This week, House Republicans will hold an array of hearings and votes to cast President Obama’s "green agenda as an affront to the economy," reports The Hill. They are setting up their " final waves of political attacks against White House energy and environmental policies ahead of the November elections."
On Friday, the House will vote on the "No More Solyndras Act", which prevents the Department of Energy (DOE) from further supporting renewable energy companies.
They know it doesn’t have a chance of passing the Democratically-controlled Senate, but that isn’t the point. The GOP plans to make Solyndra their main messaging vehicle against Obama’s renewable energy policies in the presidential campaign.
Over the past months, we’ve documented how conservatives – led by Koch-backed groups like Americans for Prosperity and ALEC – are trying to turn public opinion against renewable energy, casting it as unreliable, too expensive and "pie-in-the-sky" compared to fossil fuels.
As we’ve reported many times, ALEC is working to dismantle state Renewable Portfolio Standards, and regional climate cap-and-trade pacts, even suing in NY recently. Americans for Prosperity takes credit for misinforming the public about climate change and leading to the culture of denial within the GOP.
Republicans say Solyndra’s bankruptcy demonstrates that renewables aren’t ready for prime time and can’t compete with fossil fuels. They want the public to buy their fossil fuels everywhere platform instead.
This week, 64 conservative groups sent a letter to the Senate asking them not to renew the Wind PTC.
The question is, what are – or can – people in our industries do about this, given the David and Goliath situation?
Five Things You Should Know About Solyndra During The 2012 Campaign
By Stephen Lacey
One year ago today, the solar manufacturer Solyndra filed for bankruptcy after receiving a $527 million loan guarantee. The bankruptcy set off a political firestorm in Congress, and eventually worked its way into the presidential campaign.
Today, the Republican party is using Solyndra as a key tool in its campaign against Obama – smearing the entire clean energy industry in the process.
If you’ve been paying attention to the issue over the last year, you’ve likely heard the name "Solyndra" so many times it makes you nauseous. But most Americans are only now paying attention to the campaign, so it’s likely that many are hearing the name for the first time.
Here are some facts to put the issue in context:
1. DOE’s loan guarantee program that supported Solyndra is a success
The loan guarantee program, which provides government backing of private loans for first-of-a-kind projects, was designed to help leverage capital for innovative renewable energy projects during the height of the financial crisis. And it worked. It was started under the Bush Administration in 2005.
Enhanced through the stimulus package, it supported the world’s largest wind farm, the first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant, some of the largest solar PV plants in the world, and the country’s largest concentrating solar project – nearly 40 projects in all that helped keep 60,000 people employed during the economic downturn and led to the doubling of clean energy in the US.
2. Solyndra’s bankruptcy represents a tiny fraction of the overall program
The loan guarantee program came under fire after the bankruptcies of a few high-risk companies – most famously Solyndra – that received backing.
But according to John McCain’s National Finance Chairman, Herb Allison, the overall cost to taxpayers will be $2 billion less than actually budgeted for. The Congressional Research Office also concludes the vast majority of loans were extremely low risk.
In fact, over the last 20 years of experience, the U.S. government has shown a knack for managing risk – with loans and loan guarantee programs only costing tax payers 94 cents for every $100 dollars invested.
3. There is "no evidence" of political manipulation
Since Solyndra went bankrupt, House lawmakers have held 12 hearings and official meetings, acquired more than 300,000 documents, issued two subpenas, and likely spent more than a million dollars on the investigation, insisting "crony capitalism" is behind loan recipients.
What have they found? "No evidence of wrongdoing," reports Bloomberg Businessweek. And in a more detailed investigation, the Washington Post goes further: "The records do not establish that anyone pressured the Energy Department to approve the Solyndra loan to benefit political contributors."
Last month, House GOP lawmakers issued a progress report on their investigation. As The Hill reported on the findings: "Republicans have not shown that the loan was granted as a result of political favoritism, despite repeated campaign-trail claims that the administration steered loans to Solyndra and other green-energy projects on the basis of political donations."
4. Dozens of Republicans supported loan guarantees or similar programs
Since the Solyndra bankruptcy, many Republicans have scrambled to create a political scandal. However, a review of official documents and news reports over the years reveals that more than 60 Congressional Republicans – many of whom are critical of government support of renewables – have lobbied the Department of Energy for loan guarantees, grants, and other support for clean energy projects in their districts.
In addition, Congressman Darrell Issa, one of the leaders of the House investigation into the Solyndra bankruptcy, strongly supported billions of dollars in loan guarantees for nuclear energy projects. However, when such tools are used for renewable energy, he labels it "picking winners and losers."
5. Republicans have bluntly admitted the investigation is political
With multiple Congressional and journalistic investigations revealing no evidence of political manipulation, why does the GOP continue to spend so much time on the issue?
One Republican, Representative Jim Jordan from Ohio, recently admitted that the plan was to keep Solyndra in the headlines throughout the election – no matter what the outcome: "Ultimately, we’ll stop it on Election Day, hopefully.
And bringing attention to these things helps the voters and citizens of the country make the kind of decision that I hope helps them as they evaluate who they are going to vote for in November."
A year after the Solyndra bankruptcy, we still haven’t found any evidence of political wrongdoing. But facts be dammed, the GOP is now using Solyndra as a central part of its national messaging strategy against Obama. So the next time you hear "Solyndra" in a debate or on the campaign trail, keep these facts in mind.
This article first appeared on Climate Progress: