Obama Officials Royally Lambasted At Solyndra Hearing
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Obama administration officials on Wednesday defended a $528 million loan to a solar-panel company that went bankrupt this month, claiming the firm fell victim to global economic trends but that federal investment in alternative energy must continue.
The testimony came as Republican and Democratic lawmakers raised sharp questions about the decision that ultimately left taxpayers on the hook for millions, and as newly released emails show administration officials were raising doubts about the loan proposal to Solyndra months before it was finalized.
Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., said the program was “shrouded in secrecy and uncertainty,” questioning whether the loan represented “one bad bet” or the “tip of the iceberg.”
Jeffrey Zients, deputy director of the White House budget office, acknowledged that Solyndra’s bankruptcy will “limit the government’s recovery of funds.” He called the outcome “very unfortunate.”
But at a hearing Wednesday, he said administration officials provided a “thorough examination and analysis” of the loan proposal and said a “challenging global solar market” has made business harder for companies like Solyndra.
Jonathan Silver, director of the Energy Department’s energy loan office, also said a combination of factors — namely China flooding the marketplace with cheap solar panels and the European buying market tightening as a result of their economic troubles — has caused solar-cell prices to plummet.
“These changes were particularly damaging to Solyndra,” he said.
Silver said Solyndra’s projects were considered “advanced” dating back to 2008. “In 2009, Solyndra appeared to be well-positioned to compete and succeed in the global marketplace,” Silver said.
But emails released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee show that the relevant credit committee decided “not to engage in further discussions with Solyndra” in the final days of the Bush administration. After the change in administration, officials restarted the loan review process for Solyndra.
“A half a billion dollars that was not supported in January under the Bush administration was … conditionally recommended in March,” Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, pointed out.
Asked whether political influence played a role in the loan being approved, Silver said, “I don’t believe so