Powered by TypePad

« Know Your Presidents | Main | Back From The Ozone »

September 03, 2011



Here's what's significant about the half billion bust to solyandra:The press is actually covering it,

Partly I think because it's easy ; partly because the bloom is off the Obama rose and partly because it's a "rich cat" benefiting from the federal outlay.


What business does the US government have in guaranteeing loans to any corporation. I dont even co sign loans for my offspring, and that is exactly what we did here. We induced someone to make a loan they would not otherwise make on those terms ( maybe not at all ) but put up a cosigner.

Since we have a 40 cents on the dollar spending problem, perhaps we can get back to core government functions of forming a standing army and printing a common currency and let lenders decide if loans should be made and on what terms? Just a wild thought.


Man, that's crazy,Gmax!


Must be nice being a Dem.
It's only a scandal if somebody turns on the light while you're actually handing the sack of taxpayer cash to your buddy.
If all you do is take a half billion dollars of taxpayer dough and, for purely ideological reasons, hand it over to some hopeless company that has already been declared a dead man walking and two short years later that pile of cash is, predictably, smoldering ashes, then hey, no problemo, that's how things are supposed to work.

Danube of Thought

What the hell--he inherited the program from Bush, right?

Anon (obviously)

I was just at a meeting this week with a startup energy company. In response to going concern questions from their external auditor, they explained that they were in current negotiations with a former Democratic governor to join the mansgement team.

Probably completely unrelated, as he did have related 'non-political' experience on the federal level in addition to the elected position...


Well, it is interesting that this program came on line in 2005, but no company could get backing from DoE until 2009. That would imply that there simply is no way to make money with Green Energy under normal market conditions. It took Obamaco's permetorium on off shore drilling and a promise to basically make coal power plant illegal to give these solar companies any hope of buisness, let alone a profit.


Ignatz, you display the sort of financial acumen this administration is looking for.

Jack is Back!

When I first saw this headline I thought "Wait until DoT sees this". But alas, it is not Dana but another west coast professor, this one of muscle memory. LUN


Their logo makes me wonder if there even was a Solyndra prior to Obama's prez run.

Frau Fragezeichen

Laugh, cry or both?

Melinda Romanoff


You left out the "skim" part of the equation, because not all of that loan went to waste. Well, at least in somebody's eyes it didn't.

Buford Gooch

I used to drive by their magnificent building on a regular basis. Seems they spent an awful lot of money trying to just look successful.


Obama was sworn in on January 20, and Steven Chu was unanimously confirmed as SoE the next day. Obama got the guy he wanted in place asap, and Solyndra got the half-billion in March lickedly split.

Melinda Romanoff


I can almost envision "lickedly split".

Others might call it "Return On Investment".



You left out the "skim" part of the equation, because not all of that loan went to waste. Well, at least in somebody's eyes it didn't.--

Good point, Mel.
Perhaps we should add a tagline to every post about government "stimulus" and "investment" like Cato's "Carthage must be destroyed":
And Don't Forget the Skim.


lol, Mel.

Rick Ballard

Why didn't GovEl and GovMo team up and order a couple billion square feet worth from Solyndra? GovMo could have used a ton of the arrays to cover the almost empty Volt assembly plant while GovEl could have bought miles of it to provide the power to run the rechargers for the 50,000 Volts they ordered from GovMo.

Didn't anybody understand the tremendous potential for synergy involved?


Buford, perfect way to rope in Rubes are Us Obama.


And this seems to fit the topic of the day (via Instapundit):

“Kelo v. New London”: An Ignominous End for One of the Supreme Court’s Worst Decisions

Connecticut taxpayers have thus been soaked tens of millions of dollars, not just for nothing, but for making things worse — for transforming a nice local neighborhood into a dump.

It is a shame that judges at all levels can't be held accountable for the economic damage they cause to individuals and communities.

I've come the the conclusion that the only way to keep judges and beurocrats in check is to allow individuals to sue them personally for the harm they cause.


Oy, Ranger! I wrote at the time that I considered it the worst decision the SCOTUS made in my lifetime. It was also the first time I really paid attention to Clarence Thomas' opinion. His dissent in that case was masterful.

