Outside editorial: Solyndra loan guarantees were a poor investment in a growing industry

The following editorial first appeared in the Kansas City Star:

 

Shining a bright light on the Solyndra solar panel company debacle illuminates two facts:

• The Obama administration’s deeply flawed handling of loan guarantees for the California-based (and now bankrupt) solar panel maker could saddle U.S. taxpayers with a loss of $535 million.

• Solar power isn’t dying in this country and doesn’t deserve to, either.

Early on, President Barack Obama helped make Solyndra a poster child for his green jobs initiative, visiting the company and saying, “The true engine of economic growth will always be companies like Solyndra.”

But evidence is mounting that the administration cut corners to funnel money to the manufacturer.

That’s a depressingly familiar story for Americans appropriately upset at how loosely federal funds too often are spent.

However, harsh questioning of the very future of solar panel production in America — such as what Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, engaged in recently — is off the mark.

In the first half of 2011, photovoltaic installations were 69 percent higher than a comparable period in 2010. And the amount of solar power consumed in the country has more than doubled in the last six years, although it’s still a tiny part of the total electric grid.

Acting more prudently in the future, Congress should continue to promote private sector investment in solar power, even after the one horrifically bad bet on Solyndra.

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