President Obama visited solar panel manufacturer Solyndra last year, gave the Fremont company $500 million in loan guarantees and touted it as a perfect example of how to create green jobs. But the company abruptly closed its doors this week, throwing 1,100 employees out of work and raising questions about the vitality of the “green jobs” economy.

Harley Shaiken, professor of geography and director of the Center for Latin American Studies at UC Berkeley, specializing in labor relations
Dana Hull, business reporter covering energy and clean technology for the San Jose Mercury News
Jesse Jenkins, director of energy and climate policy at The Breakthrough Institute
David Henderson, research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University

  • Douglas

    The “Green Economy” is an oxymoron. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being greenest, the best anyone in this culture could ever achieve is probably no more than 3 or 4. The 10 would be a hunter/gatherer.

  • William

    like cars, the feds need to make so that it makes sense to produce the solar panels in this country and not overseas.  how about import taxes?

  • timholton

    Kudos to Mr Chaiken for confronting Mr Henderson’s free market utopianism, which is the cruelest delusion of our age. And I say this as a businessman. Our economic and environmental crises are the result of rampant greed, predatory commercial and labor practices and carelessness toward our well-being and real wealth that have been promoted by free market ideology. Nothing could be more obvious from  history than the fact that enterprise cannot serve society purely through its narrow, self-interested drive for short-term profit. Henderson’s defense is unpersuasive: his argument is ideological, not historical. That our educational system still produces ideologues who were never taught to how read history except through an ideological lens is embarrassing. And in this day and age, with the world in this condition, that professional scholars would argue without shame that the CURE for the global problems we face is LESS restraint on the narrow, private, self-interested ambitions of corporations is appalling. It simply demonstrates the insularity offered by schools like Stanford, and the fatal grip of free market fundamentalism on our survival as a species.

  • Greg Smestad

    I have been a reviewer for the Dept. of Energy and can tell you that they do not have bureaucrats picking winners. They do peer (merit) review using experts in the field and they have a portfolio of supported companies and universities that spreads the risk across technologies, approaches and regions of the U.S. Listen (wav file) to what DOE program manager Ramesh said at Intersolar this summer in San Francisco:

    There are many ways besides the Loan Guarantee program that the DOE is supporting research and innovation in Solar and Renewable Energy. At the same time the Solyndra story broke, the DOE was making awards to other companies through a variety of programs and mechanisms based on peer (merit) review:

    September 01, 2011 –  Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced more than $145 million for projects to help shape the next generation of solar energy technologies. A full list here:

    More information on the DOE review process can be learned here:

    An August 12, 2011 editorial in the journal Science by National Science Foundation director Subra Suresh highlighted the importance of peer review in the process and described an international meeting (global Merit Review Summit) to be held May 2012 in Washington D.C. and lead by NSF.

    The DOE Loan Guarantee site is at:

    More information about solar energy and the companies involved in it internationally can be learned here:


  • Sox

    It is well known, or should be, that the biggest enemies of capitalism are businesspeople. Adam Smith’s ‘Wealth of Nations’ does not contain a single word of praise for businesspeople. They hate competition with a passion, it is therefore not surprising they are quick to lobby for taxpayer-funded subsidies and grants for business models which, in the open market, would fail. Sadly, governments are too quick and easy to support them by looting the hapless taxpayer.

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