The way to resolve this is to publicly shame and vote out of office any New London official involved in that suit and to have the city taxpayers on their own provide restitution to the homeowners who were screwed. To teach the others.
Another is for every state to write legislation banning moves like this.


This is political payback pure and simple and a great location to use in a republican campaign ads.The tag line could be: "If you elect Obama he'll continue to pick losers" and to finance them with your money.


I totally disagreed with "Kelo vs. New London" I just never understood how the SCOTUS could have ruled in that way against fellow American citizens. Breyer was the worst in this fiasco.


Did this guaranteed loan replace, at least in part, other debt of the company? If it did, trace that debt to who got their principal returned before the dead carcus was dumped on the US Govt doorstep? That would be the Chicago way, not sure it happened like that, yet, but with this crew I am suspicious...


Just a coincidence, I'm sure.



You want a laugh? Go look at the LAT storyline. They justify the subsidy, because THEY say that nuclear power plants have been getting subsidies for decades. Must have been typo. I am unaware of any nuclear project being built in the US in at least 10 years and likely much longer. The greenies have seen to that. Maybe they meant to type: decades ago? Like a history lesson?



I hear you, but it makes my blood boil because its not just about the money. The Kelo family home was destroyed against their wishes. The other properties they owned in the neighborhood and rented out were destroyed, thus wrecking their family economy. They were compensated for the property itself, but not for the damage to the family that the city and the courts caused.

I recall a while ago Instapundit discussed that Judicial Immunity is a rather recent (19th century) legal invention of the Judiciary itself. There is no foundation in statute for it. Perhapse there could be a legislative remedy at some point.

I seem to recall one of the founding fathers saying that 'A government should fear its people as much as the people fear its government.' Unfortunately, at the moment, neither the judical branch or the beaurocracy fear the people at all. They have rigged the rules to ensure they never suffer any consequences of truely harmful decisions.


How the hacks wrote it:

A top donor to President Obama did not use political influence or talk to administration officials about a massive government loan to a solar company backed by his investment funds, according to a statement issued by his family foundation.

How someone with any sense of journalistic integrity would have written it:

A top donor to President Obama denied using political influence or talking to administration officials about a massive government loan to a solar company backed by his investment funds.

Comanche Voter

GMAX the federal government frequently issues loan guarantees for corporations--think the Import Export Bank--a GSE that will guarantee certain transactions. The guarantees are used tolet US exporters get lower interest rates on bank financing for the transaction. Boeing is a major beneficiary of such Ex Im bank guarantees. And if the deal goes sour, the Ex Im Bank ponies up. Doesn't happen very often, but it does happen.

But let's talk about guarantees for renewable or green energy projects. Note that while the Bushies had a program in place they never made any actual loans or guarantees under it. It took Mr. Wonderful and Secretary Chu to do that.

Solyndra's business problem has been explained thusly: They were making a product that cost them $6 to make; they were selling the product for $3. But due to Chinese competition they had to be able to sell that product for $1.50. And guess what--they couldn't do it.

Solyndra burned through something like $527 million in federal guarantees, and a full billion dollars in private investor capital.

The photovoltaic business model just doesn't work in the mass market absent federal subsidies and tax credits out the old wazoo. It's been kept alive that way for 30 plus years. The greenies love it--but economically it's just bullshit.


Yeah bgates (star of tomorrow's column BTW) let's pretend that Haliburton was the company.


Ranger there's way too much suing going on. I do think there needs to be more oversight of judges and prosecutors but I don't see how that would have effected this case. If I lived in Ct I'd start a petition drive to have the state fully compensate Kelo for its losses. If nothing else to forever shame and damn the thieves who went along with this scheme.

Cecil Turner

I'd just point out that, once again in Kelo, Thomas was the only dissenter to expound a principled explanation that provided a commonsensical approach that could be applied in the general case. (And, like in Hamdi and Citizens' United, I suspect history will treat him very well.)


Former Justice Souter doesn't have anything to do; perhaps the good folks of New Hampshire could condemn his current house and boot him out in order to build a 7/11 and then he could build himself a shack on Kelo's land in New London instead and manage the weed dumping.
Seems like a job he might actually be qualified for.


