President Obama Defends DOE Loan Guarantees, Renewable Energy Investment

During an Oct. 6 news conference focusing on the U.S. economy, President Barack Obama directly addressed the ongoing political controversy surrounding bankrupt module manufacturer Solyndra, the company's loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and, by extension, investment in the solar power sector as a whole.

In response to a reporter's question regarding decision-making by his administration, Obama emphasized the need for the U.S to continue to invest in renewable energy in order to remain globally competitive. He also reiterated that the DOE loan-guarantee program contains an inevitable element of risk.

‘Solyndra – this is a loan guarantee program that predates me, that historically has had support from Democrats and Republicans as well,’ Obama said, according to a transcript posted by the White House. ‘And 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. 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.’

‘[S]o what the loan guarantee program was designed to do was to close that gap and say, let's see if we can help some of those folks locate here and create jobs here in the United States,’ he continued. ‘Now, we knew from the start that the loan guarantee program was going to entail some risk, by definition. If it was a risk-free proposition, then we wouldn't have to worry about it.’

Obama also addressed previous statements made by House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., who had claimed that the U.S. should not seek to compete with China on solar energy technology development and manufacturing.

‘I'm not going to surrender to other countries' technological leads that could end up determining whether or not we're building a strong middle class in this country,’ he stated.

A follow-up question focused on whether the Obama administration did not heed early warnings that Solyndra was not financially viable.

‘[A]ll I can say is that the Department of Energy made these decisions based on their best judgment about what would make sense,’ Obama responded. ‘And the nature of these programs are going to be ones in which, for every success, there may be one that does not work out as well. But that's exactly what the loan-guarantee program was designed by Congress to do, [which] was to take bets on these areas where we need to make sure that we're maintaining our lead.’


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