In a spectacular case of instant karma, House Republicans’ plan to roast Energy Secretary Steven Chu in Thursday’s investigative hearing into Solyndra appears to have backfired. Chu seems reinvigorated in his effort to make the U.S. into global clean energy leader, calling for increased U.S. investment in alternatives on a tour of General Electric solar plant in Colorado on Friday, while Republicans seem at odds with their own message.
“There are some in Washington who think we can’t, or shouldn’t, compete when it comes to producing solar panels, wind turbines and other clean energy technologies,” Chu said at GE’s PrimeStar plant in Arvada, CO, the Hill reported. “They’re ready to wave the white flag and declare defeat. I disagree.”
The plant, which GE purchased along with the company PrimeStar in April, developed the highest-efficiency thin film solar panel ever publicly announced. GE plans to build a new PrimeStar factory in Aurora, Colorado, which would be the nation’s largest. Before it was purchased by GE, PrimeStar received $3 million from the Energy Department, the Seattle Post Intelligencer reported.
Meanwhile, House Republicans who participated in the Solyndra hearing have been tripping over one another.
Shortly after the hearing concluded on Thursday, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, who presided over the hearings and has spearheaded the Solyndra investigation, called for Secretary Chu to be fired.
“I just think he has failed the test,” Stearns said, the Associated Press reported, “The fact that he’s unaware of so many things makes me think that he’s not the best person for the position.”
Yet earlier, during the hearing itself, another top Republican probing the Solyndra loan guarantee said that Chu shouldn’t resign but was being “set up” by the Obama Administration to be the “fall guy.”
“I said every time I don’t think you should resign,” Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), told Chu, the Houston Chronicle reported.
“I also happen to believe that it’s possible you’re being set up to be the fall guy,” Barton said later, according to Politico.
Also, before the hearing, Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK), countered his own party’s attempt to link the Solyndra loan guarantee approval to the fact that the company received major funding from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a charity nonprofit founded by Oklahoma billionaire George Kaiser, who was also an Obama 2010 campaign bundler.
“I don’t see any illegality by [Kasier] or any impropriety,” Sullivan told the Tulsa World. “He was just doing what a businessman does.”
Still, analysis from former Energy Department officials and others in the press indicates that not only will Chu keep his job, but that Republicans have come out of the hearing looking worse for the wear.
“I don’t think there was any kind of ‘smoking-gun’ type question-and-answer that came out of the session,” Salo Zelermyer, a former Energy Department senior counsel during the Bush Administration, Reuters reported Friday.
“House Republicans may have squandered their golden opportunity when they decided to make Chu, Washington’s most lovable nerd, the fall guy for the scandal,” wrote Grace Wyler at the Business Insider, “No one person is to blame for the Solyndra debacle — the entire DOE loan program is seriously flawed. And taking cheap shots at shy nuclear physicists isn’t going to fix it.”