We actually getur money's worth with Halliburton, that's why Michael Moore had investments through his mutual fund, with Solyndra it's more like the guy from "Office Space", 'what do you actually
do here'

Cecil Turner
Solyndra's business problem has been explained thusly: They were making a product that cost them $6 to make; they were selling the product for $3. But due to Chinese competition they had to be able to sell that product for $1.50. And guess what--they couldn't do it.
And the funny thing about it is how unexpected this all is. Like how throwing dollars at green manufacturing wasn't going to benefit the folks that were already geared up for it. Or something.

Hey, I know. Let's do it again.


I meant to mention Souter earlier and how some people in New Hampshire protested his vote on this case.


What I am concerned with about the judiciary is the pernicious effect of a belief that the Constitution and its mandates and wording should not be binding since it was written at a time when women had no vote, there were property limits on the vote in places, and blacks could be slaves.

The deconstruction literary profs went after legal theory quickly and I am convinced that was the attraction of Kagan, Liu, and Sotomayor for example.

Charlie (Colorado)

I used to drive by their magnificent building on a regular basis. Seems they spent an awful lot of money trying to just look successful.

While I was at Sun, I did a program where I visited nearly 200 startup companies. From that I derived a rule: the chance of a startup succeeded was inversely proportional to the elegance and richness of the corporate offices.


Ras now thinks the Senate is theirs for the Republicans to lose--
"Put another way, of 23 Democratic-held seats, almost three-quarters of them (17 of 23, or 74%) are at least potentially competitive. So even if they lose the presidency, Republicans only need to win fewer than a quarter of these seats (four) to get to the magic number of 51 -- enough to make Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) majority leader provided they don't lose any of their own seats. And remember: Republicans need to net only three seats if they win the presidency next year, because a Republican vice president would break a 50-50 tie in their favor."

It will be interesting to see how, even if he wins re-election Obama and his clown posse would manage with the entire legislative branch in Republican hands.


Chaco, BINGO. My son has started two successful IT ops and helped create something sold off to Yahoo for a bundle in the good old days and he always kept his overhead down to a minimum.

Charlie (Colorado)

Narciso, try this.

(1) somewhere on the page, each blog post has a so-called "permalink." Doug's are in the titles, Glenn has one on the tiny chair icon at the bottom of each post.

(2) right click that thing: part of the menu that comes up will say "copy link address" or something similar. (I don't have access to IE, but I recall it is much the same even there.)

(3) click in the edit window for comments. Right click again, and in the popup menu there, choose "Paste", and mirabile dictu


the link will appear, with no included spaces, no typoed semicolons for colons, and no misspellings.



Years ago I developed a similar rule when I use to meet with mutual S &Ls wanting to convert to stock.

Don't get me started about the one that decided to go into real estate devt so its first step was to buy 5 Jeep Grand Cherokees.

Frau Fragezeichen

" ... attraction of Kagan, Liu, and Sotomayor for example. "

Why is my mind suddenly flooded with Jewish curses?


Clarice, I know you are correct, but Kelo is one of those situations that gets so under my skin I long for the days of tar and feathers for these people.


I always thought the Ex Im bank limited itself to bill of lading financing. It allows commerce to be transacted without worrying if you have counterparty risk. There is product backing up the loan too so its pretty rare of a total wiff.


I thought “Solyndra” was the name of Obama’s aunt.
I will pay more attention.

Is anyone following the Smart Meter debacle in California?


I Also found this from a SmartGrid insider magazine and could not help but think Green means Green Stimulus.

“This is your brain on stimulus

It only takes one experiment with crack cocaine to hook most addicts. And it only took one stimulus bill to hook most Wall Street analysts on giant, winner-take-all smart metering awards. They came so often and so fast for a while that analysts came to see them as normal. Now they have no patience for a company unless it can trot out a multimillion-dollar metering award once a quarter.

But big wins will be fewer in this next phase, since utilities no longer have Uncle Sam to foot half the bill. (When the open standards era arrives in earnest at the end of 2012, it will also mark the end of winner-take-all awards. When utilities can mix and match meters, they are likely to second- and third-source pieces of the project.)”

Smartgrid News


Spanish is much more expressive in these circumstances


And I think one of the Republican campaign themes should be:

When the government picks winner and losers, everybody loses.


