Who should pay to clean up?

Yesterday President Obama visited the Solyndra solar plant in Fremont where 3,0000 people are working to build a solar facility. Obama used the catastrophic oil spill in the gulf as an opportunity to highlight the need for green jobs and to develop alternative energy.

While the administration is currently advocating for alternative energy and being portrayed as a champion of environmental protection, the White House is also being criticized for not acting more aggressively to clean up the spill.

But the government’s job isn’t to provide the resources and technology to fix the oil spill.  That is the responsibility of the oil company. The government’s role is to make sure that there are laws in place that protect the public’s health, the environment, and the public’s pocket book. The government has failed with the oil and coal industry, and continues to do so. These industries have polluted the environment at every stage of their lifecycle, caused loss of life, and asked the public to pay for it. They’ve gotten large public subsidies and in return, provided very little accountability.

Solyndra received $535 million federal loan guarantee  from the Federal Recovery act. It  is one of several companies in Silicon Valley making  CIGS (copper, indium, gallium and selenide) panels, more commonly known as thin-film .  Emerging thin-film technology is very new and largely untested, and some CIGS contain nanomaterials. The environmental and health impacts of the chemicals and materials used in CIGS solar panels aren’t completely understood.

Solyndra and other solar makers should have a plan to recycle their solar panels, prevent pollution, and untended exposures, especially at the end of the panel’s life.   Any solar company without a plan to recover and recycle its panels is not positing itself to clean up a potential mess.  Giving Solyndra a $535 million loan guarantee and not requesting the company to develop a recycling program is setting up the local and state government to pay to recycle every panel that rolls off the Solyndra production line.  

It’s the government’s role to make sure that companies are accountable and have adequate plans to prevent pollution and clean up messes. It’s not the best interest of the taxpayers to structure subsidies so that companies make big profits and the people pay for its pollution.