Evergreen Solar, R.I.P.

The editorial obituaries for Evergreen Solar, which filed for bankruptcy protection this week, varied depending on the politics of the newspaper.

The Boston Herald said the bankruptcy means the state’s Evergreen Solar experiment (millions of dollars in grants, tax breaks, etc.) is now officially a staggering failure. The tabloid laid the blame at the feet of Gov. Deval Patrick. “This was a sweetheart deal for a single company that had never demonstrated the ability to make money,” the Herald editorial said.

A Wall Street Journal editorial dismissed suggestions by the Patrick administration that Evergreen failed because the federal government didn’t do enough for the solar industry here. “As Evergreen’s bankruptcy shows, the real story is that the government-as-investor model isn’t going to lead the US back to prosperity,” said the WSJ.

The Boston Globe, in its editorial, adopted a more nuanced approach. It said the Evergreen failure was a wake-up call for a nation that is having its lunch eaten by foreign competitors in the green energy field. “What gave the state’s investment in Evergreen Solar its air of futility wasn’t the folly of developing solar energy technology in Massachusetts; it was the idea that little Massachusetts, with its handful of millions in economic development resources, could compete against China itself,” the paper said.

Opinions aside, the facts about Evergreen Solar are fairly straightforward. The company developed a technology using less polysilicon than its competitors, which gave it an edge when this raw material cost $400 a kilogram. But when the price of polysilicon plummeted to $55 a kilogram, the company was left with a higher-cost manufacturing process that couldn’t compete against the cheap labor, cheap land, and easy capital available in China.

Massachusetts, as well as a host of  private investors, bet on the wrong company and Evergreen bet on the wrong technology. Neither bet paid off. The debate about whether government should be making such bets goes on.

                                                                                                                                                             –BRUCE MOHL

BEACON HILL

The State Ethics Commission leveled conflict of interest charges against the head of a Merrimack Valley special education agency and a lobbyist who had a lucrative contract with the agency but apparently performed no work.  

Gov. Deval Patrick reads from his memoir at a Pittsfield event and says the time for any political payback is “maybe later.” Patrick’s book, reviewed in Globe by CommonWealth’s Michael Jonas, contained no detailed accounts about his battles at the State House.

Peter Gelzinis backs Parole Board chariman Josh Wall and rips the Governor’s Council, which roughed up Wall earlier this week. Gelzinis singles out Chris Iannella for what Rick Perry would call ugly treatment, writing, “Change is to a hack what sunlight is to a vampire.” The Herald’s editorial board piles on.

Lt. Gov. Tim Murray sees an “emerging consensus” on casino gambling legislation.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Weymouth officials feel they’ve exhausted all other options so they’ve gone the shame route by posting the names of nearly 200 property owners with delinquent taxes totaling $1.4 million not including interest and penalty.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Keller@Large doesn’t begrudge President Obama’s vacation on Martha’s Vineyard and says we’re all better off with a president recharged after some quality down time with his family. The Cape Cod Times reports on the president’s arrival at the Coast Guard Air Station on the Cape. Criticizing the presidential vacation, it turns out, is nothing new.

“The president needs to fight back,” says US Rep. Jim McGovern, on NECN.

The Obama administration plans to prioritize deportation of criminals, giving a reprieve to illegal immigrants facing routine deportation proceedings.

ELECTION 2012

Despite the presence of a vulnerable Democratic incumbent, the Republican Party appears determined to lose the presidential election, according to Charlie Cook of the Cook Report. Talking Points Memo feels the same way.

Elizabeth Warren’s US Senate exploratory committee captures the attention of The Washington Post. Warren is the next best thing to Deval Patrick, the Cook Report tells The Christian Science Monitor.

How low can political ads go? The Austin Chronicle and a Ron Paul supporter blaze the way.

Michele Bachmann is waving away the gay when it comes to the focus of her campaign rhetoric, the Globe reports.

FISHING

Coast Guard inspectors found a hidden compartment on a 94-foot scallop boat owned by the man who runs New Bedford’s largest fishing fleet. While the compartment was empty, Coast Guard officials told the Standard-Times the restricted catch limit of 18,000 pounds of scallops pushes fishermen to try to carry undetected loads to sell to fish markets.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Markets tank — again.

The Boston law firm Bingham McCutchen lost its bid to preempt a malpractice lawsuit by Frank McCourt.

EDUCATION

UMass President Robert Caret tells Beacon Hill lawmakers that if they want a world-class state university, they have to find some more funding.

The Berkshire Eagle says the state’s anti-bullying law is falling short and that the Berkshires needs to take stronger measures against bullying in schools.

The Salem School Committee awards a $170,000 a year, two-year contract to its new school superintendent, making him the municipality’s highest paid employee, the Salem News reports.

Washington, DC, moves toward a “charter-centric” public school system.

HEALTH CARE

WBUR health reporter Rachel Zimmerman, writing on the station’s new Healthcare Savvy blog designed for patients to share and compare health care costs, shares her adventures in comparison shopping for a pelvic ultrasound. She finds the range from $516 at a freestanding facility to $2,847 at Mass. General. Via Not Running a Hospital. CommonWealth spotlighted the issue of medical imaging costs in last year’s summer issue.

A Stanford internist could be the next president of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the Globe reports.

TRANSPORTATION

MBTA riders may grouse about delays from small trash fires and power outages but they’ll never be forced to wait like some UMass bus riders while a herd of cows blocks the road in Belchertown. Via Universal Hub.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Massasoit Community College in Brockton is ready to flip the switch on a new solar array, purchased with federal stimulus money, that will save the school annually about $55,000 in energy costs.

The Cape Cod National Seashore gets push back on the plan to tear down a group of Chatham cottages on an eroding island.
  
CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Whitey Bulger girlfriend Catherine Greig pleads not guilty to charges of harboring a fugitive, and her lawyer says she will not cooperate with prosecutors in the case.

Police around the country try to figure out what to do about flash mobs without infringing on civil liberties.

A female employee of the Essex County Sheriff’s Department is charged with having sex with a male inmate, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

A former teacher aide in Woburn is sentenced to five years in state prison after pleading guilty to four counts of rape and abuse of a 13-year-old female student. The Eagle-Tribune reported that prosecutors described the female student as a “willing participant.”

A Roslindale teen who was recently gunned down along with his mother had recently appeared at a grand jury where prosecutors wanted him to testify about a recent murder in the neighborhood, the Globe reports.

Harvey Silverglate offers a muscular defense of the Albert Arroyo verdict.

ODDS & ENDS

Cliff divers plan to substitute Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art for a cliff this weekend, WBUR reports.

Sports diplomacy sputters as a basketball game between Georgetown University and China’s Bayi Rockets turns into a brawl. See the video.