The bankruptcy filing by solar panel manufacturer Solyndra is grist for many controversies. While some of them are narrowly political, others involve legitimate policy questions that deserve a full airing. It's fair to ask, for example, why the government is subsidizing alternate energy sources in the first place. Shouldn't that be better left to the free market?
As it happens, the Obama administration is not the first to have the idea of giving the economy a boost by helping out a promising new energy source. To the contrary, energy subsidies have been a constant in American history, literally going back to the country's earliest days, and have been crucial in America's overall economic development.