Bureaucrat Who Approved Solyndra Loan Resigns, NYTimes Buries News on Page A17

Energy Department bureaucrat Jonathan Silver tendered his resignation on October 6, effective the following day. Silver led the Energy Department office that approved the ill-fated $528 million loan to solar energy firm Solyndra, despite concerns from some in the White House that it was a disaster waiting to happen.

Although the development occurred the same day as President Obama reiterated his support for similar loans for green energy, the New York Times buried staff writer Matthew Wald's story on page A17 of the October 7 paper.

Wald closed his article by quoting President Obama's defense of loans to green energy firms:

“The idea is pretty straightforward: If we are going to be able to compete in the 21st century, then we’ve got to dominate cutting-edge technologies, we’ve got to dominate cutting-edge manufacturing,” he said. “Clean energy is part of that package of technologies of the future that have to be based here in the United States if we’re going to be able to succeed.” 

But a few days earlier in the October 4 paper Wald and colleague Eric Lipton reported that even venture capitalists with a financial stake in green energy firms voiced concern over the Solyndra loan while it was still on the drawing board (emphasis mine):

WASHINGTON — Some White House officials were so concerned last year about the financial health of Solyndra, a solar equipment manufacturer that had received federal loans, that they warned that a presidential trip to the company’s California factory could prove a major embarrassment, newly disclosed e-mails show.

The e-mails, gathered as part of a Congressional investigation into the Department of Energy loan program, offer new insight into just how worried administration officials were about the $528 million loan to Solyndra, which is now in bankruptcy, as well as other government efforts, amounting to $16 billion in loan guarantees, to promote clean energy. The warnings came from both inside the White House — an official in the Office of Management and Budget wrote that the visit could be “embarrassing in the not too distant future” — as well as from private investors, including one Democratic campaign contributor who wrote to the White House the day before the president’s May 2010 visit to Solyndra to urge officials to reconsider the trip.

“I just want to help protect the president from anything that could result in negative or unfair press,” Steve Westly, a California venture capitalist and an Obama contributor, wrote in May 2010 to Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president. “If it’s too late to change/postpone the meeting, the president should be careful about unrealistic/optimistic forecasts that could haunt him in the next 18 months if Solyndra hits the wall, files for bankruptcy, etc.”

[...]

A Solyndra investor, in an e-mail sent to the White House in late 2009, asked why the government had been willing to offer the solar start-up so much money.

“One of our solar companies with revenues of less than $100 million (and not yet profitable) received a government loan of $580 million,” the investor, Brad Jones of Redpoint Ventures, wrote in December 2009 to Lawrence H. Summers, then the president’s chief economic adviser, referring to Solyndra. “While that is good for us, I can’t imagine it’s a good way for the government to use taxpayer money.”

The investment, Mr. Jones said, demonstrated broad problems with the government loan program. “The allocation of spending to clean energy is haphazard; the government is just not well equipped to decide which companies should get the money and how much,” he wrote.

Cross-posted from MRC's TimesWatch.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters