Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Green firm that got $1.46 billion in bailouts announces 2000 layoffs

Doug Ross linked to this Washington Examiner article about First Solar.

Excerpt:

First Solar, a solar energy company that received a $1.46 billion loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, announced today that it will layoff 2,000 workers in the United States and world-wide.

The company will  “indefinitely idle” four production lines in Malaysia and shutter a plant in Germany. “These actions, combined with other personnel reductions in Europe and the U.S., will reduce First Solar’s global workforce by approximately 2,000 positions, about 30 percent of the total,” First Solar announced today.

“After a thorough analysis, it is clear the European market has deteriorated to the extent that our operations there are no longer economically sustainable, and maintaining those operations is not in the best long-term interest of our stakeholders,” said Mike Ahearn, Chairman and Interim CEO of First Solar, in a statement.

In December, First Solar laid off 100 employees at a Santa Clara , Calif., plant. The DOE has committed $1.46 billion to a project in Riverside County, California expected to create 15 permanent jobs and 550 construction jobs.

The Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney reported last month that the Export-Import Bank also subsidizes First Solar, helping the company “to sell solar panels to itself” by having a Canadian solar company “wholly owned” by First Solar by its parent company’s products.

Selling solar panels to a wholly-owned Canadian subsidiary??? YES.

Excerpt:

A heavily subsidized solar company received a U.S. taxpayer loan guarantee to sell solar panels to itself.

[…]First Solar is an Arizona-based manufacturer of solar panels. In 2010, the Obama administration awarded the company $16.3 million to expand its factory in Ohio — a subsidy Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland touted in his failed re-election bid that year.

Five weeks before the 2010 election, Strickland announced more than a million dollars in job training grants to First Solar. The Ohio Department of Development also lent First Solar $5 million, and the state’s Air Quality Development Authority gave the company an additional $10 million loan.

After First Solar pocketed this $17.3 million in government grants and $15 million in government loans, Ex-Im entered the scene.

In September 2011, Ex-Im approved $455.7 million in loan guarantees to subsidize the sale of solar panels to two wind farms in Canada. That means if the wind farm ever defaults, the taxpayers pick up the tab, ensuring First Solar gets paid.

But the buyer, in this case, was First Solar.

A small corporation called St. Clair Solar owned the wind farm and was the Canadian company buying First Solar’s panels. But St. Clair Solar was a wholly owned subsidiary of First Solar. So, basically, First Solar was shipping its own solar panels from Ohio to a solar farm it owned in Canada, and the U.S. taxpayers were subsidizing this “export.”

How did this company get such a huge taxpayer-funded bailout from the Obama administration?

Because, like Solyndra and SolarReserve, etc., First Solar is linked to Democrats.

Excerpt:

First Solar founder and Chairman Michael Ahearn, whom Reuters reported cashed in $68.9 million of his company’s stock last month, has donated $123,650, along with his wife, to the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates during the three most recent cycles, mostly in Arizona.

The solar energy giant, the nation’s biggest, also spent more than $1.5 million lobbying Congress and the Obama administration since 2009 on the stimulus and subsequent green-jobs plans. This included approximately $400,000 paid to the Washington Tax Group, which also represented Solyndra.

If you click through on that article, you can read about how SolarReserve is linked to former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s brother-in-law, Ronald Pelosi and to Tony Podesta,  the brother of John Podesta — who ran Barack Obama’s presidential transition team. This is the energy policy of the Obama administration: stop drilling, stop coal, stop nuclear, stop pipelines, and give taxpayer money to people who can get you elected. All the Democrats do is provide bailouts for Democrat-connected businesses and subsidize exploding Chevy Volts built by overpaid unionized auto workers. That’s it. That’s their plan.

