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Published on November 20th, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan


Steven Chu Drilled (for Nothing) for Longer than Tony Hayward for BP Oil Spill

November 20th, 2011 by  

I was holding out on writing yet another Solyndra story, but looks like I’m giving in. Steven Chu, the U.S. Secretary of Energy and a Nobel Prize winner in physics, was hounded by Republican Congressmen for 5 and a half hours, twice as long as BP’s Tony Hayward was grilled in the midst of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill!

Here’s a representative line from Morgan Griffith, a Republican from Virginia: “I hope you didn’t leave your brains at the door.” What is that supposed to be? Is this a trash-talking basketball game? That’s the way some of these guys seem to treat it. When asked about George Kaiser, a Democratic fundraiser, Chu said he had never heard of him before approving the loan.

“Everybody and their dog at DOE knew who he was and what he was involved in,” Joe Barton of Texas said,.. as if Joe Barton (who apologized to BP for investigations into the BP oil spill) knows what is discussed by staff of the DOE.

solar manufacturing globally

"U.S. solar cell (PV) and module manufacturing market share. Yes, the peak coincides with the ascension of the Gingrich Congress and its efforts to stop clean energy deployment."

Chu’s full prepared statement on the matters of the Solyndra loan is here. Some highlights from that:

Investments in clean energy reached a record $243 billion last year. Solar photovoltaic systems alone represent a global market worth more than $80 billion today. In the coming decades, the clean energy sector is expected to grow by hundreds of billions of dollars. We are in a fierce global race to capture this market.

In the past year and a half, the China Development Bank has offered more than $34 billion in credit lines to China’s solar companies. China is not alone: To strengthen their countries’ competitiveness, governments around the world are providing strong support to their clean energy industries. Germany and Canada operate government-backed clean energy lending programs, and more than 50 countries offer some type of public financing for clean energy projects.

In the United States, Congress established the Section 1703 and 1705 loan guarantee programs as well as the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Program — all of which provide support to cutting-edge clean energy industries that involve technology and market risks. In doing so, Congress appropriated nearly $10 billion to cover potential losses in our total loan portfolio, thereby acknowledging and ensuring that the inherent risks of funding new and innovative technologies were recognized and accounted for in the budget. We appreciate the support the loan programs have received from many members of Congress — including nearly 500 letters to the Department — who have urged us to accelerate our efforts and to fund worthy projects in their states.

Through the loan programs, the Energy Department is supporting 38 clean energy projects that are expected to employ more than 60,000 Americans, generate enough clean electricity to power nearly 3 million homes and displace more than 300 million gallons of gasoline annually. These important investments are helping to make America more competitive in the global clean energy economy.

As you know, the Department has consistently cooperated with the Committee’s investigation, providing more than 186,000 pages of documents, appearing at hearings, and briefing or being interviewed by Committee staff eight times.

As this extensive record has made clear, the loan guarantee to Solyndra was subject to proper, rigorous scrutiny and healthy debate during every phase of the process.

As the Secretary of Energy, the final decisions on Solyndra were mine, and I made them with the best interest of the taxpayer in mind. I want to be clear: over the course of Solyndra’s loan guarantee, I did not make any decision based on political considerations.

My decision to guarantee a loan to Solyndra was based on the analysis of experienced professionals and on the strength of the information they had available to them at the time.

The Solyndra transaction went through more than two years of rigorous technical, financial and legal due diligence, spanning two Administrations, before a loan guarantee was issued. Based on thorough internal and external analysis of both the market and the technology, and extensive review of information provided by Solyndra and others, the Department concluded that Solyndra was poised to compete in the marketplace and had a good prospect of repaying the government’s loan.

Solyndra’s potential was widely recognized outside the Department. Highly sophisticated, professional private investors, after conducting their own reviews, had collectively invested nearly a billion dollars in the company, which was named as one of the world’s “50 Most Innovative Companies” by MIT’s Technology Review in February of 2010.

After highlighting how changes in the market led to Solyndra’s collapse, why the DOE restructured the loan (i.e. to try to achieve maximum payback for taxpayers), and the strength of the loan program overall, Chu closed with this statement: “When it comes to the clean energy race, America faces a simple choice: compete or accept defeat. I believe we can and must compete.

But Republicans holding the hearing had question after question after question to follow up, and then had to repeat them and repeat them and repeat them.

