23 Sep 2011

As fingerpointing over Solyndra rages, ‘green’ jobs push has run out of ‘gas’

Written by Jim Pierobon

With Solyndra executives take the Fifth Amendment to escape scrutiny form Congressional investigators, the ‘open’ season on Federal loan guarantees means any credible push for green jobs has run its course. That said, any continued finger-pointing holds opportunities and risks for both Democrats and the GOP.

'Jobs yes but leaving the green behind,' may be the way forward for presidential candidates. Credit: Treehugger.com

If the GOP pushes too hard to make an example of the Solyndra loan gone bad, some GOP lawmakers will be singled out for embracing loan guarantees for their constituents and that will make them hypocrits. In the meantime solar industry leaders need to stop defending the loan and spelling out the odds and the realities of a rapidly growing industry competing in a global market. There are lots of winners and losers and yes. And yes risk is part of the game.

A top environmental consultant told POLITICO this week Obama “got dealt a bad hand” on the Solyndra loan and “he’s played a bad hand very badly.” But our information at TheEnergyFix has it the other way around: The Department of Energy, given the shifting supply chain economics in the industry in 2008-2009, knew the Solyndra model was likely to fail. Only under heavy pressure from the White House did they hastily process the loan paperwork.

Now Obama is likely to be playing defense on his entire renewable energy portfolio. Some ‘greens’, meantime, are pining for Al Gore. Looking at Obama’s inner circle, they see missteps resulting from not having anyone like Gore to call the shots. Others don’t see how even Al Gore could stand a chance against the Tea Party tsunami.

In his State of the Union address in January—his last high-profile joint session address to Congress—President Obama mentioned the word “energy” nine different times. In his jobs speech September 8, also before both congressional chambers, “energy” did not  leave his mouth even once, according to U.S. News & World Report.

That begs the question: Will Obama abandon his green jobs push? And also, what does the president lose by dropping a spotlight on the energy sector?

According to ClimateWire, rather than pushing his green agenda aside completely, Obama might just want to tackle one political hurdle at a time, and jobs is the obstacle du jour. The contentious issue of energy, with strong advocates on both “Team Drill, Baby, Drill” and “Team Save the Planet,” would have added even more barriers to a jobs plan that already seems like a tough sell in Congress.

Also, by not even touching energy in his speech—apart from a dig at tax loopholes for oil companies—he seemed to do enough to win at least mild approval from environmentalists on the left. After all, doing nothing about energy is a stark contrast with Republicans, including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, whose jobs plans push for less environmental regulations and greater expediency for oil and gas drilling and coal production.

But, there’s a chance that Obama’s apparent political concerns might cost him, or at the very least, it could cost America jobs, POLITICO asserts. Republicans and industry advocates have consistently spouted the jobs potential in the energy sector, on which the president might be missing out.

“The president missed an opportunity to pick the low-hanging fruit of job creation,” said American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard in a statement. “Allowing the responsible development of more of America’s vast domestic oil and natural gas resources could generate more than one million new jobs in just seven years, with thousands of shovel-ready jobs that could be created almost immediately.”

Hmmm. This sounds curiously similar to the very pitch for solar projects in 2009. Let’s just be more prudent about who gets the money and move on to developing and producing more clean energy and stop the political backbiting.

The Oversight Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives meanwhile is targeting the green jobs push as “propaganda” aimed at uniting “environmentalists and union leaders in a deliberate effort to consolidate an ideologically-based agenda,” according to a new report released Thursday, CBS reports.

The committee, led by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., charges that while the Obama administration touts its green jobs agenda as “a major component of his recovery strategy,” Americans “have received very little return on President Obama’s signature investment” – and that the “green” label is essentially nothing more than a marketing ploy.

The Washington Post reported last week that the Obama program, “after giving out almost half the allocated amount.” at a cost of $38.6 billion,  has created just “3,545 new, permanent jobs.” That’s more than $5 million per job. The Post outlined Obama administration promises to “create or save 65,000 jobs” in the green jobs category. What it left out was that, while campaigning, Obama promised to create 5 million “green” jobs. He’s about 4,996,455 short.

The White House won’t admit it’s failing and it shouldn’t — yet. Obama still has more than 15 months left in this term and a LOT could happen in the interim. If it doesn’t, what credibility he has left is at stake. And that could affect how American voters feel when they enter the voting booth in November 2012.

Leave a Reply