The White House is pushing back on an emerging Republican talking point in the Solyndra debacle: that the failure of one solar panel company spells doom for the future of green energy.
“As the Department of Energy has made clear, they have always recognized that not every one of the innovative companies helped would succeed, but we can’t stop investing in game-changing technologies that are key to America’s leadership in the global economy,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said in an email.
“While we are disappointed by this particular outcome, we continue to believe the clean energy jobs race is one that America can, must and will win,” Schulz said. “The question we, as a country, have to ask ourselves is: are the jobs of the future going to be created here in the United States are elsewhere?”
Jonathan Silver, Executive Director of the Loan Programs Office at the Energy Department who testified about the Solyndra loans at a House hearing on Wednesday, told reporters after his testimony that it was essential for the U.S. to continue to support innovative and clean energy technologies.
“The entire world agrees that this is going to be one of the most if not the most important technological sector in the world for a generation,” Silver said. “It’s a multi-trillion dollar market a few decades out from here, and unlike the software business where you can simply build software and tweak it, these require infrastructure investments.”
“Private sector investors - who put more than $1 billion of their own money on the line - also saw great potential in the company,” Schultz said during his testimony.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns said that due to the shutdown of Solyndra, the Energy Department “should based upon what we’ve heard here today go back and look at all solar panel projects the stimulus package contained once you realize that the solar industry is really dependent on subsidies.”
“Even at $130 a barrel, the idea that solar panels are going to break even is questionable,” Stearns said.
Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) suggested that the Republican’s focus on the solar industry had to do with their agenda, and that they wouldn’t be holding a hearing if a similar scenario arose in the oil industry.
Silver said he had “no idea” why the FBI raided the plant last week.
“Although I was not at the Department when the Solyndra loan guarantee was considered or issued, it is my understanding that the transaction went through nearly three years of rigorous and exhaustive internal and external due diligence before any taxpayer funds were put at risk,” Silver said in prepared testimony.
The White House is also saying that while emails have emerged that show that it was putting pressure on the Energy Department to expedite their loan decision on Solyndra, they didn’t attempt to mandate a particular outcome.
“As the emails indicate, there was interest in when a decision would be made because of its impact on whether an event involving the Vice President could be scheduled for a particular date or not, but the loan guarantee decision was merit-based and made by career staffers at DOE, and the process for this particular loan guarantee began under President Bush,” Schultz said.