White House Warned in 2009 That Solyndra Was Poor Investment

For about a week, I have been hesitant to post on the Solyndra scandal. There seemed to be a bit of too much of a pile on due to this being a green tech company. However, it is now serious and new evidence suggests that the White House was not just cavalier with such stimulus funds but willfully blind that this company (run by a major Democratic donor who visited the White House repeatedly before the public support by the President) was likely to fail. At best it was a remarkably moronic move by the President and his staff.

Evidence disclosed by the House shows that the bankrupt solar company was well-known to be poorly structured and unlikely to survive. Indeed, one government review predicted that the company would run out of cash in September 2011. The company failed on Sept. 6th.

That was long before the company was made the President’s poster child for federal support in September 2009. After receiving $527 million in federal funds over two years, the company filed for bankruptcy.

While the Bush administration set the loan guarantee program in motion, it was the Obama Administration that ignored various warnings and selected the company for a massive media campaign by both Obama and Biden — the latter praising the “permanent jobs” created by the loan.

A DOE staff on August 20, 2009, obtained noted “The issue of working capital remains unresolved… the issue is cash balances, not cost. [Solyndra] seems to agree that the model runs out of cash in Sept. 2011 even in the base case without any stress.”

One email disclosed today warned:

“The optics of a Solyndra default will be bad,” the Office of Management and Budget staff member wrote Jan. 31 in an e-mail to a co-worker. “If Solyndra defaults down the road, the optics will be arguably worse later than they would be today. . . . In addition, the timing will likely coincide with the 2012 campaign season heating up.”

Another e-mail warned that “this deal is NOT ready for prime time.”

That did not stop the Obama White House from going primetime with both the President and Vice President. It is the type of calculation that made Las Vegas what it is today. Faced with warnings of a losing hand, the Obama Administration doubled down.

It is not the sheer waste of hundreds of millions in federal funds but the sheer stupidity of this move that has shocked many folks. The fact that a campaign donor was pushing these loans and repeatedly meeting with top staffers does not help the optics — particularly during a month when the White House has been accused by a general of pressuring him to support the business project of another major donor.

The fact is that the Republicans are justified in pursuing this controversy — an opportunity, if not a gift, given to the GOP by this White House.

Source: Yahoo

58 thoughts on “White House Warned in 2009 That Solyndra Was Poor Investment

  1. Listening to NPR’s coverage the other day (IIRC), it sounded to me that of all the mostly phony scandals, this was had a good chance of sticking, and that it should.

    In my ignorance, I generally prefer government to be subsidizing an industry airmail style by guaranteeing some amount of services to be bought, but not by picking individual winners.

    I am also curious where we taxpayers are on the list of creditors.

    Do we now own their technology? Can we license it to others in the industry?

    It’s tragic that David Halberstam is not present to write, Best and the Brightest II, Electric Boogaloo.

  2. Anon brings up a good point. Does the US now own the technology? If we do, half a billion might turn out to be a good deal.

  3. Anon, BN….

    It all depends if the technology was secured by the loan….Lets say this…the US as a creditor will generally have Super Priority especially over other claims in the same status….

  4. How to Talk About Solyndra

    Conservatives have been trying to paint this as a big scandal of some kind, despite the fact that: the company had plenty of private investors too; it’s the only DOE loan that has failed so far; and there’s no real evidence that anyone in the White House did anything worse than push OMB to speed up their decision-making process a bit in 2009.

    I’ll wait to see if anything comes out about White House pressure on the DOE decision. If there was White House pressure on the DOE, that would make Solyndra more like the LightSquared incident.

    There is a “quid pro quo” attitude regarding government contracts and major donors that permeates the political level of the bureaucracy. Unless some heads roll, that attitude will persist.

  5. ……Stewart had some fun last night with the ongoing scandal surrounding Solyndra — a green tech company the Obama administration praised and gave a $500 billion loan guarantee.

    The post at 10:23 am is incorrect….It is only 500 MILLION…..

