Corporate Welfare

Steven Chu, Oh Where Are You? (Solyndra Roundup)


Steven Chu got game.

Sphinx-like Secretary of Energy Steven Chu may or may not be getting closer to approaching a plan to begin the process of preparing to lay the groundwork for issuing a preliminary statement on the Solyndra bankruptcy. notes that the House Energy and Commerce Committee's investigative panel is asking nicely for a comment from Chu: 

Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) and other Republicans on the subcommittee have called on Chu to testify on the Solyndra loan guarantee.  

Republicans on the panel wrote to Chu last week to request all communications between the Energy Department and the White House on the Solyndra loan guarantee.  

The document request is part of a broader effort by Republicans to determine if the White House rushed consideration of the loan guarantee.  

The committee, which launched its investigation into Solyndra in February, has already received more than 35,000 documents and has released select emails that Republicans say show that the White House tried to rush a decision on the company's financing so that the loan guarantee could be announced at the Sept. 2009 groundbreaking of the company's factory. 

The administration has insisted that it thoroughly reviewed the project, and has strongly denied any wrongdoing.  

In a striking example of overpromising and underdelivering, Politico takes a story that contains no new comments from Chu and some speculation about what the energy secretary might say here he inclined to say anything, then gives it the impressive title "On Solyndra, the buck stops with Secretary Steven Chu." A sample:

Chu will eventually get his chance to explain his role in the sequence of events when he appears — perhaps as early as October — at a House hearing on Solyndra. He can expect a politically charged atmosphere. Republicans, after all, have already called for Silver to be fired and haven't ruled out making the same case for Chu's dismissal.

What the lawmakers will likely hear from the Nobel Prize-winning physicist is an explanation that he's always been the key decider in the Solyndra process, with a record articulated in dozens of public statements and interviews given over the last 2½ years.

Chu's message has been clear: Hearing calls from top GOP and Democratic lawmakers, including during his Senate confirmation hearing, he wanted to break through red tape inside DOE and at rival Cabinet agencies that had resisted getting loan guarantees out the door for several years after their authorization by the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

I love that "eventually get his chance to explain." Because Cthulhu knows it's impossible for a cabinet-level department head to get any airtime to make a statement, what with the fragmentation of media and all. 

As Chu spends time with his family, we may have a clue to why the FBI launched its investigation of Solyndra: an investigation into possible inaccurate financial statements

The DoE's impeccably timed $737 million loan to the Solar Energy Project is also smelling worse by the day. It can't be a good sign when one of the most prominent beneficiaries of the loan is former House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California)'s brother-in-law, and that isn't even the scandalous part. NRO's Andrew Stiles expands

But that's not all. [Santa Monica-based SEP developer] Solar Reserve is also investment partners with Argonaut Private Equity, an arm of the (George) Kaiser Family Foundation that was a major investor in Solyndra and was involved in negotiations with the DOE to restructure the failed company's loan agreement. That agreement would ultimately give Argonaut and other private investors priority status over the American taxpayer with respect to the first $75 million recovered in the event of Solyndra's collapse. As Republicans argued at a recent House committee hearing, this arrangement was almost certainly a violation of federal statute.

Argonaut's managing director, Steven Mitchell, served on Solyndra's board when the restructuring took place, and reportedly still serves on the company's board. He is also listed as a "board participant" at Solar Reserve.

In other words: We have top men working on it right now. 

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that a new poll indicates few Americans are paying attention to the Solyndra scandal, and most still support so-called clean energy initiatives: 

Of 650 Ohio voters surveyed after Solyndra's bankruptcy, just 11% said they had heard "a great deal" about the issue, the pollsters said. They also found that while 16% said they had heard "a little," those people couldn't talk about the issue in any detail.

California voters who participated in focus groups were more aware of the story, but still supported clean energy and considered Solyndra to be a bad apple rather than an indication of a systemic problem. Nearly two-thirds of voters in the Ohio poll expressed similar sentiment, saying their view was more aligned with a statement that problems with one failed company should not stop clean energy investments as a whole.

More surprising than the continued support for solar power is the apparent support for spending taxpayer dollars on it, which the report [pdf] from Public Opinion Strategies has at 62 percent, versus 31 percent opposed. However, I'm a little skeptical of the strongly leading questions: 

Shorter: All companies that don't get government subsidies must fail.

