Obama Comments on China Solar Petition, GOP Turning Solyndra Into Campaign Issue

President Obama commented on the petition filed by US solar manufacturers a couple of weeks ago that calls for stiff tariffs on solar imports from China.

The 3000 page petition alleges China is violating World Trade Organization rules by flooding the US market with underpriced solar panels.

In an interview with KGW NewsChannel 8 in Portland, Oregon, he said:

"We have seen a lot of questionable competitive practices coming out of China when it comes to the clean energy space, and I have been more aggressive than previous administrations in enforcing our trade laws.

We have filed actions against them when we see these kinds of dumping activities, and we’re going to look very carefully at this stuff and potentially bring actions if we find that the basic rules of the road have been violated."

Indeed, the Obama administration recently notified the World Trade Organization that nearly 200 Chinese subsidy programs – particularly in solar and wind – may violate free trade rules.

GOP Won’t Let Go of Solyndra, Campaign Issue

Koch Brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity is spending $2.4 million on TV ads that bash Obama on the Solyndrea loan guarantee, calling it "Obama’s Green Energy Scam."

The ad will appear in all major TV and cable markets in swing-states – Florida, Michigan, Virginia and New Mexico – over the next two weeks, and will be supplemented by a "robust social media campaign."

"This is the single biggest campaign Americans for Prosperity  has launched so far this year, and is a good indicator of what we intend for 2012," Levi Russell, the group’s public-affairs director, told The Hill. 

Americans for Prosperity opposes renewable energy and regulation of greenhouse gases, and has a campaign for widespread U.S. oil-and-gas development.

Here’s the Ad:

After pummeling the White House for weeks over the Dept of Energy (DOE) loan guarantee to now-bankrupt solar manufacturer Solyndra, the investigating committee voted 14-9 along party lines to subpoena more internal documents.

The previous day, the DOE provided 15,000 pages of documents, in addition to the 70,000 pages they issued over the last months. 

Meanwhile, Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee rejected an attempt by Democrats to subpoena the CEOs of BP and the other companies blamed for last year’s massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Republicans are using Solyndra’s bankruptcy to challenge the administration’s green energy agenda, says The Hill. They hope to uncover evidence that politics played a role in the approval of the loan guarantee and the decision to restructure the loan in February.

Thus far, they have not been able to find evidence of political favoritism.

Emails show the White House pressed DOE officials to make a swift decision to help Solyndra and that there was disagreement on whether the loan guarantee should be approved.

We’ve reported on the fact that the DOE was under great pressure to quickly disburse $32.2 billion under the Recovery Act.

In testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, DOE Inspector General Gregory Friedman
said the Obama administration’s goal of stimulating the economy with "shovel-ready" energy projects was unrealistic. DOE faced many logistical hurdles as it worked to dole out money for projects ranging from home weatherization to environmental cleanup.

Only 55% of the money has been spent, he said, despite the department’s "intense effort" to meet the goals of the 2009 law. His office conducted over 100 stimulus investigations into "various schemes, including the submission of false information, claims for unallowable or unauthorized expenses, and other improper uses of Recovery Act funds." The investigations have recovered $2.3 million and resulted in five criminal prosecutions, reports The Hill.

As Solyndra teetered on the brink of financial collapse, DOE went through a difficult decision process around whether they should help it stay alive, but in the end, rejected it.

DOE Secretary Steve Chu warns that stopping federal support for clean energy would be a grave economic mistake. Rather than walking away, the design of loan guarantee programs could be more flexible, such as offering various financing terms based on risk.

GOP Moves to End Government Support for Electric Vehicles

The GOP also doesn’t like the support the federal government has been giving to spur development of US industry that makes green vehicles and advanced batteries.

Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) wants to eliminate the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program, which still has $4 billion in funding unspent.

President George W. Bush signed the law in 2007, which was then supported by the very same Republicans that now sit on the Oversight committee that wants to kill it. The first loans were disbursed under the Obama administration.

"Two years ago, critics said we shouldn’t be investing in advanced American auto manufacturing because the industry wouldn’t survive. They were wrong then and they’re wrong today. From well-established names like Ford to innovative startups like Tesla, America’s auto industry is being reinvented, and the Department’s loan program is helping play an important role," says Damien LaVera, a DOE spokesperson.

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