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Solyndra's Bankruptcy Shows the Failure of the "Green" Jobs Agenda

September 07, 2011

By Robert Bryce

The recent bankruptcy of solar-panel-maker Solyndra shows, once again, that the entire concept of “green energy” jobs was bankrupt from the start.

“Green jobs” are the last refuge of the subsidy seekers. Industries that can’t survive in the free market like to claim they are creating “green jobs” because that helps them justify their subsidy-dependent businesses.

In February, the Renewable Fuels Association put out a report which claimed the domestic ethanol sector directly supports 70,000 jobs. The CBO estimates that each gallon of gasoline displaced by ethanol costs taxpayers $1.78. With the ethanol sector now producing the equivalent of 9.1 billion gallons of gasoline per year, the total cost to taxpayers of the ethanol scam is therefore about $16.2 billion. That works out to $230,000 per job created by an industry that produces a product that is inferior in nearly every way when compared to conventional gasoline. And yet Congressional mandates are forcing American motorists to buy motor fuel that has been adulterated with corn ethanol.

Similar problems are evident in the subsidy-dependent wind energy business, which is constantly touting “green” jobs as a justification for yet more taxpayer subsidies. The American Wind Energy Association even has a website,, which promises to provide “all the information you need to be prepared for your new wind energy job.” Unfortunately, the jobs created by the wind industry are so expensive that not even Boone Pickens, the Dallas-based billionaire who a few years ago was one of the wind business’s biggest boosters, could afford many of them. Last December, the Texas Comptroller estimated that each “green” job associated with wind in Texas cost the state’s taxpayers $1.6 million.

And now we have the announcement that Solyndra, which got a $535 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, has filed for bankruptcy. What was the problem? It couldn’t compete with foreign manufacturers who were able to produce solar panels at lower cost. The result: 1,100 jobs were lost and American taxpayers are now on the hook for all or part of the loan guarantee.

Last May, during a visit to the Solyndra plant in California, President Obama said that “The true engine of economic growth will always be companies like Solyndra.”

If that’s true, then the U.S. economy is in even worse shape than we thought.

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