Published on November 20th, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan12
Steven Chu Drilled (for Nothing) for Longer than Tony Hayward for BP Oil Spill
November 20th, 2011 by Zachary Shahan
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.
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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