of its “green jobs” push in the Porkulus program. Barack Obama himself toured the factory, as did Barbara Boxer. Taxpayers ended up sinking $535 million into building Solyndra a new facility that promised to add jobs in the clean-energy sector. Instead, now that Solyndra has its new facility, it’s closing another older facility and will lay off dozens of employees and cancel the contracts for 150 more contract workers:

Solyndra Inc., the high-flying solar panel maker once touted by President Barack Obama as a model for a green energy future, said Wednesday it has scuttled its factory expansion in Fremont, a move that will stop the company’s plans to hire 1,000 workers.

Solyndra said it will also close an existing factory in the East Bay. That will leave the company with one Fremont factory, a new plant visible from Interstate 880.

The moves mean that instead of having 2,000 workers in Fremont, Solyndra will cap its work force at 1,000, which is about the current level. Solyndra also will, over the next several weeks, eliminate 155 to 175 jobs in Fremont. That includes 135 contract employees and 20 to 40 full-time workers, said David Miller, a Solyndra spokesman.

In other words, we invested $535 million into a company that apparently couldn’t compete on a price basis with its foreign competition. Perhaps Obama and Boxer would choose to do this with the royalties each make from their literary enterprises. That would have been their money to lose.

Instead, though, they borrowed $535 million — a significant portion from China, as one might recall — in order to gamble on Solyndra while putting us on the hook for the investment. Solyndra did all right from it; they got a nice new facility and now can dump their old plant. The television report focuses on the risk if Solyndra has to abandon the new plant, but the same can probably said about its old plant, at least when it comes to getting a new tenant. The old building will sit vacant for a long time in all likelihood while Solyndra downsizes and attempts to stay in business at their taxpayer-funded digs.

It’s an object lesson in the incompetence of politicians and bureaucrats to pick winners and losers in private markets.


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