A Costly Solar Flame-Out

Federal stimulus efforts to encourage “green energy” businesses took a shot to the chops today when Solyndra, a California solar energy company, declared that it will file for bankruptcy protection.

Solyndra had received $535 million in federal loan guarantees and was one of 40 concerns that was supported by a Department of Energy program designed to encourage green energy projects.  Today, however, the company suspended its manufacturing operations and laid off more than 1,000 workers.

It is not clear how much money the federal government will lose as a result of its support of Solyndra, and some no doubt will argue that such losses, whatever they may be, are simply a necessary cost of trying to develop “green energy” alternatives in the United States.  For others, however, Solyndra’s failure is a sobering lesson that even significant federal support doesn’t mean much if a company cannot hold its own in the rough and tumble world of the global economy.  In this instance, Solyndra apparently couldn’t compete with foreign manufacturers who sold comparable products at cheaper prices.  This story also raises more fundamental questions:  why should the federal government be supporting certain companies and industries at all, and when they do who is deciding whether the investment of our tax dollars has a prayer of earning a meaningful return?


The Message In An App’s Popularity

What does it mean when an “app” is popular?  Does it convey a deep message about social trends?  Or, does it only indicate that some iPhone and iPad nerds liked the concept, or the price, or having a hot new “app” to yak endlessly about?

It may be worth asking that question, because the “Obama Clock” app has quickly shot to the top of the “app” charts.  The “Obama Clock” app includes a running countdown, in days, hours, minutes, and seconds, to the next presidential inauguration.  It also provides updated information on President Obama’s approval rating, the unemployment rate, the per-gallon cost of gasoline, and movement in a housing price index.  The “Obama Clock” app is at the very top of the “reference” app sales — where it competes with the likes of the world atlas and other informational apps — and is in the top 50 apps overall.

It probably isn’t a good sign for the President that the “Obama Clock” app has done so well.  It’s not like the information reported in the updates is good news that reflects well on his performance.  Still, I wouldn’t read too much into the app’s popularity.  A stampede of purchases by conservative iPhone users — the app costs only 99 cents — could easily skew the results.  And the President and his reelection team can take comfort in the fact that the “Obama Clock” app still trails SPY mouse, Angry Birds, and Fruit Ninja.  If the President were up against SPY mouse in November 2012, he might have more cause for immediate concern.

Let The Games Begin!

On Saturday, a bit before noon, the Ohio State Buckeyes football team will take the field for the first game of the 2011 season.  When The Best Damn Band In The Land marches down the ramp to the cheers of more than 100,000 fans, it will mark the end of what has seemed like the longest off-season in college football history.  I’ll be thrilled when that happens, and I’m confident that countless other members of Buckeye Nation agree with that heartfelt sentiment.

I’ll have a bit more to say about the 2011 version of the Buckeyes later.  For now, I just want to say how wonderful it will be to focus on what happens on the field once again.  I’m ready to get seriously into the minutiae of college football and the strangeness of talking about the Legends and Leaders divisions of the Big Ten.  (Let’s see . . . which one is Ohio State in, again?) I want to talk to my buddies about the freshman phenom, the senior who is under-performing, the stud defensive lineman, and the safety who hits like a ton of bricks.  I want to debate play-calling and controversial penalties.  I want to focus on the fact that Nebraska is now part of the Big Ten, and argue about who should be ranked number one.  Those are the things that make college football the greatest sport of all — not the off-the-field noise and controversy.

I say, let the games begin!