House Republicans Look To End Solyndra Loan Program

Sep 22, 2011 6:35pm
gty solar manufacturer solyndra jp 110916 wblog House Republicans Look To End Solyndra Loan Program

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In an attempt to win support from the 48 House Republicans who voted against the stalled stop-gap funding bill Wednesday night, the House Republican leadership is considering slashing the remaining $100 million from the loan program that granted a $535 million loan guarantee to the now-bankrupt Solyndra solar company.

GOP aides said the Department of Energy loan program cuts would help offset disaster relief funding. The House is expected to vote on the tweaked continuing resolution Thursday evening.

Earlier, at a House Oversight Committee hearing, the loan program was blasted by Republicans for failing to create the jobs President Obama claimed it would when he promoted the Recovery Act program in 2009.

“Three years and billions of taxpayer dollars later, the American people have received little return on the president’s signature investment,” Issa said at the hearing.

The Republican committee members released a report during the hearing that claimed the $41.7 billion allocated to green initiatives as part of the 2009 Recovery Act “has done little to create jobs or speed recovery.”

“In fact,” the report noted, “by many accounts it has destroyed jobs. This is a dangerous strategy that will drastically increase the price consumers pay for energy, hurt economic growth and restrict job creation.

Democratic committee members fired back with their own report that detailed the number of people currently employed by the green jobs sector in each Republican member’s district along with the federal loans given to green industries within both their district and state as a whole.

The Democrats’ report showed that two solar companies in Issa’s district are under conditional commitments to receive a combined $2.6 billion in loan guarantees from the Recovery Act loan program.

“On the one hand, we are having a hearing about whether we’re killing jobs but when it comes to a company in our district, we’re suggesting that we are going to promote domestic job creation if we make the right investments,” Tierney said at the hearing.

Tierney pointed out that Issa sent a letter to the Department of Energy in January 2010 urging the department to approve a green technology loan guarantee for a company within his district.

Issa derided the Obama administration during the hearing for “playing favorites” when awarding grants for renewable energy projects such as the one he encouraged in his letter.

“Apparently, nobody wants to pick winners and losers unless we can pick winners in a specific district,” said committee member Rep. John Tierney, D- Mass.

In the letter, Issa said Aptera Motors’ plan to develop a three-wheeled electric car would help the United States achieve its “long-term energy goals by shifting away from fossil fuels and using viable renewable energy sources like plug-in electric energy.”

“Aptera’s project will also promote domestic job creation throughout California as well as in other states,” Issa wrote in the letter.

Aptera, which is headquartered within Issa’s district, never received the loan guarantee.

Damien LaVera, a spokesman for the Energy Department, said it was “not uncommon” for Members of Congress to express “interest in promoting the development of clean energy jobs in their districts.”

Issa signed on to another letter along with 16 other members of the California delegation in 2009 supporting a government-backed loan for the Quallion company to build a manufacturing facility for its electric car batteries.

“On the one hand, we have those 10 members putting in the letter and suggesting it go to their company in their district, and then the next night they’re on Fox News saying the whole green thing is a scam in the first place,” Tierney said.

Issa, who said he supported green hybrid and electric vehicles, emphasized that the hearing was intended to investigate whether federal investment in green industries was creating the number of jobs the Obama administration claimed.

He said the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a branch of the Department of Labor, was skewing its data in order to inflate the number of green jobs created.

“You’ve got bad numbers,” Issa said to Keith Hall, the commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Today, your numbers are clearly wrong unless you make the assumption that teaching a bus driver to drive a bus is a green job, understanding that there are no new net bus drivers created. There’s only somebody driving a bus with a battery instead of just a bus with an engine and a starter battery.”

To which Hall responded that “green jobs include mass transit” because “mass transit is a green service.”

“Oh my goodness. I didn’t know that,” an indignant Issa shot back.

ABC News’ John Parkinson contributed to this report.

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