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Sen. Vitter: End that Loan Program I Used to Support

19 Sep 2011  |   Emma Brown

Tags: Clean Energy, General Political, Senate

Senator David Vitter (R-LA) has made headlines in recent weeks for his charge against a Department of Energy loan program supported by both the Bush and Obama Administrations. The program, which uses loan-guarantees to advance American energy security faced scrutiny after one of its loan-recipients Solyndra, a solar company, declared bankruptcy earlier this month.

Rather than recognize the tough competition U.S. solar companies face from well-subsidized Chinese companies, some Republican members jumped on the Solyndra bankruptcy as an opportunity to denounce all clean energy jobs and laud the loan program as a failure.  Senator Vitter—who is either unconcerned by or oblivious to the fact that Big Oil continued to receive taxpayer handouts while making record profits and shedding thousands of jobs—has been particularly vocal on the issue and called the Obama Administration’s handling of the program “reckless” and “crony capitalism.”

He even went so far as to submit legislation last week that would require a federal investigation into clean energy companies that receive federal loans then declare bankruptcy, and mandates an audit on all federally-funded renewable energy projects since 2009. The measure only targets federal funding for renewable energy projects.  

It would be nice to think that Vitter’s attack on clean energy investment is not a move motivated solely by political gain.

Yet, that hope is quickly dashed given the recent revelation that Vitter wasn’t always so opposed to the loan program that he now attacks. In fact, as recent documents uncovered by The Associated Press reveal, Vitter not only appealed to the very same loan program 7 times since 2009 to fund energy projects that would benefit his state, but he also called upon the Department of Energy to “expedite,” consideration for a loan to a clean car startup looking to open a factory in Louisiana. In another instance, Vitter signed a letter to the DOE accusing them of being too careful in securing loan guarantees for nuclear plants.

It’s unfortunate that a program supported by both Democrats and Republicans has become the scapegoat for partisan bickering. It’s downright tragic that American economic and energy security must suffer as a result.

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