A closer look at the Obama administration’s $525 million loan to Solyndra

From the Manhattan Institute. (H/T Tom)

Here’s the first thing to note about this story:

Both Republican and Democratic administrations have practiced a “green” industrial policy by supporting ventures that promised to pursue renewable, non-carbon-based energy production or energy conservation.

The DOE’s authority to issue loan guarantees for innovative, clean energy technologies, the Energy Policy Act of 2005, was passed by a Republican House and Senate and signed into law by George W. Bush. Under the law, Congress authorized the issuance of $4 billion in loan guarantees in 2007, and $47 billion in 2009 with the objective of encouraging the development of new technologies. [2] [3]

However, no DOE loan guarantees were made during the Bush administration. The DOE wanted to make a loan to Solyndra, but career officials at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) did not approve it, on the grounds that the project was not financially sound.

The Section 1705 Loan Program was created by the 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, which amended the Energy Policy Act of 2005.[4] The 2009 stimulus bill gave the DOE an additional $3.95 billion for loan guarantees.[5]

So that’s where the money came from. It was “stimulus” money. And now the shocking part:

By November 2008, Solyndra had raised $450 million from investors and was applying for a loan guarantee from the DOE under the Energy Policy Act of 2005. But the loan was turned down in January 2009 in the waning days of the Bush administration, on the grounds that “there is presently not an independent market study addressing long term prospects for this company” and “there is concern regarding the scale-up of production assumed in the plan for Fab 2,” a second factory.[7]

On January 13, 2009, Lachlan Seward, director of the loan program at the DOE, wrote, “After canvassing the Committee it was the unanimous decision not to engage in further discussions with Solyndra at this time.”[8] Lachlan was referring to the DOE Credit Committee, which was composed of DOE officials.

When President Obama took office days later, the DOE’s tone changed. In a March 10, 2009, e-mail to an unnamed official, a senior adviser to Energy Secretary Steven Chu wrote, “The solar co [sic] board approved the terms of the loan guarantee last night, setting us up for the first loan guarantee conditional commitment for the president’s visit to California on the 19th.”[9] As events soon revealed, March 19, 2009, was a wildly premature target date for a presidential visit. In fact, President Obama didn’t visit Solyndra until May 2010.

E-mails dated 2009 depict White House and DOE officials rushing to sign off on the project so that Vice President Joe Biden could appear at the Fremont plant in September 2009 to trumpet the administration’s support for green jobs. There was confusion about who would go and when, as well as a palpable sense of urgency. Within the OMB—historically the most fiscally conservative agency in any administration—there was anxiety about premature planning and precedent.

On March 10, 2009, an OMB official whose name was blacked out by the administration before the e-mails were released to Congress wrote, “DOE is trying to deliver the first loan guarantee within 60 days from inauguration (the prior administration could not get it done in four years). This deal is NOT [sic] ready for prime time.”[10]

[…]On August 31, 2009, an unidentified OMB official wrote to Terrell McSweeny, domestic policy adviser to Vice President Biden, saying “We have ended up in the situation of having to do rushed approvals on a couple of occasions (and we are worried about Solyndra at the end of this week). We would prefer to have sufficient time to do our due diligence reviews and have the approval set the date for the announcement rather than the other way around.”[12] Regardless of these concerns, the loan was approved on September 3, and Biden announced it via satellite at Solyndra’s plant on September 4.

[…]On May 24, 2010, Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the president, forwarded a Cleantech Blog post by Philip Smith to Ron Klain, chief of staff to Vice President Biden. The post outlined the doubts of Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Solyndra’s auditors, about the company. It stated, “On a pure business analysis you have to agree with the auditors—they are not a going concern.”[14] Jarrett said to Klain in an e-mail, “As you know, a Going Concern letter is not good. Thoughts?”[15]

Although Jarrett and Klain knew that Solyndra would go under, two days later, on May 26, 2010, the president visited the newly built Solyndra manufacturing plant in Fremont, California, and declared, “It is here that companies like Solyndra are leading the way toward a brighter, more prosperous future …. We can see the positive impacts right here at Solyndra.”

Fascinating. This is what the government does with the money that it is borrowing from your children. This is what the “stimulus” efforts of the Obama administration amounted to. Not only was the Solyndra loan an opportunity to pay back a Democrat campaign fundraiser, but we now learn that it was also rushed through to provide Obama with a publicity opportunity. Is that the main job of the President of the United States? To waste money on photo opportunities?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s