Mainstream media, like the New York Times, pointed out that Solyndra failed not because it wasn’t able to make electricity — this was no “cold fusion” chimera — but because cheap Chinese solar panels that use more conventional technologies beat its price point. How did the Chinese get so cheap? Not through innovation — they lag behind the U.S. in solar tech. Not through labor costs, which are insignificant in making solar panels. No, the Chinese got cheaper loans, faster permits and more support from their government for their exports.
The Tea Party storyline ignores the fact that the global solar market is expanding fast — and global solar costs are dropping equally fast. Solar really is the 21st-century equivalent of the previous century’s automotive industry — yet the Tea Party is willing to let America be left behind with coal and oil.
But the other D.C. solar storyline is equally lame. It’s the “we tried to go too fast story,” and the most spectacular example was Friday’s Obama administration decision to postpone issuing new air-quality standards for ozone. But the ozone standard that is being “postponed” wouldn’t have required a single factory to buy a single piece of new equipment for years. What it would have done is signal to markets that America is ready to move from being the global laggard to the middle of the pack in implementing innovation. But that was way too fast for today’s Washington — on either side of the aisle. (more…)