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First Solar’s Success under Biden’s Renewable Energy Push

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign promised to spend billions of dollars to fight climate change. A big part of this plan focused on renewable energy, like solar power. These initiatives were taken in First Solar’s benefit. First Solar is the largest American company that makes solar panels. After Biden was elected, the company’s fortunes improved significantly. This success continued when supportive laws were passed.

First Solar’s Campaign Contributions

First Solar’s executives, board members, and major investors gave at least $1.5 million to Biden’s 2020 campaign. After he won, the company spent another $2.8 million lobbying Congress and his administration. This was a big change from their position during the Trump administration. At that time, they criticized Trump’s policies, calling them anti-renewable energy.

Inflation Reduction Act

Executives, board members, and major donors to First Solar contributed a minimum of $1.5 million to Biden’s 2020 campaign. After he was elected, the company continued to press Congress and his administration for an extra $2.8 million. This was a significant shift from the company’s stance during the Trump presidency. Back then, they denounced Trump’s policies, labeling them as anti-renewable energy.

First Solar spoke with senior administration officials as part of their lobbying activities. These efforts paid off, as the company benefited greatly from additional environmental spending. The chief executive officer, Mark Widmar, emphasized how the subsidies enabled them to expand their US business. He also compared First Solar’s strategy with that of their Chinese competitors.

First Solar’s Background

First Solar gained attention during Al Gore’s climate change campaign, “An Inconvenient Truth.” The Obama administration supported the company with billions in government-backed loans. During Biden’s presidency, First Solar executives and lobbyists met multiple times with officials, including John Podesta, who managed the environmental parts of the Inflation Reduction Act.

As part of their lobbying efforts, First Solar had important conversations with key government officials. These efforts paid off, as the increased environmental spending benefited the company. CEO Mark Widmar highlighted how the subsidies helped them expand their US operations and compared their strategy to that of their Chinese competitors.

Investors’ Gains and Political Contributions

Major Democratic contributors and other investors in First Solar enjoyed substantial gains as the company’s stock price rose. For example, Farhad “Fred” Ebrahimi became a billionaire from his stake in the company. Ebrahimi and his family had contributed over $1 million to Biden’s campaign.

Democrats’ efforts in renewable energy haven’t always been successful. Republicans criticized Solyndra when it went bankrupt in 2011, despite receiving $500 million in government funding. First Solar also faced scrutiny. When the company’s chairman spoke before the House Oversight Committee, he admitted to taking $2.4 billion in loans under the Obama administration, which led to more criticism. Additional problems arose when a former executive hinted at delays in building a new facility, suggesting in an email that construction would be at risk without government approvals.

First Solar has faced legal challenges, including a $350 million settlement in 2020 for a securities fraud lawsuit. By underreporting the problem, executives kept the company’s stock price up, while some sold significant amounts of their own stock holdings.

Strategic Positioning and Future Implications

Despite these controversies, First Solar’s recent gains highlight the intersection of politics, business, and environmental policy. The company’s success is fueled by substantial political contributions and strategic lobbying, showing the potential rewards for well-connected firms under favorable administrations.

First Solar’s story raises important questions about the influence of political contributions on policy decisions. It also raises questions about the broader implications for renewable energy initiatives. As the company thrives under the Biden administration, the long-term impact of these policies remains uncertain. The Result of the Initiative is yet to be seen.

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