By Simon Lomax, energyNow!
Republicans lawmakers are using their investigation of Solyndra, a California solar company that went bankrupt last month despite a $535 million loan guarantee from the Obama administration, to undermine renewable energy companies and help the fossil-fuel industry, congressional Democrats said Friday.
“Instead of helping America lead the world in clean energy, the Republican-controlled House is doing everything possible to maintain our addiction to fossil fuels and cripple renewable energy companies,” U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s top Democrat, said at a hearing on the Solyndra bankruptcy Friday.
The hearing was called to question U.S. Treasury officials about their agency’s involvement in the Solyndra loan guarantee, which was awarded by the Department of Energy in 2009. The loan was later restructured in an effort to save Solyndra, and private investors were given priority over the U.S. government for the first $75 million raised if the company went bankrupt and its assets liquidated. Republicans on the committee say Treasury officials questioned the legality of paying private investors before taxpayers.
“Senior officials at the Department of Treasury were not sufficiently consulted about the restructuring and when they offered their opinions and warning signs, they were ignored like so many of the others along the way,” said U.S. Representative Cliff Stearns (R-FL), the lawmaker leading the committee’s Solyndra investigation.
U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) accused the Republicans leading the Solyndra investigation of being more interesting in “generating headlines” than “fact finding.” But Stearns said the committee’s investigation is being run fairly and said Waxman’s comments were “outrageous.”
Stearns also responded to criticism from President Obama and other Democrats, who seized on the Florida lawmakers recent comments on renewable energy competition between the U.S. and China. Stearns told NPR earlier this month that the U.S. “can’t compete with China to make solar panels and wind turbines.” Stearns said his remarks were “taken out of context.”
“I simply pointed out the fact that China, which subsidizes their solar manufacturing at $30 billion a year, has fewer regulations, lower labor costs, access to raw materials and a lack of environmental and safety regulations,” Stearns said. “I think the United States should focus where we have a competitive advantage.”