CLOSURE of an Oklahoma wind energy firm invites comparisons to the Solyndra debacle, but those comparisons would be politically motivated rather than reality-checked.
Tulsa-based DMI Industries Inc. is shutting its doors and laying off more than 150 workers because the wind tower manufacturer can't get enough business. Similar firms are closing nationwide because of a slump in orders linked to the failure of Congress to renew a wind energy tax credit.
Solyndra was a California solar panels maker that closed nearly a year ago after sucking up more than $500 million in a federal government-guaranteed loan. A restructuring before Solyndra's bankruptcy filing put private investors ahead of taxpayers.
DMI was a beneficiary of Oklahoma's Quality Jobs Program, which provides tax credits for manufacturers to create jobs in the state. Unlike Solyndra, no money is provided up front. Only after a company certifies that it's hired workers at specified wages can it apply for credits.
This may be seen as splitting hairs, but the distinction is clear: Solyndra was a bad investment but got the money anyway because the Obama administration liked it. That's called crony capitalism. DMI got the money because it applied to participate in the Quality Jobs Programs and met the requirements.
State Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, says DMI's demise (along with the failure of a few other Quality Jobs Program participants over the years) is no reason to end the program. Dank's view is significant because he's an outspoken supporter of ending numerous state tax credits and incentives, a move that's tied to Republican desires to reduce or eliminate the state personal income tax.
The Oklahoman supports extension of the federal wind energy tax credit — for a limited time. As the credit's sunset approaches at year's end, however, layoffs in the industry are common across the country. This comes at a time when wind energy's significance in Oklahoma in increasing: The state ranks eighth in the nation in wind-generation capacity and continues to build on that.