Here is what the Ex IM Bank claims via their website:

Ex-Im Bank does not compete with private sector lenders but provides export financing products that fill gaps in trade financing. We assume credit and country risks that the private sector is unable or unwilling to accept. We also help to level the playing field for U.S. exporters by matching the financing that other governments provide to their exporters.

I think we may be able to make do without this program too given the one time I looked most of the beneficiaries were the Boeings and General Electrics of the world. But I have no real expertise in this arcane bit of government intrusion into private enterprise, maybe it is essential. I can say with certainly that Solyndra was anything but.

Frau Fluchen ist gesund

"Spanish is much more expressive in these circumstances..."

narciso, I would like to pre-order your book. The Germans fizzled with swearing.


The Republicans could bring up and pass a very simple bill in the house that states the Executive can spend no money on so-called green projects until they make their own office 75% green.

That is if the white house wants to spend money on green jobs, then the office of the President must live on 75% green power, water, etc. etc.

If the DOE wants to implement a green regulation, they must have converted their vehicle fleet to 75% green, etc.

Bottom line: If the feds can't do it - then they can't write a regulations to make us live under it.


If the Republicans were smart, they would be challenging the President to committ to run a GREEN campaign!

If he wants to push green on everyone else, let's see him run his campaign on wind, solar and renewable fuels.

Danube of Thought

As best I can recall, no nuclear plant has been built in the US in at least thirty years. And I know of none thatt has gone bankrupt.


In my view the reason deconstructionism was so popular in many law schools was that it put the legal profession in the driver's seat. If the Constitution said whatever the Courts (and most prominent professors said it meant) then they were the final arbiters of everything.

Since so many professors are narcissists and unable to win elections or run companies, this was very attractive.

Uncle BigBad

Clarice, what a profound truth in that simple statement. Deconstructionism served the same purpose in all other academic departments (except hard sciences).


According to this American Thinker article, the key thing to remember about Solyndra today, IMO, is that it is the forerunner of bad bets.

"Auditors are now scrambling to uncover other bad "bets" that Obama made with our money. Upwards of $38 billion dollars is at risk."


Anyone want to pick a number for what the final total will be?


give that woman the cigar and the $500! [/Groucho]


--The Germans fizzled with swearing.--

But they made up for it with neighborhood kinetics.


give that woman the cigar and the $500! [/Billy Jeff]


--“And I think one of the Republican campaign themes should be:
When the government picks winner and losers, everybody loses.”--

Reminds me of a Reagan quote that McClintock used in March, on similar topics.

”Third, businesses are becoming aware of the threat this brave new world of bailouts and subsidies is creating. After the House voted to claw back the huge bonuses paid by firms receiving taxpayer bailouts, I think a lot of businesses began having second thoughts about how closely they wanted to partner with the federal government.

Or, as Ronald Reagan warned long ago, “If you get in bed with government, you’d better be prepared for something more than a good night’s sleep.”



Uncle Big Bad-

Suggest you locate a book called Higher Superstition and then look into Alan Sokal and the Sokal Affair.

The hard sciences are not exempt especially if the university includes a college of education. The university takes in its biggest outside grant money from selling off what will be pushed by the college of ed in K-12 and the profs. Huge grants many times the size of what is available in the hard sciences and then affecting how the hard sciences may be taught anywhere within the K-16 or K-20 system (grad school too).

Rick Ballard

"You left out the "skim" part of the equation"


Are you suggesting that the mere fact that the GC on the cost plus, no bid, contract to build the Solyndra plant was a subsidiary of a company in which Diane Feinstein's husband holds a large stake might have anything to do with the loan guarantee?

How shocking.


Greetings from Davenport, IA. We're here for a concert tonight down at Bix Biederbecke Memorial park, but it's outside and the weather's been cats and dogs every half hour or so on the way down, so we'll see.


Yes, Clarice. Regular law is just so boring.


Ras now thinks the Senate is theirs for the Republicans to lose

He's saying we have to wait until 2014, then?


What concert PD?

give me the cigar and the $500 and I will give the Unions $75! [/Any Dem Politician]


"..SARAH PALIN told the audience that if the left is going to start calling government the federal family then I want a divorce.
Sarah Palin was on fire in the Indianola rain.
She also slammed John McCain for his “hobbits” attack..." - Gatewaypundit - LUN


What concert PD?

