Heading into the 2012 election season, the Department of Energy isn’t shying away from the role it played in helping failed solar company Solyndra.
In fact, quite the opposite: On Thursday the Department of Energy released a new slideshow presentation prepared by its Loan Programs Office — the same division that was responsible for granting Solyndra a $535 million loan guarantee in September 2009, two years before it filed for bankruptcy.
“While critics have focused their attention on the Department’s loan guarantee to Solyndra, the full story is that the Department’s loan portfolio as a whole is having a transformative impact, supporting tens of thousands of jobs and helping double America’s renewable electricity generation,” wrote Dan Leistikow, director of public affairs for the Energy Department, in blog post.
The slideshow included with his comments, called “Beyond Solyndra,” goes on to defend the record of the embattled Loan Programs Office (LPO), which was actually created back by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (though it didn’t get up and running until 2007).
Broadly, the Loan Programs Office claims credit for helping the U.S. become the overall global leader in clean energy investment (both public and private) in 2011, a finding reported in a Pew study released in April.
The Loan Programs Office says that it has funded, in total so far, 33 projects valued at $55 billion cumulatively, using $35 billion in government loans, guarantees and conditional commitments. (The other $20 billion presumably come from private investment). The slideshow claims that these projects are anticipated to “support” 60,000 jobs, some 33,000 of which come from loans made to Ford. Though Ford has embraced that figure (the automaker announced in 2006 it was planning to layoff 30,000), other economists have questioned whether the existence of the jobs are due solely to the loans.
The slideshow goes on to highlight its loans to Ford, which it says the automaker is using to “modernize” 13 factories across the country. The presentation also points to several other ambitious but still under-construction projects, including Ivanpah in the Mojave Desert in California, which is projected to be the world’s largest solar plant when completed, expected mid-2013.
Check out the full slideshow below:
Of course, critics of the Administration’s handling of Solyndra were hardly swayed by the presentation.
The Republican lawmaker who led the House’s probe into Solyndra, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), provided the following statement to TPM blasting the slideshow and its claims as nothing but smoke and mirrors.
“This slide show is pure spin control by the Department of Energy and the Obama Administration and blatantly disregards the financial turmoilahead for the loan program which Herb Allison predicted would lose an additional $3 billion in taxpayer money. The Obama Administration is trying to hide from the fact that Solyndra and Beacon have gone bankrupt and many other loan recipients have announced layoffs, closures, and are in financial trouble.”
“The Administration’s loan program out of the Department of Energy has failed the American people. The claim that the current Administration’s policies are promoting our energy independence is contradicted by the fact that the White House is limiting development of our domestic energy resources. The federal government should not be picking winners and losers in the market. With government involvement in the market, you see this ‘crony capitalism’ as reflected in Solyndra and the other failed companies, where the politically connected get access to taxpayer funds and to top Administration officials.”
Stearns refers to the report issued in February by former Treasury Department official Herbert Allison, who the White House commission to look into the Loan Programs Office. Allison’s report found that the program could be improved in terms of accountability and detection of problems with projects, but also that the money at risk, some $3 billion, was lower than an earlier Energy Department forecast of $5 billion.
Of course, its also worth noting that the Republican-led investigation into Solyndra has, by even its members’ standards, essentially failed to find any “smoking gun” of wrongdoing on the part of the Energy Department.