Despite Solyndra problems, Obama administration rushing through new loan guarantees
The Energy Department (DOE) is not backing down in its efforts to support clean energy companies, despite a Republican push to pummel the Obama administration for approving a $535 million loan guarantee to a now-bankrupt solar firm.
The department could approve as many as 15 renewable energy loan guarantees by the end of the month when a program launched under the stimulus law ends. . . .
To date, the DOE has finalized 17 loan guarantees for a range of solar, wind and geothermal projects. The department has issued 15 conditional commitments that must be finalized by Sept. 30.
The department, for example, finalized an $852 million loan guarantee for a NextEra Energy solar project in California last month. . . .
But the administration has pushed back on the allegations in recent days. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that the emails were a “scheduling matter” and were not intended to put additional pressure on officials to finalize the loan.
Meanwhile, the Energy Department is arguing that the Solyndra debacle shows that the United States must double down on its investments in clean energy to compete with countries like China, which has invested billions in solar energy. . . .
On the list of bad government investments, how could one not include GM and Chrysler? Solyndra was the first company to get a government loan guarantee, but there are also other alternative energy companies:
At least four other companies have received stimulus funding only to later file for bankruptcy, and two of those were working on alternative energy.
Evergreen Solar Inc., indirectly received $5.3 million through a state grant to open a $450 million facility in 2007 that employed roughly 800 people. The company, once a rock star in the solar industry, filed for bankruptcy protection last month, saying it couldn't compete with Chinese rivals without reorganizing. The company intends to focus on building up its manufacturing facility in China.
SpectraWatt, based in Hopewell Junction, N.Y., is also a solar cell company that was spun out of Intel in 2008. In June 2009, SpectraWatt received a $500,000 grant from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory as part of the stimulus package. SpectraWatt was one of 13 companies to receive the money to help develop ways to improve solar cells without changing current manufacturing processes.
The company filed for bankruptcy last month, saying it could not compete with its Chinese competitors, which receive "considerable government and financial support." . . .
Another winner of stimulus who ultimately lost is Mountain Plaza Inc. Despite declaring bankruptcy in 2003, the company received $424,000 from the Tennessee Department of Transportation as part of a grant aimed at installing "truck stop electrification" systems that allow idling truckers to plug-in during extended stops and turn off their exhaust-belching, environment polluting diesel engines.
Mountain Plaza had filed for bankruptcy protection again in June 2010. TDOT, which received a $2 million stimulus grant from the Environmental Protection Agency for the project, said it didn't learn about the bankruptcy until October, but it is closely monitoring the project.
Elsewhere, Olsen's Crop Service and Olsen's Mills Acquisition Co. also failed despite Olsen's Mills receiving $10 million to increase employment, add equipment and machinery, refinance existing debts and work capital for operations and acquire land. The payout -- part of a $64 million package to nine rural businesses in Wisconsin for economic development loan assistance -- was delivered in January 2010, after Olsen's Mills filed for bankruptcy protection for defaulting on a $60 million bank loan.