I hope the remaining 7 percent answered, as I would have, "Both of these options are stupid." I don't want my taxes subsidizing private companies of any kind, and I'm aware that the amount of energy conventional solar power generates is modest. But how the hell should I know whether solar businesses can compete or succeed without government assistance? 

The only way to find out whether these companies can work in the marketplace is to let them compete without government assistance. In the wake of Solyndra a few companies have in fact come forward to brag about their subsidy-free business models, and I wish them well. If anything, the stunning longevity of the Mars rovers has impressed upon me the viability of solar power, on Mars. 

Finally, this video has been in wide circulation for a few weeks, but seems to be getting a lot of attention today. Joe Biden, you've done it again! 

NEXT: Take Shelter and 50/50

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  1. The fact that none of these “clean energy” companies can exist with propping up by the Federal and/or state governments is a huge sign that they are not businesses at all, but shabby sinecures. 1 kW/m^2 — it’s not just a bad idea, it’s the best case!

    1. During the daytime, when the sun’s shining!

    2. I have a lot of friends in the VC industry, and it is amazing how many of these huge funds are playing in solar because all these loan guarantees make it near-zero risk.

      In addition to taxpayers covering these bad bets, there is the opportunity cost associated with this.

      Think about it: Every dollar that Argonaut Equity sunk into Solyndra is a dollar that could have gone to a web or biotech start-up. Instead of funding the next Google and the wealth, jobs and productivity that would have brought, the US government encouraged these funds to put money into companies that DECREASE our productivity by making energy more expensive.

  2. The administration has insisted that it thoroughly reviewed the project, and has strongly denied any wrongdoing.

    The choices the administration has in explaining their actions? They were either lazy, corrupt or idiots. They’ve chosen to paint themselves as idiots who couldn’t see the wall writing so many others could plainly spot.

    1. We concur with this assessment.

  3. Over 120 people associated with the Dept. of Energy, directly and indirectly, are now under criminal investigation by the FBI, DOJ, Treasury, OMB, GAO and multiple committees. What is coming out is that the DOE has operated as a CITADEL OF CORRUPTION and Secretary Chu should be indicted.

    1. Good name for a metal band.

  4. Chu was not suited for the job, not qualified. He knew and knows very little about energy. His background is in a completely irrevelant discipline. His ‘management’ of a government lab was no training for policymaking. At the govt labs the goal is to shake down DC for as much money as possible. Energy policy requires analytical skills beyond Chu’s abilities. Sad.

    1. I could understand the argument that he was an academic unsuited to the management of the energy industry, but how the hell do you say a physicist “knows very little about energy?” I know American education isn’t what it used to be, but I’m pretty sure you can’t pass even high school physics–nonetheless get a PhD in the subject–without grasping the concept of energy.

      1. Yeah, I’d say the guy knows plenty about energy. The question is whether he knows enough about the pitfalls of crapitalism. Preliminary answer: no.

      2. Knowing about energy as a theoretical/academic/experimental construct is all well and good, and close to useless for a DOE secretary.

        What he needs to know is more the economics and engineering of the actual energy industry.

        1. Totally. This is going to sound like cheap populism (which to my surprise and delight I get accused of a lot), but you’d be better off with a contract electrician than an academic.

          1. I agree completely, I was just pointing out some serious ambiguity in OP.

            1. Chu knows little about the energy < industry >. Physics is not the issue. Cost/benefit analysis of different energy generating processes is critical. DOE experience is not worth much.

  5. This is pretty cheeky coming from a guy who won’t even go on MSNBC because he doesn’t want to deal with questions from the other side.

    You’re either nave enough to think the House Energy Subcommittee is in a disinterested search for truth rather than a cheap power play looking to score cheap political points, or you’re partisan enough not to care. Good for Dr. Chu for not putting on the clown white for the three-ring teabagger circus the GOP wants to give America in place of standing with our president and legislating some jobs.

    1. Brain-dead asshole:
      “Good for Dr. Chu for not putting on the clown white for the three-ring teabagger circus”
      Thanks, asshole. We knew you were up to proving it.

    2. in place of standing with our president and legislating some jobs


      OK, that’s some pretty good trolling. You get a B+.

      1. …standing with our president and legislating some jobs.

        I’m calling it a sockpuppet. That was the same logic fail I used when I was sockpuppeting on this board. Ignore.

    3. “Won’t even go on MSNBC”? I’d love to go on MSNBC. The one time I did they chauffeured me to Burbank. But I bombed in that appearance. Is that what you’re talking about?

    4. This has to be a spoof.

      1. And a damn good one at that.

  6. TEAM RED launches another meaningless KULTUR WAR proxy battle.

    1. “TEAM RED launches another meaningless KULTUR WAR proxy battle.”

      Hey! Surprise! Apologist offers mis-direction!
      Where were you when Nixon needed you?

  7. “The administration has insisted that it thoroughly reviewed the project, and has strongly denied any wrongdoing”

    So the administration admits to stupidity rather than cupidity?
    Oh, good! That makes me feel better!

  8. I agree that the poll question was stupid. I am personally quite in favor of researching renewable energy opportunities, including solar. I’m just not in favor of taxpayer-funded research.

    Also, one needs not bash alternative energy to argue that it shouldn’t get subsidies. I do agree that it has a decent amount of work to do, but a combination of solar, wind, biofuels, and any other alternative that emerges replacing our dependence on nonrenewable resources would be awesome. Thing is, the government only hampers that progress by “investing” in its favorites.

  9. The best comment I’ve read yet is that the empty building should be turned into the “Obama Presidential Library”.
    Sounds great to me; just make sure there’s no print on any of the book pages. Hey, it’s “Not His Fault ™”

  10. I hope Chris Christie throws his fat ass in the ring. He’s fat, so he eats all the time. Know what I mean?

    1. You just keep getting funnier by the day, Dave…

  11. New listed discount price fake ray ban sunglasses have sold on our shop online, as the style of fake ray bans have a breakthough in optical technology, ray ban new aviator, ray ban new wayfarer are more loved by people, to our surprise, cheap ray bans have a role in the year round.

  12. Of 650 Ohio voters surveyed after Solyndra’s bankruptcy, just 11% said they had heard “a great deal” about the issue, the pollsters said. They also found that while 16% said they had heard “a little,” those people couldn’t talk about the issue in any detail.

    What did we do to deserve Ohioans as swing voters?

    1. You know what you did.

  13. Joe Biden – mumbling moron.

  14. Pre Morning Links threadjack: You won’t see Anwar Al-Awlaki around no more.

    Though he seems like a definite AQ sympathizer, propagandist, and maybe operational leader, I’m still not comfortable with the idea of snuffing U.S. citizens w/o trial.

    1. I’m still not comfortable with the idea of snuffing U.S. citizens w/o trial.

      I’m afraid that many of your fellow citizens are quite comfortable with killing anything profiled as teh terroizms.

      1. If they sympathize with those who blow Americans up, doesn’t that make them terrorist sympathizers? So, shouldn’t we blow them up too?

    2. I’m typically at least as bloodthirsty as your typical American, but this really bothers me. Couldn’t they at least have tried him in absentia before targeting? Is that even an option in the US? Will anyone even care?

      1. I should have proofread that statement before posting. Man, is it terribly written.

      2. Yes, it’s not even about whether he’s guilty (he almost certainly is). It’s just creepy as hell that our government think it should be able to deprive citizens of life who have not been convicted in a court of law.

  15. Public Opinion Strategies = POS. Who would have thought?

  16. The administration has insisted that it thoroughly reviewed the project, and has strongly denied any wrongdoing.

    Of course, they had to *fund* the project to see what was in it.

  17. Watched the whole damn 24:09. Chu, Ahnold and Solyndra guy repeatdly praised and thank Obama, Biden, Ahnold, Chu and Solyndra guy, but never once uttered the word “taxpayer.”

  18. What I want to know is, why is the House treating these people with kid gloves?

    Its time to bust out the subpoenas, boys. And make sure you ask lots of questions about why they just made a bigger loan guarantee to the same group that ate the half a billion at Solyndra.

  19. typo:
    “speculation about what the energy secretary might say WERE he inclined to say anything”

  20. So Chu made the final decision on the Solyndra loan? Tell me again about all his business and venture experience?

  21. Cthulhu!!!????!! That’s the first time I’ve heard about any Obama administration official referred to as the unimaginable, unpronounceable evil of the Lovecraft stories. (Not that I don’t see the point.)

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