In his testimony yesterday, Energy Secretary Stephen Chu went on at length about Chinese competition in making solar panels, highlighting "the choice America faces when it comes to competing in the clean energy race and why we can and must play to win." The Post pointedly asks, Win what?
Mr. Chu raised the specter of Chinese dominance in photovoltaics, a market he estimated at $80 billion globally and growing by leaps and bounds. Of course, Solyndra’s inability to survive without government funding casts doubt on this. Mr. Chu contradictorily noted that Solyndra failed in part because photovoltaic “demand has softened due to the global economic downturn and a decline in subsidies in countries including Spain, Italy and Germany.” Given their current financial woes, we’d be surprised if Spain and Italy could afford to restore solar-electricity subsidies anytime soon. The U.S. Energy Information Agency, an office in Mr. Chu’s department, noted in its most recent International Energy Outlook that, until 2035, “most renewable technologies other than hydroelectricity are not able to compete economically with fossil fuels . . . except in a few regions or in niche markets.”It takes government subsidies to build solar panels that then it takes more goverment subsides to install and operate them. It's losses all the say down. I guess Secretary Chu thinks we'll make up the losses on volume.
... we’re also worried by the description of the department’s loan portfolio in a 2010 internal OMB e-mail. “What’s terrifying,” one staffer wrote, “is that after looking at some of the ones that came next, this one [Solyndra] started to look better. Bad days are coming.”
Never mind the fiscal and commercial realities, Secretary Stephen Chu is flying off today to visit yet another solar panel manufacturing facility. This one is General Electric's plant in Arvada, Colorado.