Did Obama's Energy Secretary Seek $1.4 Billion Bailout Loan to Prop Up the Failing Solyndra?

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) wants answers from Energy Secretary Steven Chu about documents that appear to indicate that Mr. Chu personally intervened to help secure a $1.4 billion partial loan guarantee for a large-scale rooftop solar project known as Project Amp that was to be supplied equipment by the sinking ship that was Solyndra.

“It is astonishing that DOE actively negotiated a plan to risk even more taxpayer money to prop up Solyndra at all costs,” said Rep. Stearns.

In his role as Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Rep. Stearns sent Sec. Chu a letter inquiring why the Energy Secretary would have helped put even more taxpayer money at risk when it was clear Solyndra was yet another failed green energy scheme, particularly since the Department of Energy itself seemed squeamish about approving the loan:

Project Amp is a large-scale rooftop energy generation project using solar panels on commercial facility rooftops to generate electricity for sale to utilities and power purchasers.  The panels for first phase of Project Amp were to be sole sourced from the failing Solyndra, Inc.   Documents obtained by the Committee indicate that DOE had some hesitation in approving the loan guarantee and that Secretary Chu intervened on behalf of Project Amp.  This brings up many questions, including if this was an attempt to support the faltering Solyndra since it occurred during discussions over the second restructuring of the Solyndra loan guarantee.

According to Rep. Stearns letter, a Solyndra employee email suggests that, indeed, Mr. Chu was part of a Herculean effort to craft a deal that “went to higher levels in the Obama Administration”:

In a June 17, 2011 email, a Solyndra employee shared what he had learned from a BAML [Bank of America Merrill Lynch] senior investment banker who took part in the Project Amp negotiations with DOE, stating that, ‘[O]n three occasions this week he thought that the [Project Amp] deal was dead, but Secretary Chu personally pulled it off.  Chu shared with the team that this deal went to higher levels in the Obama Administration to gain approval than any other transaction in the Loan Guarantee Program, and that he personally committed to seeing it through to a successful conclusion.’  Further, the minutes of the June 18, 2011, DOE Credit Review Board for Project Amp stated that ‘Secretary Chu had requested the CRB convene to consider Project Amp.

Mr. Chu’s views on energy have come under fire before.  In September 2008, Mr. Chu told the Wall Street Journal that he wanted to see U.S. gas prices go up in order to force Americans to drive less.

“Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe,” Mr. Chu told The Journal.   Given Monday’s news that American gas prices were the highest they have ever been at this time of the year, Mr. Chu’s energy plans appear to be working.

No word yet on Mr. Chu’s response to Rep. Stearns’s inquiry as to why he would fight to secure and dump $1.4 billion taxpayer dollars into Solyndra’s sinking hole.