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Despair Aside, There’s a Way to Talk About Solyndra

Dave Roberts things that progressives are failing on Solyndra:

Watching this unfold over the last week, I keep thinking back to “Climategate.” When it first broke back in late 2009, lefties and bloggers and Dem lawmakers just ignored it, because it was obviously dumb. This left the field entirely open to a massive attack from the right, coordinated among ideological media, staffers, lobbyists, and pols. When the left finally stirred itself to action, all that emerged were a bunch of long, boring investigations into the details and good-faith efforts to be fair about how both sides a point. By the time five separate investigations had cleared the scientists of all wrongdoing, the damage was done. Now we’re seeing the same script play out again.

Cons understand post-truth politics. They understand that truth is utterly inert in an era when mainstream institutions are viewed with hostility and skepticism, the media is fractured, and there are no shared norms or referees to enforce them. The side that wins is the side that plays to its audience’s existing preconceptions with a simple message repeated over and over and over again in multiple venues.

That’s what is happening now around Solyndra. The right is going after this whole hog, trying to make the name synonymous with clean energy boondoggle. And the left is flailing around, throwing out this fact and that fact with no coherent message. Lord am I tired of watching this script play out.

Keep in mind that Roberts starts this article by saying that “the truth behind the episode isn’t entirely clear yet,” (actually I think the truth is quite clear, and it’s a positive story to tell about the success of these Energy Department loan guarantees) but that the facts aren’t the most important part of this.

I don’t know, I think what Ed Markey said above is largely in line with what I and most people have been saying about this. This is a transparent efforts to try and put a death grip on green jobs, and it ignores all the wasteful subsidies that government gives to the dirty energy industry. Those subsidies have been tops on the list of Democratic talking points for months and were just put into the President’s jobs bill as a pay-for. I think it’s more about the left being self-loathing and not having the megaphone rather than a lack of message.

Furthermore, loan guarantees in high-reward industries are inherently risky but also offer great promise, and this is no different than any other free market transaction. Stephen Lacey has to talk slowly to explain how loan guarantees work, and he manages to point out that the nuclear industry wouldn’t exist without such guarantees. Somehow this doesn’t crease the skull of the conservatives who want to kill greentech.

Most important, the White House is moving right along and continuing to make loan guarantees for renewable projects. That’s good, because they have been mostly successful, and they have the potential to revamp the entire energy industry. It should be a point of pride.

And if the worst that happens is a Jon Stewart segment amping this up into scandal territory, then fine. But the choice is clear: continue to feed billions to dirty energy and nuclear, or give renewables, which have the potential to transform the planet, a chance to compete.

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David Dayen

David Dayen