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Another looming debt crisis: law school students racking up $100,000+ in debt

Consider this scary article from the Competitive Enterprise Institute. (H/T Hans)

Excerpt: (links removed)

Federal financial aid policies haveencouraged law students to borrow increasing amounts to attend law school, despite the glut of lawyers (oddly, government policies encourage more people to go to law school, driving up law schooltuition, even as the Obama administration seeks to cut back on vocational education aimed at training the skilled blue-collar workers who are in desperately short supply in much of the country). The result, says law professor Brian Tamanaha, is a “Quickly Exploding Law Graduate Debt Disaster” in which most recent graduates of many law schools will never be able to pay off their staggering student loan debt. At the liberal Balkinization blog, Tamanaha notes that the average student has over $100,000 in debt just from law school at many schools…

[…]As one commenter noted earlier, federal financial aid and student loans have driven up law school tuition and student loan debt: “education loans . . . often have implicit government guarantees,” even those not explicitly backed by the government. As a result, “like the GSE’s, the supply of credit for education loans has continued to expand. So in a way colleges and universities, public and private have been in a bubble akin to the housing bubble. The benefits to the institutions are irresistible and so there is no way they will try to reign in costs and thus tuition. Not as long as students are willing and able to borrow.” When the bubble pops, taxpayers will be on the hook for countless billions of dollars (many graduates already are not repaying their student loans). “Why is college so expensive? A new study points to a disconcerting culprit: financial aid,” notes Paul Kix on page K1 of the March 25 Boston Globe. I and professors and education experts commented earlier on that study at Minding the Campus. Other studies also have concluded that increased federal financial aid, such as student loans, drives up college tuition, and you can find links to some of them here.

[…]When law school graduates are unable to pay off their student loans, lenders will come after their elderly parents who co-signed for the loans.  As the Washington Post notes, “Americans 60 and older still owe about $36 billion in student loans . . . Many have co-signed for loans with their children or grandchildren to help them afford ballooning tuition.”

According to the liberal New York Times, law schools do a woeful job of preparing students to practice law.

Excerpt:

The lesson today — the ins and outs of closing a deal — seems lifted from Corporate Lawyering 101.

“How do you get a merger done?” asks Scott B. Connolly, an attorney.

There is silence from three well-dressed people in their early 20s, sitting at a conference table in a downtown building here last month.

“What steps would you need to take to accomplish a merger?” Mr. Connolly prods.

After a pause, a participant gives it a shot: “You buy all the stock of one company. Is that what you need?”

“That’s a stock acquisition,” Mr. Connolly says. “The question is, when you close a merger, how does that deal get done?”

The answer — draft a certificate of merger and file it with the secretary of state — is part of a crash course in legal training. But the three people taking notes are not students. They are associates at a law firm called Drinker Biddle & Reath, hired to handle corporate transactions. And they have each spent three years and as much as $150,000 for a legal degree.

What they did not get, for all that time and money, was much practical training. Law schools have long emphasized the theoretical over the useful, with classes that are often overstuffed with antiquated distinctions, like the variety of property law in post-feudal England. Professors are rewarded for chin-stroking scholarship, like law review articles with titles like “A Future Foretold: Neo-Aristotelian Praise of Postmodern Legal Theory.”

So, for decades, clients have essentially underwritten the training of new lawyers, paying as much as $300 an hour for the time of associates learning on the job. But the downturn in the economy, and long-running efforts to rethink legal fees, have prompted more and more of those clients to send a simple message to law firms: Teach new hires on your own dime.

“The fundamental issue is that law schools are producing people who are not capable of being counselors,” says Jeffrey W. Carr, the general counsel of FMC Technologies, a Houston company that makes oil drilling equipment. “They are lawyers in the sense that they have law degrees, but they aren’t ready to be a provider of services.”

[…]Consider, for instance, Contracts, a first-year staple. It is one of many that originated in the Langdell era and endures today. In it, students will typically encounter such classics as Hadley v. Baxendale, an 1854 dispute about financial damages caused by the late delivery of a crankshaft to a British miller.

Here is what students will rarely encounter in Contracts: actual contracts, the sort that lawyers need to draft and file. Likewise, Criminal Procedure class is normally filled with case studies about common law crimes — like murder and theft — but hardly mentions plea bargaining, even though a vast majority of criminal cases are resolved by that method.

