Solar: Stocks Shocks and Just Plain Sucks

"When it comes to the clean energy race, America faces a simple choice: compete or accept defeat, I believe we can and must compete."  Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy.

While the GOP is busily attempting to focus our attention on how much money George Kaiser of the  Kaiser Family Foundation anted –up for the Solyndra Solar Company we are forgetting to look at the money tax payers are losing in this debacle.  Even Chu admits that we, the tax paying 99% won’t get much, if any of our investment dollars back.  C’est la vie!

Solyndra filed for bankruptcy in August and now Beacon Power, a producer of alternative energy storage units has tanked and taken $43 million tax payer dollars with it.  All the while these American companies are floundering in the miasma of economic downturn the Chinese solar stocks are up. What’s up with this?

I know bupkus about stocks but according to an article I read in “Seeking Alpha” by Simon Monger there are several reasons.  He lists Germany’s decision to curb feed in tariffs (I looked this up on Wikipedia.  It is a policy mechanism designed to accelerate investment in renewable energy technologies. It achieves this by offering long-term contracts to renewable energy producers, typically based on the cost of generation of each different technology) i.e. subsidy.  The German Renewable Energy Act is touted as the most successful in advancing alternative energy.  Foreword thinking Germans are rushing to install while the going is shall we say, hot. On top of this, Chinese solar company performance (I suppose this means profit) is up.  Lastly according to Monger, a better looking economic picture in Europe is stimulating solar sales.

But back to this business of feed in tariffs, there are a host of technical things I could spew by way of what I tried to digest of articles I read. I’ll avoid that. The United States via Jimmy Carter in 1990, introduced the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) which based contracts for alternative energy on forecasted rises in oil and gas prices. The regulations also prevented major utility suppliers from owning more than 50% of alternative energy producing companies and promoted independently owned alternative energy enterprise.  Of course the major, monolithic monopolies don’t like this arrangement. What a surprise!  All this is to say that the investment of tax payer dollars in alternative energy is not a new idea and certainly was practiced by both party presidents.  The issue I see is why are pundits (GOP)focusing on what was invested and spending no time or energy trying to figure a way to resurrect these businesses.

Cheryl K. Chumley writes for Heartlander, a decidedly pro GOP communique stated, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), vice chairman of the House Committee on Science, intends to offer a bill requiring all Energy Department loan recipients to submit to an independent audit. Where was he when the derivatives were wreaking havoc on the economy?  There wasn’t this much stink on the GOP side of the aisle regarding the bank bailouts. Barbara Anderson, executive director of the Massachusetts-based Citizens for Limited Taxation thinks the government should get out of making investment decisions.  I suppose that includes discontinuing huge tax breaks and subsidies to the oil industry.The oil and natural gas industry has spent $340 million on lobbyists since 2008, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which monitors political spending. That’s a lot more than the investment made by George Kaiser that the GOP would like to say was to lobby the Obama administration to loan funds to Solyndra. Frankly I think we, the public, ought to demand that the White House call in Brooksley Born to figure out regulating hedge funds and derivatives.  She’s smart enough maybe to look at the German method of backing alternative energy and get us up to snuff.

Least I be considered pro any side of the aisle let me state the Dems aren’t doing too good at figuring out this mess either, if what we see on the news is any indication. There have to be options to bankruptcies and bailouts.  The whole mess sucks.  I received an email (like millions of other Americans) asking for ideas to address the joblessness in this country; ideas that don’t require congress.  Now this is not what the founding fathers had in mind, but I don’t think they could foresee a day when our government was basically run by corporations with one eye on profit and the other eye blind to anything else including the common good.  I sent some ideas.  I doubt that any credence will be placed on any of them since I fear they all would require the kids on both sides of the aisle play nice.

Any way here’s a brief on my thoughts about Solyndra and Beacon Power and the rest of the shocks and stocks.  I suggest that if tax payer dollars are going to be used to save, resurrect, buttress or any other form of support that an option to bankruptcy is restructuring the companies as triple bottom line (L3C, Cooperatives, B corporations, social enterprise).  Don’t mandate layoffs which are normally the first rule of restructuring.  Mandate a different corporate structure, one in which the bottom line is more flexible.  Who cares what NASDAQ lists?  Just the un-listing of a company is the death knell. Ignore them!  Investors won’t get a huge payouts in bankruptcy settlements and golden parachutes will be severely tarnished. I don't care. With an industrial cooperative the workers might just agree to a one man (or woman) one vote structure that allows them to keep a job.  I am not advocating socialism.  Restructuring a company to keep people invested and working or making sure that people and planet come before profit may be capitalism at its best.

We need to figure out how to keep people employed.  What would Milton Hershey do?  He recycled workers from candy making to building houses designated for the workers.  Nobody called him a socialist.  He was just plain practical. I agree with Chu.  We need alternative energies.  We also need a government that is for the people and by the people.  I think I read that somewhere.

 

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  • Thanks Danie, for having the heart (and cahones) to point out the energy policy dysfunctions on both sides of the aisle. And as if their political miscalculations weren't bad enough, we should also remember Jevon's Paradox - the maxim that points out our untenable reliance on most any energy technology, to wit - "the more energy we save, the more we use." The history of industry is the history of ever-increasing energy efficiency. This points us to our first priority: conservation lifestyles.

    We are living in the Age of the Tipping Point.

    We watched while the worldwide corporate/cultural green mobilization of 2007 aimed to reduce greenhouse gas levels from 370ppm (parts per million) to a stabilization goal of 350ppm by 2050, and instead delivered us unceremoniously to 391ppm four years later. Still, we are busily rearranging the deck chairs.

    Bill McKibben and his global gallery of climate gurus all agree that after 400ppm "we can no longer have a planet similar to the one on which civilization developed, and on which all of life adapted." See 350.org.

    And if all this weren't alarming enough, we're raised on the ruins of great civilizations throughout school - many collapsing after thousand-year reigns. Yet America believes it has a "get out of jail free card." Evidence? We continue to manufacture as if have 4.5 planets to spend!

    For my favorite essay on this suicidal folly, email me for a copy of Carl Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot" photo and commentary. Punchline: "Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves." naomidavis@blacksingreen.org

    Meanwhile, through the work of orgs like Bronzeville Urban Green we may yet "surthrive"~!! Halleluiah.

  • Your response gave me shivers. I would certainly appreciate receiving the information you offer. I also want to applaud organizations like Blacks In Green (your group).

    If we are to surthrive, we have to learn to produce locally; reuse locally and consider globally.

    Thanks again for your comments.

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