White House-Backed Review of Energy Department Loans Omits Solyndra

Patrick Burke | March 14, 2012 | 7:30pm EDT
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(AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) -- An “independent review” commissioned by the White House to evaluate loans issued by the U.S. Department of Energy did not include a review of DOE loans to failed alternative energy projects such as Solyndra and Beacon Power.

“First of all let me again emphasize we did not look at Solyndra and Beacon. We have not looked at the companies that received grants, we’re only looking at the loan program,” study author Herb Allison told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Tuesday morning.

Allison, a former Treasury Department employee who was chosen by the White House to conduct an independent review of the Department of Energy loan guarantee program, summarized his findings before the Energy Committee. He also made recommendations to increase efficiency within the loan guarantee program and to ensure responsible use of taxpayer money.

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Former Treasury official Herb Allison testifying before the Senate Energy Committee. (AP photo)

During questioning by the panel, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) asked Allison why the report did not conduct a review of Solyndra when a DOE loan failed in its purpose to facilitate clean energy. Allison said the report focused solely on “loans that exist now.”

However, Paul pressed Allison further on the issue, saying that he was “skeptical” why a review on energy loans would not include failed companies like Solyndra and BrightSource, where more oversight was necessary.

“I have your mandate -- it looks to me wide open, if you were to look at oversight, why wouldn’t you look at where the problem is?” asked Paul.

“This is about crony capitalism. This isn’t about starting up solar panels. It’s about giving money to people who’ve already got enough money. Let them make their own loans. If they love solar panels, let them do it. But I don’t understand, you didn’t look at any of the problems and how do we come to conclusions about oversight, if you didn’t look at the companies where the problems originated?”

Allison said “there are several investigations of Solyndra underway – and claimed he and his staff would have required more time as well as more “investigatory powers” to fully analyze the failed loan.

“(I)f we were going to look at that, we would’ve needed investigatory powers, subpoena powers, the right to demand documents. We would’ve taken probably many months, if not a year,” said Allison, who added a review of Solyndra would overlap with investigations already in progress.

FILE - In this Aug. 9, 2011 file photo, Sen. Rand Paul addresses a town hall meeting in Hartford, Ky.  (AP Photo/Ed Reinke, File)

Despite the fact that Paul called into question the report’s political motives and validity, Allison stood by his findings and conclusions.

“My point is, regardless of those facts, we were going to do as thorough a process of reviewing the policies and procedures of the Department of Energy regarding the management of this portfolio. I think we did that, I think that we came to our own independent conclusions,” he said.

Solyndra is a solar energy company that went bankrupt last year after receiving a $535 million government loan. Environmental attorney and Obama financial supporter Robert Kennedy, Jr.’s investment firm Vantage Partners is the principal investor in BrightSource.

Last year, BrightSource received a $1.4 billion loan that was approved by a DOE worker formerly employed with the green energy company.

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