The Two S’s, Samuel Wright Bodman III and Solyndra

Opinion by Patricia L Johnson

All of us recognize the name Solyndra as it became a favorite talking point of the Republicans and the media for criticizing President Obama.

The harm has already been done as the majority of Americans are under the impression the Obama Administration showed favoritism to Oklahoma billionaire, George Kaiser by approving the Solyndra loan. Kaiser is a wealthy investor with Democratic ties.

Supposedly when an allegation is made in this country, the person is considered innocent until proven guilty, yet when it comes to politics just the opposite appears to ring true.

In this instance President Obama was found guilty of squandering taxpayer money to the tune of $535 million dollars by guaranteeing a loan to Solyndra. President Obama was found guilty in the public eye without all the facts being presented.

Let’s try looking at the Solyndra debacle without unnecessary innuendo and allegations.

On August 8, 2005 President George W. Bush signed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, P.L. 109-58 into law. The purpose of this law was to promote clean energy. Because clean energy is a ‘good thing’, the provisions of P.L. 109-58 were incorporated into The American Recovery and Reinvest Act of 2009, P.L. 111-5 signed into law by President Barack H. Obama on February 17, 2009 in an effort to create new jobs in the U.S.

From the period of January 31, 2005 through January 20, 2009, Samuel Wright Bodman III was the United States Secretary of Energy under President George W. Bush.

The Solyndra application was originally submitted to the Department of Energy in 2006 and during the period from 2006 through 2008 the application was given due process and by the end of 2008 Solyndra was considered to be the most advanced project and the likely recipient of the very first loan guarantee. By the time President Obama came on the scene the staff at DOE had already established a date of March 2009 for issuing a conditional loan guarantee commitment to Solyndra.

Naturally when President Obama came on board further review was given to the commitment and by September 4, 2009 it was announced the Department of Energy had finalized a $535 million dollar loan guarantee for Solyndra, which manufactures cylindrical solar photovoltaic panels providing clean, renewable energy.

In my opinion, the Solyndra failure wasn’t really a company failure, but a drastic change in the global market place.

U.S. market share on manufactured solar cells and modules sold around the world dropped from 40 percent to 6 percent, with China’s market share jumping from 6 percent to 54 percent. But, why wouldn’t China’s market share increase tremendously? In 2010, alone, China provided $30 billion in subsidies to its solar manufacturers.

Solyndra had four Chinese competitors which sold polysilicon panels. Polysilicon prices dropped significantly allowing these Chinese manufacturers to drop their prices by huge margins and they were simply able to undercut Solyndra on the pricing. About the same time, Europe began having its own economic problems and sales dropped further.

Solyndra took the actions necessary to increase sales and marketing, while cutting costs and revenues did increase 40% between 2009 and 2010, but the efforts left Solyndra short on capital and bankruptcy was inevitable if it was unable to secure new financing. Unsuccessful in their attempts to secure new financing Solyndra entered into bankruptcy proceedings in September of 2011.

Solyndra was the very first loan guarantee and unfortunately it failed, but the only other failure, to date is Beacon Power for $43 million. These two defaults represent approximately 1.7 percent of total allocations, which is an incredibly small percentage for failures.

Whether the loss will go down in the history books as belonging to the administration of George W. Bush or the administration of Barack H. Obama isn’t the issue. At issue is the bitterness exhibited towards this president by members of the opposing party.

When Senator Mitch McConnell made the following statement he was speaking for Republicans in general. “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president”.

Our country is in trouble and the priority should be getting the economy turned around and getting people back to work, not seeing how much criticism you can direct towards the person holding the highest position in the country.

© Patricia L Johnson

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