  6. it’s the only DOE loan that has failed so far; and there’s no real evidence that anyone in the White House did anything worse than push OMB to speed up their decision-making process a bit in 2009.

    Which may be true, but

    Solyndra, isn’t the only business to go belly up after benefiting from a piece of the $800 billion economic stimulus package passed in 2009.

    At least four other companies have received stimulus funding only to later file for bankruptcy, and two of those were working on alternative energy.

    Evergreen Solar Inc., indirectly received $5.3 million through a state grant to open a $450 million facility in 2007 that employed roughly 800 people. The company, once a rock star in the solar industry, filed for bankruptcy protection last month, saying it couldn’t compete with Chinese rivals without reorganizing. The company intends to focus on building up its manufacturing facility in China.

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/09/15/despite-stimulus-funding-solyndra-and-4-other-companies-have-hit-rock-bottom/#ixzz1Y7wwvGyw

  7. AY,

    Remember the days when $500 million seemed like a lot of $$$$… lol

    and agree with Nal (and AY) about rolling heads…

  8. Despite Solyndra’s abrupt closing and bankruptcy announcement last month, the Department of Energy (DOE) is undeterred. Just this month, the agency made two more loan guarantees worth millions of dollars to alternative energy firms.

    And, as was the case with Solyndra, officials and investors with the two new companies have strong financial ties to President Barack Obama.

    On September 7, the DOE announced its plan to guarantee 80 percent — or $275 million — of a $344 million private loan taken out by the firm SolarCity. The company installs rooftop solar systems that harvests electricity SolarCity then sells.

    The guarantee means that if SolarCity’s project does not succeed, the DOE will use taxpayer money to pay back 80 percent of the company’s private loans

    The current plan is for SolarCity to operate 160,000 systems on military bases around the country, and hire 750 workers over five years. It has been described as the “largest residential solar project in history.”

    The Chairman of SolarCity, Elon Musk, is a major financial supporter of the president. On April 15 of this year, Musk donated $35,800 to the Obama Victory Fund. He also gave an additional $5,000 to the Obama campaign.

    Like Solyndra officials White House visitor logs show Musk has visited the Administration at least four times since 2009.

    Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2011/09/12/new-doe-loans-support-green-obama-backers/#ixzz1Y7ybaqA7

  9. Nal,

    I always want to like Kevin Drum, we have similar backgrounds. But to quote Ronald Reagan, there he goes again.

    Read what Kevin Drum says, ” At this point we do know enough”…

    Jeez, he’s always saying stupid shit like this.

    Read what he says in that article about climategate. Well truth is for me, Kevin Drum’s writing is what turned me against cap and trade. Why? Because Drum kept advocating for cap and trade because he said Republicans would be too stupid to realize it was a tax scheme.

    I do not think we now know enough.

    I do not think we should be talking about how to spin Solyndra.

    I do not think the presence of other investors somehow makes DOE’s investment proper. ESPECIALLY when the other investors are all VENTURE CAPITALISTS investors and in total amount to about half of the the DOE investment.

    I do not think pressuring OMB to make their decision was benign or minimal.

    I do not think DOE should have been picking winners. I do not think they should invest in specific technologies without getting ownership of those technologies.

    I think Drum’s article is much too soon and is just typical partisan hackery.

    I know nothing about martial arts, I do suspect that Drum’s approach and Dave Robert’s approach of meeting fire with fire, of blocking their locomotive by running our locomotive into it head on, will probably lead to a pessimal outcome.

    Kevin Drum, Mother Jones, Stephen Lacey and Climate Progress would have us believe this is all old news with nothing to learn.

    I see a cockroach. I wonder how many I don’t see.

  10. Does not matter a wit – China has massive subsidies for their solar manufacturers because they want to own this industry. No American company will be able to compete no matter what they do unless they can come up with a technological leap forward that can be patented and controlled.

    Even that might not be enough, over the last decade the Chinese have so dominated the market for various raw materials and basic components that no companies outside China exist for many of the fundamental material needed. So, if this leap forward needs any of these components China can easily constrict the supply.

