A recent Washington Post (WaPo) exposé on the Obama administration’s Department of Energy (DOE) loan guarantee program tells a story not so much of a White House conspiring to throw money into poorly thought out projects, but of an administration that has no idea what it’s doing.
Based on a recent Congressional investigation into the DOE’s multiple flopped “green” energy deals, the WaPo article underscores several emails showing the White House knew about the financial risks involved in energy investments. Even more telling is the fact that these same emails show the White House thought Secretary of Energy Steven Chu was going a bit overboard with the program. So, they knew of the risks and thought Chu was overdoing it? Got it.
Jonathan Silver, the man running the loan program, claimed Secretary Chu “annihilated” objections from the White House’s economic team, declaring “total victory.”
Other e-mail exchanges in the documents appear to show deep divisions between Chu and some senior Obama economic advisers over the program.
After the June 2011 meeting with Daley, Jonathan Silver, the director of the Energy Department’s loan office, celebrated “total victory” over administration opponents. He described in an e-mail to a colleague how Chu came as “close to an annihilation of the economic team’s position as you could possibly hope for.” Silver speculated that Daley had given the economic team “a fig leaf” and that the Energy Department’s victory was cause to “do some serious gloating.”
A draft of Energy Department talking points prepared for the presidential briefing highlights that the program had committed more than $34 billion and asserted that it had created or saved 68,000 jobs. Those talking points forecast little risk from the program, although Solyndra was already showing signs of distress: The department months earlier had negotiated a loan restructuring amid threats that the firm would have to liquidate for lack of operating cash.
“DOE expects that all loans will be repaid,” one presentation slide said. “When loans are repaid, the benefits — including the creation of tens of thousands of jobs — will have been obtained at little cost to taxpayers.”
However, as Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey points out, this wasn't the White House’s chief concern. They were more worried about “unjust enrichment.”
Officials at the Treasury Department and the White House Office of Management and Budget often argued that government subsidies to clean-energy companies gave them too great of a return on investment, or an “unjust enrichment,” Chu wrote.
“Many times, they felt that a ‘better deal’’ could have been brokered by DOE and asked us to renegotiate,” he said.
Huh, so they were mostly worried “green” energy execs would privately make a boatload of cash from taxpayer-funded investments? Well, um, we actually agree with the White house on this one. Now if they only had this sort of concern for, you know, the success of the projects they poured taxpayer money into.
“The question that arises from these e-mails: did this presidential briefing take place? What was Obama told about Solyndra and the other ventures that took taxpayer money down the drain shortly afterward?” Morrissey asks.
“While these e-mails don’t exactly represent a smoking gun, they do show the banana-peel cluelessness of both the White House and the DoE in managing this loan program,” he adds.
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