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President Barack Obama tours the Solyndra solar panel company with Executive VP of Engineering Ben Bierman May 26, 2010 in Fremont, California.
Hailed as one of the finest examples of the green technology revolution, the Fremont-based solar company Solyndra had bright prospects when it began operations in 2005. Its innovative solar panel design and potential to create thousands of jobs enabled the company to score a handsome $535 million federal loan under President Obama’s green energy program, and it seemed that money would ensure the firm’s development for years to come. But last week, Solyndra suddenly fired 1,100 workers and declared bankruptcy, and this morning officials from the FBI and DOE raided the company’s buildings for undisclosed reasons. Though Solyndra’s spokesperson maintained that he wasn’t aware of the reason for the raid, details are emerging that suggest federal officials had been concerned about the risk of the loan for some time in light of the DOE’s recent restructuring of its deal with the company. More troubling questions are being raised over whether the political influence wielded by one of President Obama’s campaign “bundlers,” who owns a portion of Solyndra, may have contributed to the company’s selection as the administration’s first loan guarantee recipient. In contrast to the vigorous denials of unfair procedure by the DOE, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) articulated this growing sentiment when he asked "How did this company, without maybe the best economic plan, all of a sudden get to the head of the line?," and vowed to get to the bottom of the matter. What will be uncovered in the FBI’s raid? What does this mean for the credibility of Obama’s green energy program, and the “green revolution” in general?
Ronnie Greene, senior environment reporter, Center for Public Integrity