Politics

Media Matters, Sen. Coons dismiss Solyndra as distraction in clean-energy fight

Vince Coglianese Editorial Director

The liberal advocacy group Media Matters for America and Delaware Democratic Sen. Chris Coons teamed up Thursday to urge reporters to ignore the Solyndra scandal.

“Media Matters is watching the news all day, every day,” Media Matters President Matt Butler declared during a Thursday morning call with reporters. After “the year-and-a-half long failed investigation of Solyndra” — the collapsed Department of Energy-backed solar company that cost taxpayers $535 million — “clean energy opponents are not letting up,” Butler lamented.

Supporters of green energy should not allow talk of the the Solyndra debacle, and other skepticism directed at federally subsidized fossil fuel alternatives, to overshadow “scores of success stories surrounding American clean energy companies,” Butler said.

The call, he explained, was arranged to “explain why continued federal support for private sector investment and a clear U.S. policy direction is really, really needed.”

Coons, who spoke during the Media Matters-organized call, chimed in by applauding the liberal messaging group’s work.

“I’m grateful for what you [Butler] and Media Matters do year in and year out to help set the record straight” about American energy policy, Coons began. (RELATED: Full coverage of Media Matters)

“This is a moment where if America’s going to lead [on energy policy], we have to work together,” Coons continued, referring to “work[ing] together” with private sector energy companies through government assistance.

Coons mentioned that he had attended the ARPA-E Summit earlier this year — where green energy proponents gathered and concluded that tax breaks were needed to spur growth in the industry — and noticed that the private green energy market was already moving on its own.

The event is presented by the Clean Technology and Sustainable Industries Organization and co-hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy and its Advanced Projects Research Agency (ARPA-E).

“[I] was really inspired by what I saw there,” Coons explained. “The private sector is investing significantly. Entrepreneurs are making significant progress in launching new companies. Researchers at both the national labs and in the academic community are making critical innovations and inventions.”

The House Oversight Committee held a hearing Wednesday to examine the impact of the Department of Energy loan guarantee program — a second look spurred by the collapse of Solyndra and other green energy companies.

If the goal of that investigation is ultimately to slow federal support for green energy initiatives, Sen. Coons, who sits on the Senate Energy Committee, seems to think it’s working.

“All of these pieces of the clean energy eco-system are functioning and healthy, but they have a critical problem,” warned Coons. There’s not enough government backing, he said, thanks to “the ongoing partisan differences that Matt [Butler] referred to,” like the broad debate over Solyndra.

Those investigations may have created too great a distraction to move forward on green energy policy in the short-term, he said. “We may be handcuffed by these bitter partisan debates,” Coons admitted.

Those distractions also include companies like First Solar, whose chairman admitted before a House subcommittee Wednesday that the $3.1 billion in Energy Department loan guarantees his outfit received helped create more jobs overseas than in the United States.

“I do just want to say thank you to Media Matters and others on this call for not allowing over-hyped partisan investigations to become the only story about these big changes in the clean energy economy,” Coons said.

Coons ended his remarks by stumping for a “clean energy standard” that the Senate is considering. That standard would require power plants to use renewable energy sources while paying for their added costs through tax credits or subsidies.

The Media Matters event also featured NRG Energy president and CEO David Crane, RELYANT executive and retired Gen. Steven Anderson, and Judith Albert of Environmental Entrepreneurs. They all called for more federal government support of green energy, a staple of the Democratic agenda.

Anderson, who also served as the chief logistics officer for Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq, and described himself as a “conservative Republican,” warned that not advancing renewable energy plans could pose a “national security” risk.

“I’m absolutely convinced DOD [the Department of Defense] needs to take a decisive leadership role on this as well,” Anderson explained.

“Our oil addiction, I believe, is our greatest threat to our national security — not just foreign oil, but oil in general.

“I believe in CO2 emissions and climate change and the instability that all drives,” Anderson said. “I think that increases the likelihood that there’ll be conflicts in which American soldiers are going to have to fight and die somewhere.”

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