More big loans for solar energy?

More big loans for solar energy?

September 30th, 2011 in Opinion Free Press

Just weeks after a subsidized solar panel manufacturer went bankrupt -- costing taxpayers half a billion dollars -- the Obama administration has approved huge, taxpayer-backed loans for two new solar power projects.

Does that seem wise to you?

You may recall the recent bankruptcy of the California company Solyndra Inc. The American people were stuck with the bill for Solyndra's gigantic loan, and more than 1,000 employees at the company lost their jobs.

But now the U.S. Department of Energy has approved still more loans for additional solar projects:

• Tonopah Solar Energy will get a shocking $737 million loan guarantee to build a solar tower in Nevada.

• Mesquite Solar 1 will get a $337 million loan guarantee to develop a solar plant outside Phoenix.

Of course, we are not saying that these latest projects will meet the same unhappy fate as Solyndra. (At least we hope they don't.)

But even if they are much sounder prospects financially than Solyndra was, it is just not federal government business to be subsidizing impractical alternative energy projects -- or more traditional energy sources such as oil and natural gas.

Tom Schatz, president of the watchdog organization Citizens Against Government Waste, appropriately called for a review of energy subsidies that can leave taxpayers holding the bag if the subsidized projects fail.

"Candidly, it might be time for the federal government to rethink the whole idea of loan programs," he told The Associated Press.

In fact, that sort of review is long overdue.