Research: Despite Solyndra, American people believe green energy is a sound investment

posted at 8:07 pm on September 28, 2011 by Tina Korbe

Recent survey and focus group research conducted in Ohio and California by Public Opinion Strategies and Fairbank, Maslin, Maulin, Metz & Associates reveals that “Solyndra” is a scandal known mainly to news junkies — and that many Americans remain committed to clean energy investments.

Just 11 percent of 650 Ohio voters surveyed after Solyndra declared bankruptcy said they had heard “a great deal” about the issue. Another 16 percent said they had heard “a little,” but couldn’t cite any meaningful specifics. As might be expected, voters in California focus groups were slightly more aware of the issue.

Ohio voters were also twice as likely to look at Solyndra as the exception among clean energy companies rather than the rule.

“There are thousands of successful and profitable clean energy and clean technology companies all across America,” 62 percent of the Ohio voters said. “The failure of one California company should not stop us from making targeted public investments to help create American clean energy jobs.”

But in one hopeful sign, the researchers say Solyndra does appear to further fuel general skepticism about government’s fiscal decisions.

“A prolonged drumbeat on this issue could reinforce the strong concerns that voters across the political spectrum hold toward government financial decision-making,” they write. “However, it is far more likely to heighten voters’ concerns about government stimulus spending in general than it is to erode perceptions of the solar industry.”

That’s fine — voters should be primarily concerned with the irresponsible spending Solyndra epitomizes– but now seems like a good time to recycle Ed’s well-argued point:

Politicians don’t pick winners and losers with taxpayer cash.  They pick losers, because winners don’t need subsidies in the first place.  Government subsidies go to market losers in the hope that investment can turn them into winners, but that’s almost always a bad bet — and in Solyndra’s case, that was obvious from the start, which is why investor George Kaiser’s connection to Obama as a fundraiser seems to have been the most important factor in getting that bet placed.

“Targeted public investments” sounds far more sensible than “subsidies to losers,” just as “clean energy” sounds a lot more sensible than “wind and solar.” (Natural gas is “clean” energy, for example. It’s just non-renewable.) Given the wording of the question, then, I’m not surprised a majority of those polled said the federal government should keep redistributing taxpayer dollars to “create clean energy jobs.”

It just all underscores the importance of spreading the facts about the government’s loan to failed Solyndra. I’m not sure what it will take to make “Solyndra” dinner table conversation — but it surely wouldn’t hurt if a GOP candidate at least made mention of it in a debate (along with F&F, CLASS, LightSquared, etc.).

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