Energy Secretary Chu defends Solyndra loan

@CNNMoneyTech November 16, 2011: 4:27 PM ET
Energy secretary Steven Chu has hit back at criticism of a government loan program for renewable energy in the wake of the Solyndra scandal, saying the U.S. must

Steven Chu will appear before the House Energy Committee on Thursday to discuss the Solyndra scandal.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Energy secretary Steven Chu is hitting back at criticism of a government loan program for renewable energy in the wake of the Solyndra scandal, saying the U.S. must "compete or accept defeat" in the clean tech race.

In remarks prepared for delivery before a Congressional committee on Thursday, Chu said the government should not waver in its support for clean energy despite potentially being on the hook for more than $500 million after Solyndra's bankruptcy.

"While we are disappointed in the outcome of this particular loan, we support Congress' mandate to finance the deployment of innovative technologies, and believe that our portfolio of loans does so responsibly," Chu said.

"In the coming decades, the clean energy sector is expected to grow by hundreds of billions of dollars. We are in a fierce global race to capture this market."

Solyndra was a California solar panel manufacturer that had received $535 million in federal loan guarantees before it was forced to halt operations and file for bankruptcy at the end of August, putting more than 1,000 employees out of work.

Solyndra failure shows rift over taxpayer role

Before its failure, the company had been touted as an example of the benefits of creating green jobs by the Obama administration. But since then, it has become the center of congressional criticism and a probe by the FBI.

House Republicans are now investigating whether Solyndra received preferential treatment because one of its key investors was a fundraiser for President Barack Obama. Staff from the Department of Energy, Chu said, have "consistently cooperated" with this investigation, participating in interviews and providing thousands of pages of documents.

"As this extensive record has made clear, the loan guarantee to Solyndra was subject to proper, rigorous scrutiny and healthy debate during every phase of the process," Chu said.

Former Solyndra CEO Brian Harrison and fellow executive W.G. Stover were called before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations in September to testify on the case, maintaining that no wrongdoing took place at the company but repeatedly invoking their 5th amendment right not to answer questions.

What went wrong at Solyndra

Some American solar manufacturers have alleged that Chinese firms including Suntech (STP) and Yingli (YGE) are unfairly "dumping" their products at below market value, making it impossible for U.S. companies to compete. The Commerce Department said last week that it would launch an investigation of the issue.

Meanwhile, the December futures contract for West Texas Intermediate oil was up more then $3 a barrel to $102.53 in afternoon trading Wednesday. The last time oil broke the $100 mark was on July 26. To top of page

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