Secretary of Energy Steven Chu is testifying to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce right now.
Topic: The DoE's $535 million Solyndra loan guarantee and subsequent efforts to rescue the troubled Fremont, California solar panel maker.
In recent days, it has emerged that the Obama Administration tried to avoid layoffs at the troubled company until after the 2010 election (Solyndra subsequently went bankrupt.); that a key environmental adviser urged the agency to fire Chu early this year; that another environmental adviser warned then chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel about the company's troubles in 2009; and that Chu, along with other Energy Department officials, ignored warnings that might have limited taxpayer losses.
Chu will begin speaking shortly.
Check back here for updates throughout the grilling.
Chu 10:30: What's half a billion when we're talking $243 billion in green pork?
10:39: "Personally did not do any research on Chinese market," despite the Administration's ringing anti-China rhetoric on this matter.
10:39: My staff's view was that the subordination was "proper."
10:43: Chu's excuse for the loan restructuring that subordinated taxpayers to Obama cronies may be the first-ever use of the OPEC was doing it too defense.
10:50: So far Chu is pleading total memory loss of all the emails warning that Solyndra was going to run out of cash.
10:52: But then Chu is drawing a distinction between running out of cash and "bankruptcy."
10:58: Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) throws softballs (to the secretary whose "reputation for integrity is impeccable"): Where you aware that there was risk involved? Was the decision made on the merits? And so on.
11:16: Chu just said he didn't know the Bush DoE had turned down Solyndra's loan. Didn't he?
11:33: Chu chums China. Dems have been winning so far. Speeches like Rep. Ed Markey's are setting the tone.
11:35: Rep. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) I meant to say. But at least the Dems are bringing up subsidies at a higher level.
11:38: How dare Ed Markey belittle "pets.com in the dotcom bubble"? At least the dotcommers built something that lasted.
11:42: Rep. John Sullivan (R-Oklahoma): Zero sales up front not an issue? "First have to build a factory and then build."
11:44: Lotta savvy investors invested nearly a billion dollars prior to government loan guarantee.
11:45: Sullivan wrap: "not proper way to do business," would not do it over again.
11:54: Thank you, Rep. Timothy Murphy (R-Pennsylvania) for staying awake throughout the proceedings. Chu's round of not-aware-at-that-times is humiliating.
11:57: Please, Sec. Chu, just blurt out: "IT WAS ONLY HALF A BILLION FUCKING DOLLARS!"
11:59: "We were making the office more robust." Nothing but process-speak to business questions.
12:09: Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) questions Chu's attentiveness over a job that involved overseeing the nation's "nuclear secrets." I thought the secrets were pretty much out and the challenge was putting together the material. Why would anybody, especially a Nobel laureate, want to be a Secretary of Energy?
12:11: When we reach the Twitter segment of this sworn testimony, I'm definitely gonna send commenter PIRS' question: "How much energy does the Department of Energy create in an average year?"
12:26: OK, I thought of one reason: In the original run of The Dazzler, Marvel's disco superheroine is imprisoned by the Department of Energy, but escapes after killing Klaw. But really, aren't universities bankrupting their trust funds to compete for Nobelists to fill no-work sinecures at low-hundreds-of-thousands salaries?
12:29: Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-San Diego County, California) raises the excellent point that the Eastasian Enemy subsidizes traditional solar panels, not fancy experiments like Solyndra tubes that are supposed to go up on your roof in all kinds of weather. I'll have a column soon in Reason's print magazine on the wonderful baroque and needless complexity of the Solyndra deal.
12:35: Rep. Phil Gingrey (D-Georgia), I like football fine on Sunday. What in the name of Zeus are you talking about?
12:43: Rep. Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana) lands some hits about the ignored check-with-Justice warnings on this year's restructuring. Chu claims he does not know of any discussions with Obama inner circle players pushing for the restructuring.
12:44: Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Florida) has risen from the dead, finally trying to follow up on an absurd answer. Chu has no idea who within the president's staff was agitating for the restructuring?
12:50: Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Virginia): When you had OMB and Treasury advising you to get a legal opinion, why didn't you go to Justice?
12:51: Chu: We did get outside council's (counsel's?) opinion.
12:55: Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) changing law to make taxpayers pay credit subsidy changed the risk profile, would you agree? Chu: Credit subsidy was there for a reason.
12:59: Not since Yasir Arafat has a Nobel laureate been shelled the way Steven Chu is being pummeled by Republicans right now.
1:00: A 15-minute break? Are you kidding me? They're going to be injecting propofol into Chu for 900 straight seconds.
1:19: School's back in session. I am going to have to recuse myself at some point as I have to go wear out some shoe leather, but will be on for the next 30 minutes or so. Try the veal.
1:22: Stearns: Two out of the first 1705 loans failed. How many more, in your opinion, are going to go bad? Chu: Some nuclear power plants are at risk. Varying degrees of risk whenever you invest in high risk innovative companies.
1:27: Stearns being impolite: "fired because of your incompetence." How dare he refer to an internal Obama Administration email?
1:33: Since Markey and other Dems have laid the groundwork for a blame-markets defense, why not go the whole hog and say Chu learned his extralegal business methods from the private sector, during his too-brief stint at Bell Labs (where he did his Nobel-worthy work)?
1:40: While the circus goes on, Andrew Breitbart puts together a chart claiming 80 percent of DoE loans went to Obama donors. (I'd expect a large number of those give money to both parties, which is one of the many weaknesses of House Republicans in investigating this matter.)
1:41: Confirmation bias alert: I completely was getting packed up and ready to leave while Chu was questioned by Rep. Diane DeGette (D-Colorado), one of Chu's allies on the committee.
2:05: With Waxman's commiserations, I bid adieu to the Committee, our readers, and Steven Chu's career.