Luck of O'bama: Another CEO Bites the Dust

John Ransom
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Posted: Oct 26, 2011 12:01 AM

If you’ve had anything to do with Obama from a bumper sticker to bailouts, you might want to turn a circle three times in your tracks while you cross yourself. Or tack a horseshoe above your door. Or do a novena to Saint Jude.

Because the president is more than just a bad executive, he’s star-crossed. From union bosses, to Chicago, to CEOs, to millionaires, to billionaires, homeowners and healthcare practitioners, everyone involved with him is feeling hexed.      

The hasty departure of First Solar CEO Robert Gillette, an Obama favorite, sent share prices for the publicly-traded “green” energy company tumbling 25 percent on Tuesday, on general jitters that another green rat may be abandoning another solar-powered sinking ship.

The company, whose stock has traded as high as $311 in May of 2008, was trading at $43.27 in after hours on Tuesday.   

First Solar was one of the bigger benefactors of Obama’s Cash-by-Suckers program designed to, um…invest?- no, that’s not right; to support?- no, that’s not right either;  designed to waste taxpayers' money on more solar crap that doesn’t work, won’t pay and can’t be justified financially or scientifically.

First Solar Stock Chart

First Solar Stock Chart by YCharts

To make it easy on my Democrat friends, First Solar got the financial equivalent of four (4) Solyndra-type deals in September.    

First Solar received $2 billion worth of loan guarantees on projects in California in the waning days of the controversial Department of Energy’s loan program. The company then sold the projects to other, better-connected companies within hours of getting the guarantees.

And when I say better connected, I’m not talking transmission lines. 

Which other companies you ask?

GE and NextEra Energy.

You might remember them because the executives from GE and NextEra sit on Obama’s jobs council.

“Lew Hay is CEO of NextEra Energy” wrote The Street.com at the time of the deal, “and sits on the [President’s jobs] council along with Jeff Immelt, the head of General Electric, the council's leader. And sure enough, in late September, NextEra and GE Energy Financial Services got together to jointly acquire the Desert Sunlight solar project from First Solar.”

Who said that the $8 million worth of lobbying expenses NextEra spent from 2008 to 2011 wasn’t worth it?

You got it all wrong. You have to think of that lobbying money as a loan application fee.  

The reason why the First Solar deal is so sweet is that NextEra already owes $22 billion with only $300 million left in the bank.

Gillette’s departure from First Solar hasn’t helped the troubled solar industry shake the feeling that the industry has a rendezvous with bankruptcy, in the same way that Obama has a rendezvous with the ballot box. But don’t worry, GE will be there to pick up the leftover scraps.

This is what happens when your president makes “start-up” investments in companies that are neither start ups, nor in need of investment.  And it’s also what happens when your CEO sells your government-guaranteed projects to your biggest competitors.

Really: I’m not making that up.

Two weeks after making the deal with First Solar, GE announced it would compete with First Solar in thin-film solar manufacturing.

“General Electric Co., the world’s biggest maker of power-generating equipment,” reported Bloomberg-Businessweek, “said it will produce thin-film solar panels that convert at least 14 percent of the energy in sunlight into electricity and may surpass products offered by First Solar Inc. When a new plant in Colorado reaches full capacity of 400 megawatts a year, efficiency will be above 14 percent, Danielle Merfeld, the Fairfield, Connecticut-based company’s solar product line leader, said today in an interview. Production will begin next year and initial shipments are expected in 2013. She didn’t say when the facility will reach full capacity or how much the panels will cost.”

No wonder Gillette left. Not so smart. Or maybe just part of the Obama hex. 

“The long-anticipated move is the centerpiece of a $600 million investment that aims to catapult GE to the top of the solar industry,” says Smartplanet.com “and repeat the success it had scaling up its wind business. It also puts GE on the hunt to overtake market leader First Solar, which uses the same semiconductor material in its panels.”

With a billion dollar assist from the Department of Energy.

Yep.

Occupy that.

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