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Energy official praised Solyndra before FBI bust
Loans chief lauded ‘right direction’ of firm
Question of the Day
“The company in question, Solyndra, built an enormous robotics factory to produce solar panels on time and under budget,” Mr. Silver said in a May 2011 radio interview, according to the Solyndra memo.
The remarks were similar to those reported weeks earlier by Environment & Energy Daily, a trade publication, at a time when Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee were raising questions about the company’s finances.
“It’s been badly misunderstood in public discussions,” Mr. Silver said. “Things have not gone wildly awry, though they somehow have been reported that way.”
Two weeks after Solyndra collapsed, Mr. Silver testified to the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s investigations subcommittee. By then, there was no doubt Solyndra was no longer exceeding expectations.
At the hearing, Mr. Silver blamed the company’s collapse on Chinese solar companies, backed by the government with tens of billions of dollars in credit, flooding the market with cheap panels, as well as declining demand for solar panels in Europe.
“I’m just saying, with all your experience as a venture [capitalist], I’m surprised you didn’t see this cash-burn rate as a serious flag,” Mr. Stearns said.
“We did, we did, we did, congressman” Mr. Silver replied, “and we talked with the company about it regularly. But I need to underscore something I said before. As lenders, and particularly with lender-liability issues, we are not actually in a position to force a company to do anything.”
Asked whether Solyndra ever misled the Energy Department, or if he thought the company was not providing federal officials with “all appropriate information,” Mr. Silver said, “I have no reason, sitting here today, to believe that we were misled.”
Solyndra’s troubles have been magnified by the public support it won from the top reaches of government, including a tour of the company last year by President Obama and remarks by Vice President Joseph R. Biden and then-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at a 2009 groundbreaking ceremony.
On Monday, Mr. Obama said he didn’t regret the loans to Solyndra, saying that “there are going to be some failures, and Solyndra’s an example.” As China and other countries pour money into clean-energy technology, Mr. Obama said, “We’ve got to make sure that our guys here in the United States at least have a shot.”
Also Monday, House Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats said in a seven-page memo that new documents don’t support accusations that Solyndra benefited from political favors, but rather show disagreement between the Office of Management and Budget and the Energy Department on Solyndra’s prospects.
One person, Steve Westly, managing partner of the Westly Group, even reached out to White House aide Valerie Jarrett to warn against a visit by Mr. Obama to Solyndra, according to emails released Monday.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Jim McElhatton is an investigative reporter for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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