Solyndra under scrutiny15. September 2011 | Global PV markets, Markets & Trends | By: Jonathan Gifford
The decision by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to support failed thin film manufacturer Solyndra with a half-billion dollar loan guarantee is being closely examined in congressional hearings.
Sometimes the old cliché, "don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story" is just that, a cliché. But in the case of U.S. thin film photovoltaic manufacturer Solyndra, it may be the truth behind the USD$535 million loan guarantee bill that the U.S. Federal Government looks set to be left with, after the company applied for bankruptcy protection last month.
The story the Obama administration was trying to tell was that high-tech and "green collar" jobs could be created with the assistance of the Federal Government. Unfortunately for Solyndra’s 1,100 redundant employees, that hasn’t been the case.
Now those who made the decision to support Solyndra with the loan guarantee are being required to answer questions about the decision and defend accusations that pressure was put on them by the Obama Administration to approve the loan guarantee.
At the House of Representatives investigation that is currently looking into the decisions behind the misplaced investment of public money, the Department of Energy and members of the Obama administration have been fielding questions from irate Congressmen, many of them Republicans. They are making accusations that due diligence was not taken when accessing Solyndra’s suitability for federal assistance.
Some of the documents, made public as part of the inquiry, have been emails that appear to show Treasury officials questioning Solyndra’s business model and financials while White House officials attempt to accelerate the approval process.
While the loan guarantee process was begun under the Bush administration, it was completed after Obama was inaugurated and Vice President Joe Biden appeared, via satellite link, at an earth turning ceremony at the Solyndra plant site.
Republican Presidential nominee hopeful Rick Perry has weighed in on the debate, asking rhetorically, "Is USD500 million to a solar company the right priority?"
However, not all those critical of the loan guarantee have been critical of the administration’s support of solar. Dow Jones Newswire Columnist Al Jones has appeared on the Wall Street Journal’s "Mean Streets" program to attack the Solyndra loan guarantee yet still supported investment in solar.
"We know solar is the future, but is the Obama Administration the one who is going to pick the right solar stock?" When asked whether the Solyndra disaster will spell the end to loan guarantees for solar, Jones was more hopeful. "I hope it hasn’t gone through so far!"
Apart from the Congressional investigation, the FBI and the Treasury are also investigating Solyndra in the wake of its collapse.
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