We've written extensively here at Scaling Green about the enormous, taxpayer-funded subsidies (and other forms of corporate welfare) the fossil fuel industries have received over the years. We've also pointed to reports demonstrating that support for fossil fuels has far outpaced support for clean energy. Why has this been the case? In part, it's because of enormous political clout, greased by large-scale campaign contributions, wielded by the fossil fuel industries. For instance, the Checks and Balances Project noted that "48 senators who have received a total of $21 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry" voted to keep Big Oil on the taxpayer dole, while 52 senators who received a fraction of that money from Big Oil voted the other way. Coincidence? We think not.
Which brings us to yesterday's Wall Street Journal article about how one solar company, BrightSource Energy, Inc., received a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the federal government "after an intense push in early 2011 that included hiring a former chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden to lobby the administration." There's no proof of any wrongdoing offered in this article, just speculation (the reporters even manage to work the Solyndra non-scandal into their story, somehow) and vague, circumstantial "smoke." As for whether that smoke indicates a "fire," it's telling that the Department of Energy "said it chose BrightSource, whose solar power plant in California continues to move ahead, based on the project's merits," and that the entire issue of the loan guarantees has become fodder for political attacks - so far, with no evidence that anyone did anything wrong - in a presidential election year. Again, we find it hard to believe that this is a coincidence.
Perhaps more troubling is that an article like this, focused exclusively on the solar industry, appeared in a newspaper which has proven over and over again that it's a big booster of fossil fuels, and a major detractor when it comes to clean energy. In this particular article, for instance, it seems to us that "fair and balanced" coverage of the issue at hand - the possibility of political connections (and/or political considerations) being leveraged to benefit a well-connected company - would also mention the fact that the oil, natural gas and coal industries have received orders of magnitude greater government support (of all kinds) than clean energy, and that much of this support has flowed directly from the tremendous political clout the fossil fuel companies wield - clout that is far, far greater than anything the solar industry can even dream of - in Washington, DC.
In the future, it would be great to see the Wall Street Journal digging into the nexus between oil, coal, and natural gas money on the one hand, and the enormous benefits received by those industries on the other. But for now, apparently, the Wall Street Journal appears to prefer ignoring the enormous elephant in the middle of the room (the power of Big Oil, Big Coal, etc.), while focusing on the tiny mouse in the corner (the relatively miniscule political clout of the solar industry).