The White House announced Friday that President Obama has appointed someone to look into this whole Solyndra matter. But don’t be too impressed.
Solyndra of course is the solar panel maker that took half a billion in federally guaranteed loans and proceeded to go belly up anyway, prompting a Congressional investigation into the incompetence of the loan steering process and whether Obama fundraisers who were involved had conflicts of interest.
First, let’s take the opening line of the Washington Post article about the new investigation: “The White House has authorized an independent review . . .”
Authorized an independent review? What does that mean?
Second, Obama has chosen one of the inmates to investigate the asylum. While Herbert Allison Jr. appears to be widely respected and has worked for both Republicans and Democrats, he’s not exactly an independent outsider, having recently served as Obama’s Assistant Secretary of Treasury for Financial Stability, overseeing the financial system rescue effort.
He’s an insider. Not an outsider.
And third, the “investigation” is tailored to assess the clean energy program itself – to gauge the health of the companies that have received funds and to find ways to spot problems in the future – not to probe the actions and conflicts of interest of those who divvied up the loan money.
The White House has been clear that, while broadcasting to the public that it is conducting some kind of internal investigation, it will continue to stonewall congressional investigators trying to find out who did what and why.
White House officials told the Washington Post and the New York Times Friday that they will continue to oppose congressional effort to obtain more documents, parroting the line that they have “already handed over 70,000 documents.”
Which sounds impressive, unless damning information is contained in document No. 70,001.
Republican Energy Committee leaders threatened in a statement Friday to subpoena the information:
Subpoenaing the White House is a serious step that, unfortunately, appears necessary in light of the Obama administration’s stonewall on Solyndra. What is the White House trying to hide from the American public? It is alarming for the Obama White House to cast aside its vows of transparency and block Congress from learning more about the roles that those in the White House and other members of the administration played in the Solyndra mess.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post – at the end of an article this morning, like, as an afterthought – lists several more major loan recipients that appear to be in dismal straights.
Fisker, an electric-car maker that received a $529 million loan guarantee through the program, has missed its early manufacturing goals and pushed back plans for U.S. manufacturing. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, this week asked the Energy Department to explain a $730 million loan guarantee made to the Michigan subsidiary of a steel and mining company owned by a Russian billionaire.
Other loan recipients, too, are confronting recent financial difficulties.
Beacon Power Corp., an energy storage company that received $43 million in federal support from the program, may be delisted from the Nasdaq because its shares have dropped below $1 and it has warned it may not be a “going concern.”
The firm, which makes flywheels that control the flow of energy through the electrical grid, was next in line to receive a loan after Solyndra and counts the Navy among its customers.
Beacon received good news last week when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved a regulation that will allow electricity storage companies such as Beacon to receive incentive payments. But two flywheels at the company’s Stephentown, N.Y., plant have failed in the past two months, prompting some analysts to downgrade its stock.