After touting “green energy” as the solution to everything from climate change to economic recession, the Obama administration is facing the somewhat embarrassing failure of one of its pet projects: the solar energy start up Solyndra Inc.
While the failure of a solar energy company is hardly surprising given the impotence of the technology, this one has caught attention due to Solyndra’s connections to the White House. It seems that, in exchange for funding the Obama campaign, Solyndra was awarded a significant loan guarantee without normal oversight, and naturally, funded by taxpayers.
Now that Solyndra’s $535 million dollar loan is gone and the company has been raided by the FBI, these shady dealings have been opened to scrutiny. The White House has argued that they were acting in the national interest to prevent a foreign country from attaining a monopoly on such a “vital” industry.
Was this fiasco just another alternative energy fantasy? Or was it an under-the-table deal in which Solyndra was paid off for their support of Obama? The truth is probably impossible to tell (and likely a combination of both). Interestingly enough, it doesn’t matter. Whether the Obama Administration and Solyndra were motivated by the desire to usher in the green economy or a perverse compulsion to squeeze a bit more loot out of the American people is entirely irrelevant. The end result of the Solyndra experiment has been the destruction of $535 million in wealth.
Solyndra is not an isolated, unfortunate occurrence, but a logical consequence of our national energy policies. Our consistent push to develop inferior energy technologies is rooted in the idea that we have a moral duty to sacrifice for the environment. We have a duty to sacrifice by spending massive amounts of money in an attempt to develop a technology that has proven over and over again to be a failure. This is precisely what happened, either the company was going to sell its solar panels at a loss (while being propped up by taxpayer funds) or it was going to go bankrupt. In both cases, the result is clear: American wealth sacrificed on the altar of “the environment.” In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand described a similar situation:
Orren Boyle made a selfless sacrifice to the needs of others. He sold to the Bureau of Global Relief, for shipment to the People’s State of Germany, ten thousand tons of structural steel shapes that had been intended for the Atlantic Southern Railroad. ‘It was a difficult decision to make,’ he said, with a moist, unfocused look of righteousness, to the panic-stricken president of the Atlantic Southern, ‘but I weighed the fact that you’re a rich corporation, while the people of Germany are in a state of unspeakable misery. So I acted on the principle that need comes first. When in doubt, it’s the weak that must be considered, not the strong.’ The president of the Atlantic Southern had heard that Orren Boyle’s most valuable friend in Washington had a friend in the Ministry of Supply of the People’s State of Germany. But whether this had been Boyle’s motive or whether it had been the principle of sacrifice, no one could tell and it made no difference: if Boyle had been a saint of the creed of selflessness, he would have had to do precisely what he had done. This silenced the president of the Atlantic Southern; he dared not admit that he cared for his railroad more than for the people of Germany; he dared not argue against the principle of sacrifice.
While the amount of wealth sacrificed is very small on the scale of what our federal government goes through in its normal dealings, perhaps this situation can offer the opportunity to ask the question: Do we want continue to sacrifice the products of our work for the nebulous idea of “the environment?”
The Undercurrent is a magazine distributed at college campuses and communities across the country. We release a print edition once per semester, and in the interim, regularly post additional articles, blog entries, and campus media responses reports to our website.
The Undercurrent's cultural commentary is based on Ayn Rand's philosophy, Objectivism. Objectivism, which animates Ayn Rand's fiction, is a systematic philosophy of life. It holds that the universe is orderly and comprehensible, that man survives by reason, that his life and happiness comprise his highest moral purpose, and that he flourishes only in a society that protects his individual rights.
Subscribe to TU
If you enjoy The Undercurrent, please consider giving a tax-deductible donation in support.