House GOP to Energy Dept.: Where are the green jobs?

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor

House Republicans are questioning the Energy Department’s jobs estimates from green energy companies that participated in the ambitious loan guarantee program and seeking information on the number of actual jobs created.

The Energy Department estimated that thousands of jobs would be created through the green energy loan guarantee program that funded now bankrupt companies like Solyndra and Abound Solar. The department has issued $15 billion in loan guarantees for 28 projects — only 23 of which are still operational in the DOE’s portfolio.

“Unfortunately, based on Committee staff’s review of the redacted annual loan reviews for each project, it appears that these job estimates have failed to materialize, in part, due to the aforementioned bankruptcies and the precarious financial positions of certain other projects,” Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee wrote to the Energy Department.

The 2009 stimulus package gave $15 billion to the DOE’s 1705 loan program. However, the program suffered from three major bankruptcies

The first major bankruptcy was Solyndra which got a $535 million loan guarantee and filed for bankruptcy in August 2011. It was especially controversial since the company had substantial political connections. Solyndra investor and billionaire George Kaiser — an Obama supporter — as well as other Solyndra executives and board members donated $87,050 total to President Obama’s election campaign.

Next, Beacon Power declared Bankruptcy in October 2011 after receiving a $43 million loan guarantee along with another $29 million from the federal government and the state of Pennsylvania.

Abound Solar declared bankruptcy last year after drawing down on $70 million of a $400 million loan guarantee. A Daily Caller News Foundation investigation later revealed that Abound was selling underperforming solar panels.

“The consistency of DOE’s job creation numbers is even more surprising given the fact that, according to the loan reviews made available to Committee staff, DOE has not disbursed a single dollar to five loan guarantee recipients,” the committee members wrote. “In fact, DOE has only disbursed about $8.3 billion of the $15 billion in loan guarantees.”

The Energy and Commerce Committee has criticized the DOE on green jobs before. A committee report from last year found that one wind project — Shepherd’s Flat — got $1.2 billion in subsidies in return for an estimated 35 permanent jobs — at a staggering cost of $34 million per job.

The DOE’s loan guarantee program has also been criticized for being ineffective and handing out loans based on political considerations instead of economic ones.

“The green energy loan program was essentially a recycling program designed to send taxpayer dollars to the administrations financial supporters,” said Peter Schweizer, author and Hoover Institution research fellow.

The watchdog group Cause of Action found that 95 percent of Department of Energy loan recipients with less than $1 billion in annual revenues gave political donations to both political parties, while only 32 percent of the companies that didn’t receive loan guarantees made such donations.

However, the Obama administration has continually said that politics played no role in handing out taxpayer dollars to green energy companies.

“I am aware of no communication from White House to Department of Energy saying to make the loan or to restructure,” former Energy Secretary Chu testified before Congress.

“And these are decisions, by the way, that are made by the Department of Energy, they have nothing to do with politics,” Obama told KUSA’s Kyle Clark last year.

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