David Crowder Band, w/warmup by Charlie Hall.

My sweetie is like the world's biggest DCB fan.

Jack is Back!

Over at Ace the headline is "The Fizzle in the Drizzle" about Palin's speech in Iowa. LUN

If that is her speech (even as paraphrased and reported by Ace) then she is not running. And if she is, she is falling short of anything more specific and actionable than the other candidates. Even after the horrendous Gunks of August of Obama with so much political red meat you would think there would be some sharp teeth and claws on that Grizzly.


Still catching up on old threads. I see matt wrote this on August 15:

By the way, the next Green BK we'll probably see is Solyndra. $650 Million in federal grants through lobbying and a month after they got the money PW said they were likely to go BK anyway.


David Crowder Band, w/warmup by Charlie Hall.

I love them too!! This is their last tour...they are ending the band. We saw them in Baltimore a few years ago. I'm jealous. :)


they are ending the band

Yeah, she's in mourning over it. This will be the last time we see them.



Huge grants many times the size of what is available in the hard sciences

I find this very hard to believe. Taking expenditures at Stanford for FY 2010 as a reasonable proxy for grants, science and engineering spent about $750 million (not including the medical school) and education spent about $40 million.

Individual faculty science grants of a few million are pretty common; center grants are between $20 million and $50 million and many universities have a few of them.

I'd appreciate some guidance on what these huge education grants are.


I actually missed that line, yes the speech was a broad strokes defense of the Tea Party; she has put forth more detailed platforms on her Facebook, the Ewok choking
on a furball, that's most unexpected,


Dr J-

Will email you offline with specific facts.

Quite a few of various states' flagship u's have their largest outside grants coming in through their coe's. It is the nsf Math and Science Partnerships that require affiliation with science tech research university and also that coe be phD granting. They want the credentialed to be in decisionmaking capacities. The msp program was shifted by BO to DoEd. Probably in part as it had become notorious.


There was a whole lot of rain before SP's speech but it stopped shortly before she came on stage from what I could tell.
I watched it on CSpan all the way through and then her interaction with the crowd after. Amazing they showed that much of the "after" part. Though perhaps it was to catch a gaffe if one should occur.
She was just fantastic!
I'm sure if the weather had been better there would have been at least three or four times as many people there.


I've been involved in a few green technology deals and privy to a number of others, where one company attempts to license proprietary technology to or from another, or considers a divestiture or acquisition. The availability and likelihood of ARRA ("Stimulus bill") money is more than intimately involved in every calculation.

It's easy to imagine how an otherwise non-viable industry could be warped by government money. The US solar cell industry is more warped than most people can probably imagine, and that's because they can't compete with China on cost per watt.

The only reason VC money went to Solyndra was that the investors made the call that government money would be theirs, and I'm pretty sure that not all of these investors were screwed on this deal. VC investors aren't stupid.

There are green technologies that have potential to be profitable on their own, and some already are, but everyone in the know knows that solar cells aren't one of these technologies.

Here's an example of a green technology that would seem viable. (A giant array of mirrors, each with a motor that tracks the sun and directs the sunlight to a boiler on top of a tower, which powers a steam turbine.) Bechtel provides many of the turbines, and makes money on this, but it's not a given that even they could do so without government money funding the project.

Danube of Thought

Whilst enduring a long wait in the Denver airport watching the thrilling tiff between BYU and Ole Miss in the terminal's gin mill, it occurred to me that Jon Huntsman makes my skin crawl.

Utah St. had Auburn beat but suffered a calamitous and bizarre setback in the final 2:07.



Quite a few of various states' flagship u's have their largest outside grants coming in through their coe's.

I simply don't buy it. The NSF grants you mentioned are about $5 million on average, up to about $10 million or so. While these are indeed nice sized grants, you really should become more familiar with "big science". I have a friend who runs a $14 million center funded by Energy, and one down the hill, funded by NSF, is $33 million. $5 million is not really that much money.

And even if it is the largest grant on campus, so what? The grant appears to fund about $1.5 million a year. The centers I mentioned above fund at $3 million a year. The better science and engineering faculty typically raise over a million a year from grants, and that is just one lab. It certainly does not compare favorably with the $200 to $700 million that most science and engineering faculty raise per year.

