Markey and other Democrats asserted that taking risks like the one associated with Solyndra was necessary because of China’s substantial help for its own solar panel manufacturers. Waxman said, “I don’t believe in surrender.”
Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) later asked Chu whether he would give loan guarantees to Solyndra knowing what he knows now. “Knowing what I know now? No,” Chu said. “But you don’t make decisions and fast-forward two years. I wish I could do that.”
Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have been harshly critical of the Energy Department and the White House after obtaining reams of administration e-mails concerning the department’s decision to help Solyndra, even after the company started having liquidity problems.
The e-mails released so far have shown an administration where some of President Obama’s economic advisers fought against the program, while the Energy Department struggled to get deals approved quickly.
The White House also has released letters, many written by congressional critics of the Energy Department and the loan guarantee program, supporting loan guarantee requests.
Many Republican lawmakers have suggested that the loan guarantees were given to Solyndra because of the company’s political connections in the White House.
But Chu said in his opening remarks that “the final decisions on Solyndra were mine, and I made them with the best interest of the taxpayer in mind.” He added, “I did not make any decision based on political considerations.”
Instead, he said, the original loan guarantee “was based on the analysis of experienced professionals and on the strength of the information they had available to them at the time.” He noted that private investors had put more than half a billion dollars of their own money into Solyndra and that the company was praised as one of “50 most innovative companies” by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Technology Review in February 2010.
Chu also defended the department’s decision to continue supporting Solyndra even after it told the administration that it needed emergency funds in the face of a cash shortage.
“The Department faced a difficult decision: force the company into immediate bankruptcy or restructure the loan guarantee to allow the company to accept emergency financing that would be paid back first if the company was still unable to recover,” Chu said in his opening statement.
“Immediate bankruptcy meant a 100 percent certainty of default, with an unfinished plant as collateral,” he said. “Restructuring improved the chance of recovering taxpayer money by giving the company a fighting chance at success.”
Chu added, “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.”
Staff writer William Branigin contributed to this report.