    This is a real criminal enterprise & it has co-opted a lot of the industrialist from around the world with cheap labor & goods. Khrushchev once said “when the last capitalist is hing he will sell us the rope to do it.” He may be right yet.

  11. anon 1, September 16, 2011 at 11:00 am

    If it wasn’t for the man made global warming myth we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist Resigns Over Global Warming

    Dr. Ivar Giaever, a former professor with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the 1973 winner of the Nobel Prize in physics, abruptly announced his resignation Tuesday, Sept. 13, from the premier physics society in disgust over its officially stated policy that “global warming is occurring.”

    The official position of the American Physical Society (APS) supports the theory that man’s actions have inexorably led to the warming of the planet, through increased emissions of carbon dioxide.

    Giaever does not agree — and put it bluntly and succinctly in the subject line of his email, reprinted at Climate Depot, a website devoted to debunking the theory of man-made climate change.

    Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist Who Endorsed Obama Dissents! Resigns from American Physical Society Over Group’s Promotion of Man-Made Global


  12. AN,

    I would like to have just the bank exchange rate on 500 million for 24 hours…presently I think it is 1.1%



    I was joking you know… I too would be happy with the scenario you’ve described… $500 million is still a lot to “the little people”… , but the government… well, not so much…

  13. AN,

    Yes mame…I know….For a lot of folk…a thousand dollars is a lot of money….and 50 can make or break whether they eat or not…

  14. For what its worth,I caught drips and drabs on this part of the story the other night.So here it is.

    Exclusive Timeline: Bush Administration Advanced Solyndra Loan Guarantee for Two Years, Media Blow the Story
    By Stephen Lacey and Climate Guest Blogger on Sep 13, 2011 at 11:10 am

    “It’s often claimed that the Solyndra loan guarantee was “rushed through” by the Obama Administration for political reasons. In fact, the Solyndra loan guarantee was a multi-year process that the Bush Administration launched in 2007.”


  15. The Obama administration is in a race against the clock to close by month’s end more than a dozen renewable-energy loan guarantees totaling $9 billion. Of that, just over $3 billion would come from the federal government’s coffers.

    It now has to do that amid an escalating political battle over a federally backed solar company spiraling into bankruptcy and facing an FBI probe. President Obama once praised the company, California-based Solyndra, as “the true engine of economic growth.”

    At a House hearing Wednesday, there was bipartisan concern about risking more taxpayers’ dollars on renewable energy projects that ultimately fail. While Republicans’ rhetoric was more heated, Democrats agree it is a critical issue.

    “Taxpayers have over $500 million at risk as a result of Solyndra’s bankruptcy,” House Energy and Commerce ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said on Wednesday. “We need to understand what happened and how we can avoid future losses.”


  16. eniobob,

    And here I was thinking that it was Obama initialed….I did not know that it was an ideal of Bush…..the question is why did Obama continue with this if they had some mathematical certainty that it would run out of money in September 11? I am still pondering that….

  17. Mayor Bloomberg predicts riots in the streets if economy doesn’t create more jobs

    Mayor Bloomberg warned Friday there would be riots in the streets if Washington doesn’t get serious about generating jobs.

    “We have a lot of kids graduating college, can’t find jobs,” Bloomberg said on his weekly WOR radio show.

    “That’s what happened in Cairo. That’s what happened in Madrid. You don’t want those kinds of riots here.”

    In Cairo, angry Egyptians took out their frustrations by toppling presidential strongman Hosni Mubarak – and more recently attacking the Israeli embassy.

    As for Madrid, the most recent street protests were sparked by widespread unhappiness that the Spanish government was spending millions on the visit of Pope Benedict instead of dealing with widespread unemployment.

    Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2011/09/16/2011-09-16_mayor_bloomberg_predicts_riots_in_the_streets_if_economy_doesnt_create_more_jobs.html#ixzz1Y8kecdMb

  18. If a crime was committed, jail the bastards, no matter how high. In that same vein, what about the Iraq war profiteering and the Billions that are unaccounted for? Isn’t that a big deal?
    If torture is a crime, why isn’t Rep. Waxman calling for the investigation of Cheney/Bush etal? I think the Justice Department can handle all of these crimes and the Amish crook without a problem.

