Green energy loans have been a black hole for U.S. tax dollars, government data show

Published: Monday, May 13 2013 1:35 p.m. MDT

This May 24, 2010 file photo show the exterior of Solyndra Inc. in Fremont, Calif.

Paul Sakuma, Associated Press

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A new report by the Department of Energy touts the job-creation record of green energy loans. Using DOE's own data, the Institute for Energy Research has calculated that the DOE spent $11.25 million for each job created.

The DOE website separates jobs created into "permanent" and "construction," the latter being temporary jobs created to build out the projects. DOE says that the $30.5 billion given so far in loan guarantees has produced roughly 60,000 jobs.

Unlike previous green energy investment announcements from the Obama administration, this one was offered very quietly by the DOE and attracted little interest from most media outlets.

Critiques focused in part on the usual suspect belly-up ventures such as Solyndra, the solar panel manufacturer that ate up $539 million of federal funds before going under, and Fisker, the electrical vehicle company that took in $529 million from the federal government before following suit.

In the DOE report, Solyndra was listed as having created 3,000 construction jobs, but the permanent job category was listed as "N/A," rather than zero.

But also hidden in the new DOE numbers are some very large loans to other green ventures, which have largely remained off the radar — for better or worse. These include a solar energy venture in San Bernardino, Calif., that received $1.2 billion in loan guarantees, and a sister project by the same company, this one based in Arizona, that received $1.5 billion in loan guarantees.

These two projects, According to DOE numbers, created 60 and 70 permanent jobs, respectively.

Conservative commentators were quick to jump on the paucity of the new numbers.

Human Events also focused on collateral damage to service industries that invested heavily in communities that have hosted these failed ventures: "Quite a few suppliers and local service companies made the mistake of thinking Solyndra was a real company, and designed long-term business plans accordingly. It’s hard to see real opportunities through all that taxpayer-subsidized static."

Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at eschulzke@desnews.com.

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