Solyndra And Keystone XL: Partisan Politics And Energy In America

One thing is backwards right here.

With gleeful relish, Republicans in Congress have seized on the story of Solyndra, the California photo voltaic panel firm that received a $535 million federal mortgage assure, only to go belly-up at the tip of August. They’ve uncovered emails that counsel haste among Obama administration officials to award the financing, and as such they’ve condemned the federal loan guarantee program from which it sprang.

On Thursday, Republicans claimed a casualty within the resignation of Jonathan Silver, who has headed the loan program since 2009.

In a joint statement issued Thursday, Republican Representatives Cliff Stearns of Florida and John Upton of Michigan, who’re leading the charge to politicize the Solyndra failure and widen its ramifications, suggested that won’t be enough.

“Mr. Silver’s resignation does not remedy the issue,” they wrote.

However what exactly is the issue? Based on a cache of letters compiled by the center for American Progress, not less than 62 Republicans, together with Stearns and Upton, have sought lucrative government loans and subsidies for clear-vitality tasks in their own districts. Never thoughts, too, that greater than three dozen different corporations, together with some in the nuclear trade, have acquired some $36 billion in federal financing via mortgage assure programs that trace their roots to the Bush administration.

Those programs, which involve some risk, are designed to encourage personal investment in, and assist spur the growth of, technologies that do not in the end rely on burning coal, oil or natural fuel. Given Republicans’ own efforts to tap those funds, these would appear to be attractive goals, whatever your politics.

And why not? In keeping with a current Brookings Establishment evaluation, the burgeoning clean-tech sector already employs 2.7 million staff — more than the fossil fuel industries. The research also found that “newer clean financial system establishments — particularly those in young energy-associated segments resembling wind vitality, solar PV, and smart grid — added jobs at a torrid pace” between 2003 and 2010.

These numbers have been misplaced on Darrell Issa, the California Republican who chairs the House Oversight and Authorities Reform committee. “Right now, unemployment is at a staggering 9.2 percent,” he declared at the opening of a listening to into the Solyndra collapse last month — a listening to Issa dubbed “How Obama’s Green Power Agenda is Killing Jobs.”

“The sick-fated green jobs experiment has done little to create jobs or speed this restoration,” he said, “and by many accounts it has had the opposite impact.”

Issa didn’t point out that he had despatched quite a few letters to the Department of Vitality through the years seeking grants for clean-energy companies in his personal neck of the woods.

Go determine.

Meanwhile, amid the frothing over Solyndra, greater than 1,000 Individuals had been arrested in Washington while protesting a large, $7 billion pipeline proposal, known as the Keystone XL, that might transport practically 1 million barrels per day of an unconventional and extremely polluting form of Canadian crude some 1,seven-hundred miles and ship them to refineries in Texas.

The plan, which some analyses have instructed would only add to a considerable over-capability of pipeline working between Canada and the U.S., has generated stiff opposition in states via which the pipeline would lower. Among other issues, critics worry a leak in the road might permanently sully a 174,000 square-mile aquifer in the American heartland and contribute irrevocably to global warming.

On these concerns, Republicans on Capitol Hill have not made a peep — although they’ve been remarkably vocal about the pipeline’s potential to create some 20,000 momentary construction and manufacturing jobs, greater than 100,000 ancillary jobs, and to assist wean the nation off of extra unstable sources of overseas Development oil. They even passed a invoice within the House over the summer time that may require the State Division, in whose hands approval of the road rests, to render a choice by the first of November.

However these jobs estimates, as properly because the influence of the pipeline on U.S. power independence, have been repeatedly debunked, including by a study launched at the top of last month by Cornell College’s Global Labor Institute. Utilizing numbers compiled by the company behind the challenge, Calgary-based TransCanada, the Cornell evaluation found that the project would create fewer than 5,000 building jobs, and a considerably smaller variety of oblique jobs total.

The pipeline “will not be a major source of U.S. jobs, nor will it play any substantial position in any respect in putting Individuals back to work,” the authors of the Cornell research assert, including that even if the a hundred and twenty,000 complete jobs quantity was correct, “the U.S. seasonally adjusted unemployment charge would remain at 9.1 percent — exactly the place it is now.”

On providing oil to U.S. markets from a pleasant supply, the Cornell analysis concluded that the Keystone XL pipeline would actually divert Canadian oil from Midwest refineries, “so it can be bought at increased prices to the Gulf Coast and export markets. Because of this, customers in the Midwest could possibly be paying 10 to 20 cents extra per gallon for gasoline and diesel gas.”

The higher gas costs — estimated to whole between $2 billion and $4 billion — would drive down other spending, the research concluded, and result in job losses that might further offset no matter small positive factors the pipeline would possibly represent.

And for all this, it’s Solyndra that is called a “scandal” — though no one really must spend a lot time puzzling over why. The oil and fuel industries have contributed more than a quarter billion dollars to candidates in Washington over the past 20 years. Roughly seventy five p.c of that went to Republicans.

As for the Democrats, a small group have repeatedly urged the Obama administration to halt the Keystone allowing process amid myriad environmental considerations and, extra not too long ago, proof that the State Division has planned all alongside to grant the permit it doesn’t matter what.

“As elevated scrutiny is applied to the approval course of and the issues with the pipeline,” stated Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), in an e-mail, “I am seeing a growing variety of Congressmen publicly state that the approval process has been highly flawed and that the pipeline is a nasty idea.”

But many other Democrats have been muted on both Keystone and Solyndra — perhaps wanting to appear neither anti-employment at such a tricky financial time, nor too supportive of what might need been poor judgement in granting a mortgage to an organization with a nasty enterprise mannequin in the primary place. On Keystone, in addition they threat finding themselves in the place of attacking the Obama administration usually, and Secretary Hillary Clinton’s State Departement particularly.

The State Division is expected to render a call on whether or not to grant Keystone a permit by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, don’t search for Republicans to face in the best way, no matter the arguments in opposition to it.

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“Republicans are the celebration of oil,” said Daniel J. Weiss, a senior fellow and the director of climate strategy at the center for American Progress. “They are not going to do something that may put oil in a foul gentle. So any hints of impropriety in transferring the pipeline forward is just not one thing they’re going to be all in favour of doing.”

And in any case, they’re going to be too busy sifting obsessively, and with nice fanfare, via the rubble of a single California photo voltaic firm.

Such are the politics of energy leading into the 2012 election. The proximate questions in every case — whether or not the federal government should proceed to assist spur clean-energy technologies like solar power, and whether the government ought to grant a permit to construct yet one more oil pipeline — do a pleasant job of articulating the line between past and future that the nation now straddles so awkwardly, and with such bitter partisan paralysis.