I'm not claiming that they grants are worthwhile, or that they fund good work. In a routine or better research university the amount of these grants may give the ed. dean a bit more status, but the provost listens to where the money is. That's just not the ed. schools.


DrJ, I would wonder about how much of the money in these grants would be for buying stuff vs. paying people. DrF got a grant funded for equipment, but every penny that came in went right back out the door to fund the equipment purchases. (His neutron generator has been paid for since last year, but it's still at the manufacturer's because Illinois is broke and they can't get around to moseying up his permit to operate it.) These grants are incredibly competitive, and all of the time that he has put in to write the permit application, engineer his shielding, building software for designing experiments is not in any way compensated by the grant because it's an equipment grant.

Compare that with his experience two decades ago with Tech Prep, an grotesque parody of a science education initiative (there have been several generations of successors in the grotesque parody of science education game since -- I think that the latest is Project LEAP.) The first part of the project involved reading the grant proposal, written by a tenured full professor of education. It was so full of grammar and spelling errors that he could not puzzle out what the grant was for. Not just a few typos, but simply gibberish. Other faculty members told him that these large grant proposals in education were almost all funded. Finally DrF met with the high school teacher who team-taught with him. She was a great teacher, and she said Oh the Tech Prep stuff is totally bogus and we all know it's stupid. But they buy us really great lab equipment if we participate. So we just take the lab equipment and use it to teach real science and ignore the stupid Tech Prep book.

But, anyway, this grant was for several hundred thousand dollars and it was all "soft" money. It paid for the incoherent ed professor as P.I. It paid stipends to DrF and the other teacher. It paid stipends for the high school teachers who came and took their summer class. A $5 million grant that's for science requires the university to actually do a lot of stuff for the overhead, whereas one of these education grants is basically a slush fund.


regarding the comments about nuclear power plants not getting subsidized, and also not going bankrupt:
a: aside from lots of background general purpose gov't grants and credits, there's the very, very helpful (to the industry) "Price-Anderson Act" which limits the utility's liability to about 375 million dollars/plant. That _dramatically_ reduces their insurance costs.
b: and in regards to bankruptcies and other financial disasters, check out the Washington Public Power Supply System (aka "whoops") filing, as well as the games played by NYS's "Long Island Lighting Company" - which received a pretty hefty taxpayer bailout for their LILCO plant

Manuel Transmission


Here's an example of a green technology that would seem viable. (A giant array of mirrors, each with a motor that tracks the sun and directs the sunlight to a boiler on top of a tower, which powers a steam turbine.)

I worked on a similar project all the way back in (about) 1974. We built a solar irrigation pump out in AZ using solar concentrators. I think it may have been funded by EPRI. (Lost the labels on my mental file folders from that era.)


1. “…The US solar cell industry is more warped than most people can probably imagine, and that's because they can't compete with China on cost per watt.”

Not so. Solar panels are almost exclusively built by US-made machinery with amazing productivity, and solar panels have pretty the same production price regardless of place of manufacturing. Same thing, BTW, is with regular AA and AAA alkaline batteries: 90% of them are made in US.

2. “There are green technologies that have potential to be profitable on their own, and some already are, but everyone in the know knows that solar cells aren't one of these technologies.”

BS. Solar panels have virtually no competition in some applications (satellites, off-shore lighthouses, etc.) and are quite competitive in quite wide niche markets.

However, solar photovoltaic electricity is about 8 times more expensive for baseload than traditional means of generation. Only clinical retards monopolized our governments could think that this could be reversed by mass-production.


Not so.

Thanks for the correction, AL. Are you able to let me know of some PV companies that profitably manufacture in the US?


Btw, I know about the unique applications of solar cells. My point was about US manufacturing, and I'm happy to be wrong about that and interested in your help on the above question.


The Milo Minderbender school of economics: Buy for a dime. Sell for a nickel. Make up the difference in volume. Obama and his cronies seem to be alumni.


First Solar (FSLR)

cheap nfl jerseys

notwithstanding, or we would be screaming about a $1 billion blow to the taxpayers.

The comments to this entry are closed.