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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In a unanimous decision, "the Supreme Court on Tuesday said it violates insider-trading laws for a corporate officer to make a “gift” of insider information to a relative, a decision that makes it easier for those who police Wall Street to bring prosecutions."
House Speaker Paul Ryan has decreed that House members "won’t receive their committee assignments until January — after they cast a public vote on the House floor for speaker. "The move has sparked behind-the-scenes grumbling from a handful of Ryan critics, who say the delay allows him and the Speaker-aligned Steering Committee to dole out committee assignments based on political loyalty rather than merit or expertise." The roll call to elect the speaker is set for Jan. 3, the first vote of the new Congress.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters on Monday that the government funding bill will be released on Tuesday. The bill is the last piece of legislation Congress needs to pass before leaving for the year and is expected to fund the government through the spring. The exact time date the bill would fund the government through is unclear, though it is expected to be in April or May.
As has been rumored for a week, Donald Trump will nominate Ben Carson, his former rival, to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In a statement, Trump said, "We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities. Ben shares my optimism about the future of our country and is part of ensuring that this is a Presidency representing all Americans. He is a tough competitor and never gives up."