  19. “For what its worth,I caught drips and drabs on this part of the story the other night.So here it is.”

    Just adding a lttle info that may or may not have been known,and besides aren’t there two sides to “every” story?

    I once read that it pays to be informed, and what better place to bring this info since I learn something every day from this “blawg”

  20. Sorry can’t resist,in the here and now also:

    Massive U.S. Embassy In Iraq Will Expand Further As Soldiers Leave

    “In a telling sign of how dangerous and chaotic Iraq remains more than eight years after President George W. Bush launched the war against Saddam Hussein, U.S. diplomats, military advisers and other officials are planning to fall back to the gargantuan embassy in Baghdad — a heavily fortified, self-contained compound the size of Vatican City.

    The embassy compound is by far the largest the world has ever seen, at one and a half square miles, big enough for 94 football fields. It cost three quarters of a billion dollars to build (coming in about $150 million over budget). Inside its high walls, guard towers and machine-gun emplacements lie not just the embassy itself, but more than 20 other buildings, including residential quarters, a gym and swimming pool, commercial facilities, a power station and a water-treatment plant.”


  21. It’s not that money has been wasted but that it has been wasted in the wrong industry. This is a political talking point to preserve the advantage current energy producers have. The government wastes a lot of money on energy producers but it’s an entrenched and heavily lobbied energy industry. They don’t want some upstart, alternate energy to get a toe-hold. Their subsidies, also a waste of taxpayer money, is just fine though- their bought politicians just settled that question didn’t they?

    “As Oil Industry Fights a Tax, It Reaps Subsidies”

    “The flow of revenues to oil companies is like the gusher at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico: heavy and constant,” said Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, who has worked alongside the Obama administration on a bill that would cut $20 billion in oil industry tax breaks over the next decade. “There is no reason for these corporations to shortchange the American taxpayer.”

    Oil industry officials say that the tax breaks, which average about $4 billion a year according to various government reports, are a bargain for taxpayers. By helping producers weather market fluctuations and invest in technology, tax incentives are supporting an industry that the officials say provides 9.2 million jobs.”


    Value (or waste) is in the eye of the beholder. I call cost-plus and non-competitive contracts waste but our Congress and Administration are fine with it; they see value and defense is virtually off the table:

    “GAO Finds Major Defense Dept. Cost-Overruns”

    “A new report from the Government Accountability Office released Tuesday could provide ammunition for critics in both camps, although its message may have a hard time being heard now that the U.S. is embroiled in a third military engagement in the Middle East. The GAO’s annual assessment of defense acquisition programs found the Pentagon was experiencing rapid cost-overruns in a host of major weapons systems, adding $135 billion to its long-term acquisition budget of $1.68 trillion, the report said”


  22. The White House noted to ABC News that the Bush administration was the first to consider Solyndra’s application and that some executives at the company have a history of donating to Republicans.

    The results of the Congressional probe shared Tuesday with ABC News show that less than two weeks before President Bush left office, on January 9, 2009, the Energy Department’s credit committee had voted against offering a loan commitment to Solyndra.

    Even after Obama took office on Jan. 20, 2009, analysts in the Energy Department and in the Office of Management and Budget were repeatedly questioning the wisdom of the loan. In one exchange, an Energy official wrote of “a major outstanding issue” — namely, that Solyndra’s numbers showed it would run out of cash in September 2011.

    There was also concern about the high-risk nature of the project. Internally, the Office of Management and Budget wrote that “the risk rating for the project sponsor [Solyndra] … seems high.” Outside analysts had warned for months that the company might not be a sound investment.

    Peter Lynch, a New York-based solar energy analyst, told ABC News it took only a cursory glance through Solyndra’s prospectus to see there was a problem with their numbers.

