As you may have heard, White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley announced on Friday that the Obama administration is launching an “independent review” of the Department of Energy’s loan policies.
Call me cynical but I tend to agree with the Weekly Standard’s Mark Hemingway that this move was an attempt to get out in front of the latest bad investment news from green energy land: yep, there’s word of a new bankruptcy by a company with federal loans just this morning.
Beacon Power Corp filed for bankruptcy on Sunday, just a year after the energy storage company received a $43 million loan guarantee from a controversial Department of Energy program.
You are perhaps feeling good that we only lost $43 million—heck, that’s a lot less than the $535 million we taxpayers lost on Solyndra, formerly the president’s pet solar panel company, until it went belly up. But, to dampen your mood, there could be more bad green energy loans out there that we’ll learn about only as they fail.
Here is what MSNBC's First Read reports of the review:
According the Obama administration, "Daley is directing that an independent analysis be conducted to evaluate the state of the Department of Energy loan portfolio and make recommendations to the Administration about how to improve the loan monitoring process. This review will focus on the current state of the loan portfolio and improvements to the monitoring program.”
Daley said, “And while we continue to take steps to make sure the United States remains competitive in the 21st century energy economy, we must also ensure that we are strong stewards of taxpayer dollars.”
I can’t help feeling that Mr. Daley’s review is asking the wrong question. The question isn’t how the beaucrats at the Department of Energy can become “strong stewards” of taxpayer money but whether they should have so much of our money at their disposal to back projects that suit the ideological agenda of a particular administration.
What if, instead of letting Energy Secretary Steven Chu and like-minded bureaucrats "invest" our money, we left investing up to people who use their own money and put it into projects because they see potential for a profit? Jeffrey Folks has an excellent piece on the American Thinker comparing government "investing" to private investing:
Here's a great business model. Start your company with the idea that it's going to go bankrupt. Then, when it folds, inform your investors that the business was a success because it did exactly what you expected.
That's more or less what Obama has done with every "investment" government has made over that past three years. The Energy Department's failed green energy loan program is just one example. It appears that much of the $36 billion earmarked for alternative energy firms, including $500 million to Solyndra alone, has been squandered. If that money had stayed in the private sector, it would have produced jobs. As it is, with real unemployment running at 20%, the president has wasted billions on companies that were destined to fail. That "investment" produced nothing except more debt and slower economic growth.
It is not surprising, given his lack of real-world experience, that Obama does not understand the meaning of the word "investment."
Like most in his party, Obama thinks every kind of government spending is an investment. His thinking is so twisted that he speaks of all sorts of welfare, including increases in the earned income credit and extension of unemployment benefits past 99 weeks, as an investment. Spending on affordable housing is an investment, benefits for the homeless are an investment, funding that makes its way to the coffers of teachers unions is an investment. Just about everything is an investment, except an investment.
Reuters reports that the Energy Department has a loan portfolio of $35.9 billion and that loans totaling $24.5 billion already have been finalized.So prepare for the possibility of more Solyndras and Beacons.