For all the energy challenges facing the U.S. and Congress’ unwillingness to tackle real problems, the Republican-led probe of the Solyndra loan and its grilling of Energy Secretary Stephen Chu Nov. 17 by the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation speaks volumes about its misplaced priorities.
The $535 million Department of Energy loan guarantee to Solyndra is a lot of money. But it represents all of about 1.4% of its $35.9 billion loan portfolio. Stephen Chu’s job is to put the portfolio to work the best way he and his team can knowing not all loans will pay off for the U.S. taxpayer. Its default rate of about 4% is at least respectable, if not darn good. Compare it to the default rate at the Small Business Administration: nearly 12%.
If Solyndra’s backers had good political connections as do a lot of talented business people in this space. I wish they would have recognized the rapidly shifting economics sooner. But they didn’t. Time to move on. Congress should stop wasting taxpayer dollars trying to manufacture a ‘smoking gun.’
Collectively, projects in the portfolio plan to employ more than 60,000 Americans, create additional tens of thousands of indirect jobs, provide enough clean electricity to power three million homes, and save more than 300 million gallons of gasoline a year. Many of these projects are first-of-a-kind that, if completed, can be replicated entirely by the private sector across the U.S. They have the potential to create additional jobs and improve America’s ability to compete vis a via China.
Here is a snapshot of selected projects funded in part by the program, which we should all keep in mind was launched by the administration President George W. Bush:
- The nation’s first nuclear power plant in the last three decades. (Vogtle)
- The world’s largest wind farm. (Shepherds Flat)
- One of the nation’s first cellulosic ethanol power plants. (POET’s Project Liberty)
- The largest rooftop solar project in our nation’s history. (Project Amp)
- Several of the world’s largest photovoltaic generation facilities when completed, including the largest in the world. (Agua Caliente)
- Several of the world’s largest concentrating solar power (CSP) generation facilities that will triple the nation’s currently-installed CSP capacity.
- Solar manufacturing plants that will help reduce the cost of solar power, one by up to up to 50% per panel. (1366, Solopower)
- The nation’s first purpose-built wheelchair-accessible vehicle that will run on compressed natural gas. (VPG)
You can find an interactive map of all of the loan program projects here.