    “It’s very difficult to perceive a company with a model that says, well, I can build something for six dollars and sell it for three dollars,” Lynch said. “Those numbers don’t generally work. You don’t want to lose three dollars for every unit you make.”

    Read more: http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/emails-obama-white-house-monitored-huge-loan-connected/story?id=14508865#ixzz1Y9dSQq3T

  23. Green energy is bankrupt

    Blame Al Gore

    The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Voters shows that just 24% of voters consider Gore an expert on global warming. Fifty-nine percent (59%) do not think Gore is an expert on the subject, an increase in skepticism of 12 points since March 2007. Another 18% are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

    While a plurality of Democrats (43%) considers Gore an expert on global warming, most Republicans (80%) and voters not affiliated with either major political party (65%) disagree.

    Gore may disagree, but most voters believe solar activity has an impact on global cooling and warming. A narrow plurality gives human activity the edge over sun activity, though, when it comes to which one has a bigger impact on the problem.

    Gore is viewed at least somewhat favorably by 40% of voters, with 14% holding a Very Favorable opinion of him. Fifty-three percent (53%) regard him at least somewhat unfavorably, including 38% with a Very Unfavorable view.

  24. According to Rasmussen Reports, 69% of Americans say it is at least somewhat likely that some climate scientists have falsified research data to support their own theories and beliefs, including 40% who say it is “very likely” scientists have done so. Only 22% of poll respondents do not think it is likely that some scientists have falsified research data, with 10% undecided.

    A powerful reason for growing public awareness of flaws in global warming claims, according to Rasmussen Reports, is recent news coverage of a peer-reviewed study documenting how NASA satellite data show more heat is escaping into space than United Nations computer models have predicted.

    “The debate over global warming has intensified in recent weeks after a new NASA study was interpreted by skeptics to reveal that global warming is not man-made,” Rasmussen Reports observed.

    Even most Democrats no longer trust increasingly activist climate scientists to tell the truth about scientific data.

    “Republicans and adults not affiliated with either major political party feel stronger than Democrats that some scientists have falsified data to support their global warming theories, but 51% of Democrats also agree,” observed Rasmussen Reports.

    On a related issue, Rasmussen reported 57% of Americans say there is significant disagreement within the scientific community about global warming, up five percentage points from late 2009. Only 25% of Americans believe scientists agree on global warming. Another 18% are undecided.


  25. The Bomb Shell is coming.

    Solyndra’s SEC filing contains a surprise

    A close look by LA Observed at the company’s SEC filings shows that it also was seeking additional DOE loan guarantees of $469 million for Phase II of its so-called Fab 2 solar power manufacturing facility in Fremont. And, get this, DOE – according to Solyndra’s Dec. 18, 2009 application for SEC approval to sell common stock – tentatively gave this 2nd loan application its approval. Here’s the story right from Solyndra’s own S-1:

    “On September 11, 2009, we submitted Part 1 of an application for an approximately $469 million guaranteed loan to be utilized to finance the construction of Phase II. As with the financing facility for Phase I, the loan would be made by the Federal Financing Bank and guaranteed by the DOE. On November 4, 2009, we were notified by the DOE that our Part 1 application was complete and that Phase II was determined to be a Section 1703 eligible project and to have the credit subsidy cost for the project paid out of funds allocated under Section 1705. We submitted Part 2 of our loan guarantee application on November 17, 2009.”


  26. Dabuh,

    So let me get this straight….This was started under Bush….The ball got rolling…Obama hoping to cash in on JOBS…decided to go with it anyway….Seems like….this required Bi-Partisan support to get out the door….But since the events have turned sour…its now Obama’s fault…Sorry can’t buy that…. How many crappy things did Obama get stuck with….Hmmmmm

  27. The results of the Congressional probe shared Tuesday with ABC News show that less than two weeks before President Bush left office, on January 9, 2009, the Energy Department’s credit committee had voted against offering a loan commitment to Solyndra.

