Energy Department officials announced they’re giving a new jolt to the controversial loan guarantee program that became a political football following the 2011 bankruptcy of one of its beneficiaries, the Solyndra solar panel maker.
As one of an array of green initiatives under new Secretary Ernest Moniz, Energy is reviving the program — launched in 2005 but expired since coming under attack by congressional Republicans — with a broadened focus to help the oil and gas industries producer cleaner energy. As reported first by The New York Times, Peter Davidson, executive director of Energy’s loan department, said, “We have a real problem, and that’s ‘How do we get new technology to market?’ We partner with industry developers and entrepreneurs to demonstrate a new technology at the industrial scale or utility scale,” before handing the funding over to private investors, he said.
Energy is earmarking $8 billion from $50 billion in appropriated funds it still controls. Officials have emphasized that the losses from the loan program amount to only 3 percent of the loan guarantee portfolio, but lawmakers continue their skepticism, citing the $535 million Solyndra was given and $168 million given to the unsuccessful electric car company Fisker Automotive, whose loan the department auctioned this week.
“The Obama administration has gotten into the business of picking winners and losers at a significant cost to taxpayers,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., in a statement calling for an end to Energy’s related Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program. “From Fisker and Vehicle Production Group, to the Chinese-owned A123 [green battery manufacturer], this administration should not be making questionable investments with the American people’s hard-earned money.”
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Republican spokesman Robert Dillon said, “there is not a demand nor a need for this program — the government has gone out and sought companies.” He referred Government Executive to a report released in February by the committee’s ranking member, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, that recommends an end to some of the loan programs and a broadening of another to “allow a wider range of vehicle technologies and projects to qualify.”
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Rep. Dave Young can't even refuse his own paycheck. The Iowa Republican is trying to make a point that if Congress can't pass a budget (it's already missed the April 15 deadline) then it shouldn't be paid. But, he's been informed, the 27th Amendment prohibits him from refusing his own pay. "Young’s efforts to dock his own pay, however, are duck soup compared to his larger goal: docking the pay of every lawmaker when Congress drops the budget ball." His bill to stiff his colleagues has only mustered the support of three of them. Another bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), has about three dozen co-sponsors.
Sixty miles away, in Sandusky, Ohio. "We're pretty bitter about that," said Harmeet Dhillon, vice chairwoman of the California Republican Party. "It sucks to be California, we're like the ugly stepchild. They need us for our cash and our donors, they don't need us for anything else."
Anyone looking forward to seeing some boldfaced names on the client list of the late Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the "DC Madam," will have to wait a little longer. "The Supreme Court announced Monday it would not intervene to allow" the release of her phone records, "despite one of her former attorneys claiming the records are “very relevant” to the presidential election. Though he has repeatedly threatened to release the records if courts do not modify a 2007 restraining order, Montgomery Blair Sibley tells U.S. News he’s not quite sure what he now will do."
Hillary Clinton may have the Democratic nomination sewn up, but Bernie Sanders apparently isn't buying it. Buoyed by a poll showing them in a "virtual tie," Sanders is "holding three rallies on the final day before the state primary and hoping to pull off a win after a tough week of election losses and campaign layoffs."
As unbound delegates pledged to Ted Cruz watch him "struggle to tread water in a primary increasingly dominated by Trump, many of them, wary of a bitter convention battle that could rend the party at its seams, are rethinking their commitment to the Texas senator."