Biden administration ready to send $1 billion in loans through program that led to Solyndra debacle

The Biden administration announced up to $1 billion in clean energy loans for a Nebraska company, marking the revival of an Obama-era program that provided loans to clean energy companies, including to Tesla and bankrupt solar energy company Solyndra.

The announcement from the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office credits last year’s bipartisan Infrastructure Act which expanded the pool of companies eligible for loans.

Up to $1 billion in loans have been secured to Nebraska-based Monolith, which says it can use natural gas to create materials for multiple industries at a fraction of the previous environmental cost, according to the Associated Press.

The program was introduced to boost clean energy capacity in the United States under former President Barack Obama and saw production from several wind and solar farms before faltering when a $500 million loan was returned liable by the taxpayer after Solyndra’s bankruptcy, the AP reported.

It was later reported by the Washington Post that Obama administration officials tried to speed up the loan approval process so that it could be announced before groundbreaking in 2009 at a Solyndra plant. The inauguration was to be attended by then-Vice President Joe Biden.

The AP also said it was the department’s first non-nuclear loan guarantee since 2016.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm speaks during a daily press briefing in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House April 8, 2021 in Washington, D.C. The Granholm Department of Energy announced the guarantee of up to $1 billion in loans Monday as part of a relaunch of an Obama-era clean energy program.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Jigar Shah, director of the program since last year, told the AP that while the most high-profile loans were Tesla and Solyndra, the office currently handles about 30 loans totaling just over $30 billion. The bureau brings in $500 million in loan interest income annually, Shah said.

“We have a track record of our winning projects,” he told the AP. “And I know we get a lot of press about those who don’t make it.”

Shah said the program had incurred losses of about $1 billion since 2011, or about 3.3% of its investment, which Shah says is roughly equal to rates at some of the biggest banks in the world. country.

Monolith says it uses a technology called methane pyrolysis to convert natural gas into hydrogen and “black carbon,” a product used in tires and other rubber products, at a rate that reduces greenhouse gas production by 80% compared to typical production methods. , according to the AP.

“Advanced, clean manufacturing technologies like Monolith’s are the kinds of impactful projects that not only support sustainability, but also economic growth and clean energy jobs for the American people,” said the Secretary of State. Energy, Jennifer Granholm, according to the AP.

In 2011, it was also investigated whether loans from the program had been given to specific companies like Tesla, in part because at least one major investor in the company was a major fundraiser for Obama’s campaign. according to ABC News.

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