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Is Solyndra A Fluke?

That’s what the New York Times editorial board thinks. In an editorial yesterday, the paper denounced what it called a “panic” over the collapse of Solyndra. In the view of the Times, all is really well on the “green energy” front:

Solyndra made a bad bet, investing heavily in a new type of solar array just as the price of silicon, the main ingredient in competitors’ solar cells, was dropping. Its demise should not spell the end of federal investment in the alternative fuels and energy sources that are critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, easing this country’s dependence on fossil fuels and keeping it competitive in the race for clean-energy jobs.

A funny thing about that “race for clean-energy jobs”–in the last paragraph of its editorial, the paper admits that creating those jobs will require two things: “to enact a comprehensive energy strategy that raises the price of older, dirtier fuels,” and “continued government support is absolutely essential.” In other words, there is no prospect of “green jobs” existing by virtue of their own merit in the marketplace.

The United States, which three years ago led the world in investments in clean energy, has now fallen behind China and Germany, which provide far more generous subsidies.

That’s a good thing. They are wasting their money; let’s not waste ours.

The Times is careful, of course, not to criticize its Obama administration in connection with the Solyndra debacle:

The administration claims to have exercised due diligence and seems to have been forthcoming in responding to Congress. The company has been decidedly less so; two senior executives, citing the Justice Department inquiry, took the Fifth Amendment when they appeared before a Congressional committee on Friday.

Sure. The administration was just an innocent bystander to whatever crimes Solyndra’s officers prefer not to confess to. Time will tell how “forthcoming” the Obama administration is; if the Fast and Furious scandal is any guide, the answer will be, not very.

As for the supposedly doomed solar industry, Solyndra and three other smaller failed companies that were not part of the federal program represented about one-fifth of the nation’s manufacturing capacity for solar panels. But highly competitive companies remain, and in many sectors, including sales of silicon, the United States dominates. Mr. Issa to the contrary, jobs in the solar industry have doubled to roughly 100,000 since 2003.

I am agnostic on the question whether solar energy will ever be competitively viable. If so, great. Then there is no need to artificially increase the price of fossil fuels, or subsidize the production of solar energy. Somehow, though, I suspect that the historic connection between solar energy and government cronyism is not coincidental.

Recent studies suggest that, globally, renewable energy will grow faster than any other energy source in the coming decades. The surest way to guarantee that America gets its fair share of that business and those jobs would be to enact a comprehensive energy strategy that raises the price of older, dirtier fuels. Failing that, continued government support is absolutely essential.

I’m guessing those “studies” assume that governments, including ours, will continue to take political measures to suppress fossil fuel production, increase the price of oil, gas and coal, and subsidize “green” technologies so as to reward favored political contributors. I would suggest that any industry as to which government favoritism is “absolutely essential” should be cut loose. Who knows, if left to its own devices, it might prosper. If not, good riddance.

And oh, by the way–are the Times editorialists really so dumb that they don’t understand that “rais[ing] the price of older, dirtier fuels”–i.e., oil, gas and coal, the fuels that actually work–will cost America jobs?

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