“These questions are going over and over and over,” Chu said at one point. But he wasn’t the only one bored by it all. Check out Fortune editor Dan Primack’s take on it all:

My eyes have glazed over. I’m hungry, dumber than I was this morning and very angry with myself.

Don’t be coy, you know what I’m copping to having done: I spent almost the entire workday watching yet another Congressional hearing on the Solyndra “scandal.”

This is at least the third such hearing, all in a flailing effort by GOP reps to prove that Solyndra wasn’t simply an honest loan gone bad, but rather an example of corruption and self-dealing in the Obama White House. For all the talk about this deal, there still has not yet been any actual evidence — including cherry-picked emails released by the Republican-led committee — that Solyndra received its $535 million government loan because of crony capitalism. And that remains the case, after five hours of testimony fr1om U.S. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu.

More from Think Progress:

Without any evidence of wrongdoing, the Republican-led hearing drove outside observers to tears. “Stop it with the Solyndra nonsense,” Scientific American energy editor David Biello pleaded on Twitter. “Just stop it.”

Image & Caption via Climate Progress

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

  • vern

    Well, I think I gave this site a fair shot – 48hours. While I like many of the informative articles, I’m quite done with reading these politically charged non-articles which essentually attack Republicans, Fox News, etc. Zach, while I applaud your effort to dedicate a site to clean energy, I dislike that you and other writers here allow your politics to shine through so blatently in your articles.

    I AM A DEMOCRAT and I live in CA a very liberal state. I strive to be green and spend much of my free time in green activities and reading many, many green/climate/renewable energy sites.

    What this means is that I run into this political crap all the time. And its anti productive and misguided. I’ve met just as many Democratic politicians that could care less about green (In spite of their lip service to it) as I do Republicans. I also find an amazing number of businessmen(women) who are ‘rich’ and who take big efforts to be green — and these folks are from both political parties.

    Talk the serves to perpetuate separating us into these two groups does NOTHING to help our world get greener. It only serves to fan the fire.

    As my New Years resolution I’m killing off visits to all sites who’s owners bash one side or the other instead of focusing on productive ways to improve the world we live in. There’s already enough crappy, politically charged news in the mainstream — I don’t need to come here to find it.

    I do like many aspects of your site but again I’m done.

    • vern

      One more thing: our government does have a disease that needs to be addressed. The disease is in all parties. It should be addressed but not here. I read separate sites for that kind of dialog.

      Best regards

    • To each their own.

      The fact of the matter is, the GOP harms us tremendously with its anti-environment obsession these days. Follow policy, not just politics, and it’s obvious.


      anyone writing about and caring about clean energy should care about the GOP’s attack on it. and their obsession with protecting the fossil fuel industry’s loot.

      but if it turns you off too much and you can’t just skip past the 1 in 10 articles on such topics, no worries.

      best of luck to you in creating change some other way.

  • Pingback: News Round-Up: November 21, 2011 | Stuart H. Smith()

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  • Ed

    If anyone has any illusion that big oil and coal don’t “own” (or are at least renting) our congressmen then they need to have a brain colonic. How long is it going to take for the American public to wake up and slap these deceitful morons out of office and get representatives that “get it” and will do what is necessary to try and save our cookies??? Since we obviously can’t rely on them we all,individually, we need to do everything that we can to use less dirty energy and/or produce as much clean energy as we can.{This goes for humans everywhere on the planet.}
    Have a great week

    • Anonymous

      Term limits, no retirement. Elected officials have forgotten they are elected to represent the people, not for their own personal benefit.

      • Anonymous


      • Anonymous

        We’ve already got term limits. Representatives serve a two year term, senators a six year term.

        If voters want to send them back for another term they can. I really want my representative and one of my senators to keep serving. No way do I want to replace them.

        Here in CA we have the kind of term limits you’re talking about and it ain’t pretty. A bunch of new people all the time and they end up relying on lobbyists to help them figure stuff out. Better to select a crew of wise people over the years. Just vote out the duds.

        Cut retirement/salaries for elected officials and we’ll see only rich people running for office.

        If you want better people working for you then get busy and get some elected. Less than 12 months to your next opportunity.

    • Anonymous

      So well said! Thanks for chiming in!

  • Zenitbe

    It’s the good o boy approach to politics. Don’t bite the hands that feed you, in this case, corporate masters pull the strings, we need scissors so this bullcrap waste of money on these monkey senators are better spent on compost farming.

    • Anonymous

      Haha, i agree.

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