Bloomberg News

Energy Week Ahead: House Republicans Push ‘No More Solyndras’

July 09, 2012

The House Energy and Commerce Committee this week takes up the “No More Solyndras Act” -- a measure presumably designed to keep the U.S. from wasting money, especially on shaky start-ups based outside Republican congressional districts.

The bill, which hasn’t been released, will reflect lessons learned from an oversight subcommittee’s 17-month investigation into why Solyndra LLC received a $535 million U.S. loan guarantee. It went bankrupt two years later.

The measure signals the approaching end to a saga that has included at least five congressional hearings, more than 10 closed-door interviews and several ruined Friday evenings for reporters assigned to pore over “document dumps” that became a hallmark of the investigation. The panel ultimately collected tens of thousands of pages of e-mails and other communications from the administration and investors relating to Solyndra.

Democrats say the trove hasn’t backed up suggestions made by Representative Cliff Stearns of Florida, the subcommittee’s Republican chairman, that Solyndra won its award because of political connections. A foundation funded by George Kaiser, an Oklahoma billionaire and bundler for President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, was the leading investor in the company.

In an interview with committee staff, Kaiser said he never lobbied for Solyndra. Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado, Stearns’ Democratic counterpart on the oversight panel, said Republicans have spent a lot of time and effort to show that some companies fail and some succeed. Democrats also have pointed out that a number of Republicans had urged support for loans to projects in their districts, prior to Solyndra’s collapse.

Stearns and Energy Committee Chairman Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, have said the documents showed a cozy relationship between the administration and investors, and that early “red flags” about the Fremont, California-based company were ignored.

David Kreutzer, a research fellow in energy and climate- change economics at the Heritage Foundation who is scheduled to testify at Thursday’s hearing, said the committee has collected more evidence that guarantees by the U.S. are “bad policy” and he hoped the investigation has discouraged their use.

“The government is substituting for the market, which has sufficient incentive to seek out projects that are going to make money,” Kreutzer said in an interview.

The measure to be taken up is called a discussion draft, meaning it’s subject to change and doesn’t yet have an official number.

Stearns has said Republicans may seek to prohibit allowing taxpayers to take a back seat to private investors in case of liquidation, as happened in a last-ditch Energy Department effort to save the flagging company.

ALSO WORTH WATCHING:

RENEWABLE FRAUD: The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s oversight panel also has a hearing Thursday to examine allegations of fraud in a renewable-fuels credit-trading program. Some companies have been accused of selling fraudulent certificates refiners can purchase to meet annual biodiesel production targets.

TARGETING REGULATIONS: The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee also gets in on the act, with two on-location hearings to review “unnecessary and burdensome regulations.” The first, on Friday, takes place on the campus of the University of Central Oklahoma (42084MF:US) in Edmond. The next day (a Saturday!) committee members are scheduled to travel to North Dakota State University in Fargo to continue the conversation.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jim Snyder in Washington at jsnyder24@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net


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