[…]“We should be teaching what is really going on in the legal system,” says Edward L. Rubin, a professor and former dean at the Vanderbilt Law School, “not what was going on in the 1870s, when much of the legal curriculum was put in place.”

Not only that, but the marketplace is saturated with lawyers already. When supply increases and demand decreases, prices fall. The new batch of lawyers are not going to be able to command the same salaries as the old batch.

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Is Obama telling the truth about U.S. oil reserves?

The Department of Energy's own figures

The Department of Energy’s own figures

Investors Business Daily explains. (H/T Master Resource)

Excerpt:

When he was running for the Oval Office four years ago amid $4-a-gallon gasoline prices, then-Sen. Barack Obama dismissed the idea of expanded oil production as a way to relieve the pain at the pump.

“Even if you opened up every square inch of our land and our coasts to drilling,” he said. “America still has only 3% of the world’s oil reserves.” Which meant, he said, that the U.S. couldn’t affect global oil prices.

It’s the same rhetoric President Obama is using now, as gas prices hit $4 again, except now he puts the figure at 2%.

“With only 2% of the world’s oil reserves, we can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices,” he said. “Not when we consume 20% of the world’s oil.”

The claim makes it appear as though the U.S. is an oil-barren nation, perpetually dependent on foreign oil and high prices unless we can cut our own use and develop alternative energy sources like algae.

But the figure Obama uses — proved oil reserves — vastly undercounts how much oil the U.S. actually contains. In fact, far from being oil-poor, the country is awash in vast quantities — enough to meet all the country’s oil needs for hundreds of years.

The U.S. has 22.3 billion barrels of proved reserves, a little less than 2% of the entire world’s proved reserves, according to the Energy Information Administration. But as the EIA explains, proved reserves “are a small subset of recoverable resources,” because they only count oil that companies are currently drilling for in existing fields.

When you look at the whole picture, it turns out that there are vast supplies of oil in the U.S., according to various government reports. Among them:

At least 86 billion barrels of oil in the Outer Continental Shelf yet to be discovered, according to the government’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

About 24 billion barrels in shale deposits in the lower 48 states, according to EIA.

Up to 2 billion barrels of oil in shale deposits in Alaska’s North Slope, says the U.S. Geological Survey.

Up to 12 billion barrels in ANWR, according to the USGS.

As much as 19 billion barrels in the Utah tar sands, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

Then, there’s the massive Green River Formation in Wyoming, which according to the USGS contains a stunning 1.4 trillion barrels of oil shale — a type of oil released from sedimentary rock after it’s heated.

[…]All told, the U.S. has access to 400 billion barrels of crude that could be recovered using existing drilling technologies, according to a 2006 Energy Department report.

When you include oil shale, the U.S. has 1.4 trillion barrels of technically recoverable oil, according to the Institute for Energy Research, enough to meet all U.S. oil needs for about the next 200 years, without any imports.

Please share this article, because it is unlikely that Obama’s Solyndra-supporting buddies in the mainstream media will report the facts on domestic energy production.

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Production of oil, gas and coal on federal lands sinks to 9-year low

Obama claims that production of oil, gas and coal is up since he took office. It’s true that areas under state control are producing more, but what about energy production on federal lands? That’s the part of the country that Obama is responsible for.

Let’s see what two recent studies from the Energy Information Administration and the Institute for Energy Research found.

Excerpt:

The updated EIA report revealed a 12 percent decline in production for coal, oil, and natural gas on federal and Indian lands from fiscal 2003 through fiscal 2011.

During this same period, production on state and private lands has increased, boosting overall production numbers for the United States. That’s a point even President Obama will acknowledge: “Under my Administration, domestic oil and natural gas production is up,” he said upon announcing his rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Obama is correct. He just can’t rightfully claim the credit, since the vast majority of America’s new oil and gas production is happening on private lands in states like North Dakota, Alaska and Texas.

