Chu: Energy-loan process improving since Solyndra

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Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu sought to assure lawmakers Tuesday of improvements in a loan program that became the focal point of criticism after the failure of solar company Solyndra LLC two years after it won a half-billion dollars in federal loan guarantees

“There are always lessons learned in life,” Mr. Chu told a House Appropriations subcommittee during a budget hearing Tuesday. “We are continuing to improve how we administer the loans.”

Mr. Chu’s comments came after Rep. Rodney P. Frelinghuysen, New Jersey Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations’ energy and water subcommittee, said the public’s faith had been shaken by the Solyndra collapse.

Solyndra has become its [public] face,” he said, adding that “we dont know what will be the next shoe to fall.”

Since 2010, Mr. Chu said a program within the department looks for rapid changes inside a company or in the overall market that might affect a loan recipient.

“We monitor things very closely,” Mr. Chu said during the hearing on DOE’s $27.2 billion budget request.

Mr. Chu also echoed comments he made during an appearance earlier this month before a Senate panel, when he called for continued investment in solar, wind and smart-grid technologies.

“Decades ago, the Energy Department support helped to develop the technologies that have allowed us to tap into Americas abundant shale-gas resources,” he said. “Today, our investments can help advance technologies that will unlock the promise of renewable energy and energy efficiency.”

Lawmakers also questioned Mr. Chu on a host of other issues, including rising gasoline prices, nuclear-waste disposal and research-and-development initiatives.

Rep. Peter J. Visclosky, Indiana Democrat, said the U.S. shouldn’t cede its leadership on clean energy, but noted he was concerned about overruns in DOE construction projects.

Rep. Harold Rogers, Kentucky Republican and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, pressed Mr. Chu on what he said was a lack of resources spent to support research on coal.

“It seems this administration is intent on completely shutting off the use of coal and the mining of coal,” said Mr. Rogers, whose state is a major coal producer.

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