Meaning of Solyndra

Critics of the Obama administration—you can find them on Fox News—are trying to make hay out of the failure of Solyndra, the Silicon Valley solar-panel manufacturer that went belly up after receiving $500 million dollars in U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantees.

And there may be truth in the charge that the president and his energy secretary pushed too hard to speed up the loan-application process. They are extremely eager, for understandable reasons, to make America competitive in the world’s clean-energy market.

We have a pretty good idea why Solyndra went down. In 2009, when Solyndra began receiving its loan, the market for solar panels was excellent, and Solyndra offered innovations that promised to give it an edge. But in the first eight months of 2011, the price of solar panels worldwide dropped by 42 percent, and Solyndra no longer could compete. The probable cause: The Chinese government pumped nearly $30 billion into four Chinese solar-panel companies, allowing them to produce panels at far below prevailing cost.

Solyndra isn’t the only company that failed to survive this mercantilist onslaught. Several other American companies failed this year, as did some European companies, all because of the rapid drop in prices.

The Solyndra loan comprises less than 2 percent of the DOE’s outstanding loan portfolio. The rest of the loans are all solid. But that doesn’t matter to Obama’s critics, who want to discredit his administration and clean energy. They don’t believe in climate change, and they love fossil fuels and nuclear power. It’s fine by them that Big Oil took in $41 billion in tax subsidies last year, and that nuclear power has never been viable without billions in subsidies.

Remember that as the debate over Solyndra heats up.