    Even after Obama took office on Jan. 20, 2009, analysts in the Energy Department and in the Office of Management and Budget were repeatedly questioning the wisdom of the loan. In one exchange, an Energy official wrote of “a major outstanding issue” — namely, that Solyndra’s numbers showed it would run out of cash in September 2011.

  28. “a major outstanding issue” — namely, that Solyndra’s numbers showed it would run out of cash in September 2011.

    Obama hoping to cash in on JOBS…decided to go with it anyway

    Dem Guys from HAAVAd are some smart people

  29. Emails released Thursday night show that Obama administration privately worried about the effect of a default by Solyndra Inc. on the president’s re-election campaign. “The optics of a Solyndra default will be bad,” an official from the Office of Management and Budget wrote in a Jan. 31 email to a senior OMB official. “The timing will likely coincide with the 2012 campaign season heating up.” The email, released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee as part of its investigation into the Solyndra loan, showed that Obama administration officials were concerned about Solyndra’s financial health even as they publicly declared the solar panel maker in good shape.

  30. Emails obtained by The Associated Press show that a White House official dismissed reports about Solyndra’s gloomy future. An email from Greg Nelson, a White House official who had been involved in the planning of Obama’s May 2010 trip to Solyndra’s headquarters, to a Solyndra executive downplayed a July 2010 news story in a trade publication that criticized the company’s financial health. “Seems B.S.,” Nelson wrote.

    A 2009 report by the Energy Department’s inspector general warned that the DOE lacked the necessary quality control for the loan guarantee program, which was created in 2005 to support clean-energy projects that could not obtain conventional bank loans due to high risks. In July 2010, the Government Accountability Office said the Energy Department had bypassed required steps for funding awards to five of 10 applicants that received conditional loan guarantees.

  31. Wow, 8 postings by Dabuh in 45 minutes regarding alternative energy and global warming. What is it with surf forecasts that make them so distrustful of global warming and alternate energy? 😉

  32. I caught that Ford commercial yesterday,the man wants a company that didn’t seek a government loan to buy a car from,that was an interesting reason for buying a car from Ford.

  33. They are digging deep for this one:

    A group with ties to the oil industry has launched a campaign to play up the Solyndra story as a way to discredit the concept of “green jobs” and renewable energy in general.

    The group behind the new effort is the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), which was once a key player in the civil rights movement but in recent decades has become known for embracing right-wing politics and operating at the behest of big corporate funders. Among those is ExxonMobil, which has given money to CORE through its foundation.


    The bottom feeders to say the least.

  34. Roco,

    I had a friend that I went college with that did underwater welding…He made 75 an hour that was back in the 80s…..Sure, you can get good pay…when there is work…

    Now exactly what do you do?

  35. http://www.ajc.com/news/nation-world/obama-admin-reworked-solyndra-1182334.html

    The Obama administration restructured a half-billion dollar federal loan to a troubled solar energy company in such a way that private investors — including a fundraiser for President Barack Obama — moved ahead of taxpayers for repayment in case of a default,

    So when Anonymous Yours suggests, It all depends if the technology was secured by the loan….Lets say this…the US as a creditor will generally have Super Priority especially over other claims in the same status…. and that would certainly seem to be a sound policy, it may not be what actually occurred.

    Under terms of the February loan restructuring, two private investors — Argonaut Ventures I LLC and Madrone Partners LP — stand to be repaid before the U.S. government if the solar company is liquidated. The two firms gave the company a total of $69 million in emergency loans. The loans are the only portion of their investments that have repayment priority above the U.S. government.

    Argonaut is an investment vehicle of the George Kaiser Family Foundation of Tulsa, Okla. The foundation is headed by billionaire George Kaiser, a major Obama campaign contributor and a frequent visitor to the White House. Kaiser raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for Obama’s 2008 campaign, federal election records show. Kaiser has made at least 16 visits to the president’s aides since 2009, according to White House visitor logs.

    Madrone Partners is affiliated with the Walton family, descendants of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. Rob Walton, the eldest son of Sam Walton, contributed $2,500 last year to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

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