July 28, 2012

“No More Solyndras Bill” is back

It appears that the rebellion by some Republican Congressmen last week against the “No More Solyndras Bill” has been “dealt with” by Republican leadership. No details have emerged on how much blood was shed in putting down the rebellion.

The bill is named for a solar manufacturer that received a $500 million dollar loan guarantee and later filed for bankruptcy. Republicans have spent a year and a lot of money trying to find wrongdoing by the White House. They found none so they are trying to end of the loan programs all together.

The bill was before the House Energy and Power Subcommittee last week. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY.), the chairman of the Energy and Power Subcommittee abruptly recessed the hearing after three Republicans expressed concerns about the Republican-sponsored bill according to Politico.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), Michael Burgess (R-TX) and Phil Gingrey (R-GA) complained about a provision that would effectively end the loan guarantee program. They argued that it needs to be reformed, not killed. Republican standard operating procedure is “repeal and probably not replace.” Keep but reform is not allowed so the hearing came to an abrupt halt. Barton wrote the loan guarantee bill in 2005.

House Republicans, Mitt Romney, and national GOP leaders have been bashing President Obama over Solyndra and the DOE’s broader loan program. The overall Republican theme was that the federal government shouldn’t waste taxpayers’ money on handouts to risky renewable energy companies.

The GOP infighting caused The Wall Street Journal editorial board to lambast the Republican lawmakers who raised concerns about the bill, calling them out by name. GOP energy and environmental adviser Mike McKenna said the editorial was both a surprise and a wake-up call to those who have been "wandering" on the issue.

“Republicans will be fiscal frauds if they renew the very money-losing energy programs they attacked Barack Obama for,” the WSJ wrote in an editorial that appeared online Wednesday night and in print Thursday. “When the next Solyndra goes bankrupt, voters will have more than Mr. Obama to blame.”

That was enough for a trip to the elephant shed.

Rep. Whitefield believes he has the votes so they will resume the hearing today and vote on the bill Wednesday morning. He expects the bill to be before the entire House in September after Congress returns from its 5-week vacation

The Department of Energy has defended the loan program while conceding it could use some tweeking. The Department has made internal reforms since Solyndra. Secretary Chu has said the program is overall successful. Solyndra and other failures all together represent a smaller loss than Congress itself appropriated for when it passed the legislation under Bush.

The DOE says total losses as of now are less than 3% of the total portfolio. That is less than venture capitalists plan for when they invest in new ventures. Mitt Romney bragged about Bain Capital having only a 20% loss on investments it made when he was at the helm. He said that in response to criticism about the Bain-owned companies that went bankrupt causing thousands to lose their jobs.

The loan-killing bill is being supported by the American Energy Alliance (AEA) the lobbying arm of the Institute for Energy Research (IER). This is group largely funded by oil and gas companies whose objective is essentially to debunk and kill renewable energy using “research.”

AEA President Thomas Pyle said in a statement: “Either you stand with Solyndra and other bankrupt experiments in politicized venture capital, or you stand with hardworking American taxpayers. Either you want to protect rent-seeking cronies in the renewable industry, or you want to preserve the sacred trust of the men and women who sent you to Washington.”

It is no surprise Republicans dance to that tune. The bill is the pet project of Republican House Leadership including Speaker Boehner and Leader Eric Cantor. Boehner has received $241,600 in campaign contributions from oil and gas companies this election cycle. Eric Cantor (RTP-VA) has received $176,250.

Chairman Whitefield received $80,750. Rep. Barton who opposed killing the bill received $118,000. Lobbyists will try to call in those chips. All these are in safe seats, and it is still early in the contribution cycle but oil has “invested” a lot in Republicans.

The bill will pass the oil-owned House. It probably will not pass the Senate this year at least.

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