President Barack Obama’s energy secretary nominee, Ernest Moniz, received bipartisan support from the Senate Energy Committee Thursday with 21 votes in favor and only one vote against him.
Moniz, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was tapped by Obama to head the Department of Energy, which has been under fire from Republicans for loaning large sums of money to failed and financially troubled green energy companies.
Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden commented that Moniz could be the first energy secretary to preside over a period of American energy abundance, due to the natural gas boom brought about by hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling.
Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski also expressed her support for Moniz, saying that she believed he would push an energy policy that focuses on affordable and abundant energy. During Moniz’s confirmation hearing, Murkowski expressed concern that under the leadership of Secretary Steven Chu, the Energy Department was not focused on promoting a diverse and secure energy supply.
“As if that were not enough, recently we have seen the department make a series of bad or unnecessary bets – on Solyndra, A123, and others – that have left taxpayers on the hook for substantial losses,” Murkowski said. “All of us would do well to remember that success is not measured through spending or good intentions, but the actual results that are achieved.”
Moniz will now be heading a department that has been criticized for risky green energy loans that have allegedly promoted cronyism.
The solar company Solyndra received a $535 million government loan guarantee before filing for bankruptcy in August 2011, laying off 1,100 workers. However, the company also had substantial political connections. Obama supporter and Solyndra investor George Kaiser, along with various Solyndra executives and board members, donated $87,050 total to Obama’s campaign.
Another failed company, Abound Solar, received a $400 million government loan guarantee, drawing on $70 million of the loan before filing for bankruptcy. A Daily Caller News Foundation investigation found that the company was knowingly selling faulty solar panels. Obama bundler Pat Stryker, an investor in Abound Solar, has given more than $440,000 to Democratic groups and candidates in the past three elections.
The watchdog group Cause of Action found that 95 percent of DOE loan recipients with less than $1 billion in annual revenues made political donations to both political parties, while only 32 percent of the companies that didn’t receive loan guarantees made political donations.
“The evidence is stark,” Cause of Action Executive Director Dan Epstein said. “Ninety-five percent of those who won were paying big bucks. It shows that there’s a correlation between winning taxpayer dollars and making the contribution, and losing taxpayer dollars and not making the political contribution.”