The administration, meanwhile, has also taken several steps to limit production…

  • Withdrew areas offered for 77 oil and gas leases in Utah that could cost American taxpayers millions in lost lease bids, production royalties, new jobs and the energy needed to offset rising imports of oil and natural gas.
  • Cancelled lease sales in the Western Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic coast and delayed exploration off the coast of Alaska and kept other resource-rich areas off-limits.
  • Finalized rules, first announced by Secretary Salazar on January 6, 2010, to establish more government hurdles to onshore oil and natural gas production on federal lands.
  • Withdrew 61 oil and natural gas leases in Montana as part of a lawsuit settlement over climate change.

“The big picture is clear that government policies undertaken by the Obama administration have produced a significant decline in offshore oil production on federal lands in fiscal year 2011,” the Institute for Energy Research said in response to last week’s updated EIA analysis. “That is certainly not a way to increase domestic production of oil and keep oil and thus gasoline prices in check.”

While it was waiting for EIA to update its numbers, the Institute for Energy Research conducted its own analysis of Department of Interior data in February. It came to the same conclusion: “Production on federal lands is down, while production on state and private lands is up.”

That’s the real story behind Obama’s claims about higher energy production. He’s doing his best to block energy production in the areas under his control. His energy plan is Solyndra, Solyndra, Solyndra – paying off his rich Democrat buddies with taxpayer money.

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Canada’s state run broadcaster fights back against probe of finances

From the Toronto Sun. (H/T Andrew)

Excerpt:

The CBC — the mega-corporation that is demanding yet another $1.1-billion bailout from taxpayers this year, just like it demanded a $1.1-billion bailout from us last year — is panicking.

For weeks it’s been sweating about a parliamentary investigation into its bad behaviour, including its violation of the Access to Information law. That’s an important law to allow taxpayers to scrutinize how government agencies spend our money.

The non-partisan information commissioner has given the CBC a grade of “F” for its secrecy — but it still violates her order for it to disclose the truth. It’s spending millions in legal expenses to hide how it’s spending billions in other expenses.

This bad behaviour was coming to a head last week when Parliament was going to turn over some rocks and see what was going to go scurrying.

And so it panicked.

On the eve of the Parliamentary inquiry, it used part of its $1.1 billion — money that is supposed to go to journalism — to launch a crazy, personal attack on the president of Quebecor and QMI Agency, Pierre Karl Peladeau, one of Canada’s most successful private-sector media entrepreneurs.

Unlike the CBC, Peladeau built his company honestly and with his own efforts. He took a newspaper company started by his father, Pierre Peladeau, and turned it into Quebec’s most successful media company, Quebecor — and then joined with English-Canada’s biggest newspaper company, Sun Media Corp. And then he built the Sun News Network.

All without a billion-dollar-a-year bailout.

And so last week, the night before Peladeau’s testimony to Parliament, the CBC freaked out.

In an unprecedented move, it issued what can only be called an attack ad against Peladeau. It wasn’t a news story. It was a false and defamatory attack on our company, as vengeance for our questions about how the CBC spends taxpayer money.

If any other government department had done something like this, whoever responsible would be fired immediately. It wasn’t just unprofessional. It wasn’t just outside of its mandate of what it is given its government money for. It was an attempt to destroy a private-sector competitor.

Why is this interesting? Because it shows what happens when the government oversteps its bounds and starts to compete with the private sector in areas that are totally unrelated to its enumerated powers and specific responsibilities. Not only will you find corruption in nationalized corporations, but massive waste as well. Private sector companies face competitive pressures that government monopolies do not face. That forces them to root out corruption and waste, because there is always the firm next door looking to serve the customer better – with higher quality and at a lower cost.

We need to be very careful about handing money to people in government who simply don’t care as much about the needs of their customers. Do you think that the CBC could ever favor tax cuts or spending cuts or even more choices for taxpayers? Of course not. They have to tell people whatever causes them to vote for bigger government, because that’s where their money comes from.

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