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Issue Analysis

    Green "Investment": Fund, Fail, Repeat

    Taxpayers, find a sustainable way to gird your loins, here we go again.

    Silicon Valley-based solar company SoloPower is poised to draw a loan from the Department of Energy to expand its factory, a situation that’s drawing parallels to now-infamous Solyndra.

    It's going to need a little help, of course, because the green energy industry still has a problem with survival in the real world.

    Brutal price competition in the global solar industry has pushed a number of manufacturers out of business or into dire financial straits. In addition to Solyndra, thin-film startup Abound Solar had to shut down after having drawn $70 million from a DOE loan. Even the largest government-backed Chinese manufacturers are struggling to make a profit because prices have plummeted so dramatically in the past three years and there’s a glut of panels.

    This time, the cash-strapped citizenry will be on the hook for $197 million, a veritable bargain by Solyndra standards.

    It may seem foolish to focus on green energy as a way to "spend our way to prosperity" but, hey, dream big, right?

    Environmental groups continue to support the federal green power loan program.

    "We're just on the cusp of a whole revolution," says Ross Macfarlane of Climate Solutions. "Many (companies) will fail, but the key ones will succeed and they're going to lead us."

    The Obama administration continues betting on the dream despite the current state of the economy and the opinions of experts.

    Industry analysts are not optimistic about SoloPower's prospects.

    "It's questionable at this point," says Andrew Soare of Lux Research, "It's uncertain if solar power will be able to produce efficiently and economically at scale. It's something that has not been done yet, and it's still risky."

    There is a two-pronged governmental approach to make the green energy industry somewhat functional because it is unable to be viable on its own. The first is spending money we don't really have to artificially kickstart it. The second is to destroy the industry that's actually providing energy.

    More West Virginians were jobless last month than in July, largely because of massive layoffs in the mining industry. On the same day the state revealed unemployment figures for August, another coal company announced hundreds more layoffs.

    Any more questions about whether President Barack Obama is winning his war on coal?