Erika Johnsen

...Really? Really? Does reality not even faze these people? Are President Obama's robust ideologies actually unassailable?

The Obama administration on Thursday identified 17 sites in six Western states as prime candidates for solar energy projects on public lands, continuing a push for solar power despite the high-profile bankruptcy of a solar panel maker that received a half-billion dollar federal loan.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the latest "Solar Energy Zones" refine and improve on a draft released in December that identified two dozen areas in California, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona.

Five sites in Nevada, four in Colorado, three in Utah, two each in California and Arizona, and one in New Mexico were identified as ideal for solar development.

Astounding. The President and his team of green, leftist, big-government zealots learned absolutely nothing from the Solyndra debacle, and they're not even a little bit ashamed of it. They are going to unabashedly continue to distribute other people's money where they see fit and create the new green society of the future even if they have to tank the entire economy to do it.

If solar energy is really the way of the future, why does the government need to subsidize it? Why did Solyndra fail spectacularly, even with federal help? Why is the government manipulating money and innovation toward the solar industry, instead of unleashing it so we can progress toward new alternative technologies that could actually be worthwhile? Does anybody else feel like they're taking crazy pills?

But it gets more outrageous.

The Bureau of Land Management has done "a commendable job permitting solar power projects over the last two years," he [Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association] said. "We look forward to engaging with BLM and other stakeholders in this process to continue that momentum and ensure the industry's perspective is heard." ...

Salazar and other officials said the plan aims to reduce conflicts and delays in approving solar projects, by identifying areas that have been "pre-screened" to show they are near transmission sites and have few if any environmental conflicts. ...

None of the seven sites had attracted significant interest from investors and either had looming environmental conflicts or were far away from transmission lines, Hayes said, adding that he is confident the remaining 17 projects will be attractive to utilities and other developers.

Woah, woah, woah. First of all, let me tell you a little something about the BLM. The federal government owns almost one-third of the surface area of the United States, but the feds are a demonstrably terrible steward of the environment (and don't even get me started on the opportunity costs here). The BLM, only one of the four agencies responsible for adminstrating most public land, estimated a deferred maintenance backlog of between $13.5 billion and $19.9 billion for fiscal 2010 alone. 'Deferred maintenance backlog' translates into often severe environmental degradation. Bureaucracy does not beget environmental quality, and the notion that only the federal government can protect the wilderness is completely false. So, in a nutshell, putting your faith in the less-than-august wisdom of the BLM is just a bad idea.

Secondly, the Interior Department is busily approving permits for solar projects (which have proven little more than a detriment to the economy) and simultaneously denying most drilling permits (while the economies of energy-rich areas languish). Unmitigated gall, thy name is Salazar.

Thirdly, "none of the seven sites had attracted significant interest from investors." ...No red flags? None? If private businesses don't expect to make a profit out of these ventures, it's malfeasance to expect that the much less efficently managed taxpayer dime could make a buck.

This will not end well for America.

Update: Speaking of Solyndra, DOE Secretary Steven Chu has finally committed to testifying. The statement from Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-FL):

“We appreciate Secretary Chu making himself available and look forward to hearing his testimony on DOE’s involvement with the half-billion dollar loan to Solyndra. We hope he will finally provide answers about why DOE consciously ignored the direct warnings from their own experts that Solyndra was doomed to fail, and granted the loan to Solyndra. We are also interested in why Secretary Chu and the Energy Department, at a time when Solyndra was fresh out of cash, still went ahead and restructured Solyndra’s loan in violation of the plain letter of the law. Dr. Chu’s testimony is an important piece of the overall Solyndra puzzle as we seek answers on why taxpayers are now on the hook for a half billion dollars.”

Comforting. Really makes you want to invest some more public money in solar projects, doesn't it?


Erika Johnsen

Erika Johnsen is a Web Editor for Townhall.com and Townhall Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @erikajohnsen.