GOP Aims To Kill DOE Clean Energy Loan Program

House Republicans are pushing the “No More Solyndras Act” and, man, it’s almost something President Obama can support. Just add two words to the title — “Talking About,” placed after “More” and before “Solyndras” — and bingo, the prez is right on board.

But fat chance the GOP will let go of what it clearly sees as a key campaign issue. This new legislation [PDF] from Fred Upton (R-Mich.) has no chance of becoming law — it might pass the House, but will die in the Senate — but it is providing Republicans a chance to take aim at one of the administration’s most highly publicized stumbles.

image via Solyndra

But before we plunge into that legislation, let’s recap where things stand with the U.S. Department of Energy Loan Guarantee Program.

Point 1: According to a March report [PDF] from the Government Accounting Office, “For 460 applications to the LGP from its nine solicitations, DOE has made $15.1 billion in loan guarantees and conditionally committed to an additional $15 billion, representing $30 billion of the $34 billion in loan guarantees authorized for the LGP.”

Point 2: Under an April 2011 budget compromise, Congress gave the DOE a little leeway in considering some lingering 1705 applicants after the Sept. 30, 2011, expiration of that Recovery Act program, moving them over to the Section 1703 program. The deal also gave the DOE $170 million to cover the credit subsidy cost for these prospective loan guarantees. (The credit cost subsidy is a charge, usually around 10 percent of the value of the loan, that is collected to cover the cost of any losses to the portfolio — like Solyndra). The DOE also got authorization to do up to an additional $1.5 billion in loans for Section 1705 holdovers, but with no appropriation for credit cost subsidy.

Now onto the “No More Solyndras Act.” It would prohibit the DOE from considering any loan applications made after the end of 2011, and since the DOE hasn’t issued any solicitations since then, that would render any remaining loan-making authority moot; there wouldn’t be anyone to give the loans to.

That’s why Upton wasn’t kidding last week when he said his legislation would end the loan guarantee program. Of course, he said it with a certain amount of prejudice: “The Obama administration’s gross mismanagement of the loan guarantee program necessitates the phase out of the Title XVII loan guarantee program. With the bankruptcies starting to pile up, our message to American taxpayers is clear: There will be No More Solyndras.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

  • Pete, did you notice what the Republicans allowed in the testimony you referenced for fossil and nuclear, while confining the leftover $15 billion in renewable applications that were left in the lurch on September 30th 2011, they squeezed down to a mere $1.5 billion worth of funding? 

    $30 billion is budgeted for fossil and nuclear technologies under the old section 1703 (2005 Energy Policy Act). They are not against the LGP, but just for renewables. One nuclear loan guarantee is for $8 billion!

    • Pete

      Great point. All that leave-it-the-free-market rhetoric seems to vanish when it comes to nukes. And the thing is, those plants are never built for anywhere near what they say. Talk about a money hole….