GOP Wants to End Loan Guarantees for New Energy. OK, Let’s Dance.
September 26, 2011
Fifty-seven percent (57%) of Likely U.S. Voters think free market competition is more likely than government subsidies and regulation to help the United States develop alternative sources of energy. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 27% believe government subsidies and regulations are the better way to go. Sixteen percent (16%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
But then 71% of voters say private sector companies and investors are better than government officials when it comes to determining the long-term benefits and potential of new technologies. Sixty-four percent (64%) think it’s likely that if a private company which cannot find investors gets funding from the government, that money will be wasted.
Now, although I’m a big believer in paying attention to what markets tell us, I don’t think the above assertion is correct. We wouldn’t have the internet I’m accessing, or the computer I’m accessing it on, without forward-leaning public investments. (and I still clearly remember the abuse that Rush Limbaugh heaped on “Al Gore’s Information Superhighway”..)
Nevertheless, fossil fueled congresscritters have been falling all over each other warning of the evils of socialistic loan guarantees that encourage renewable energy.
Rep. Markey has now issued a challenge to his GOP mates to apply this litmus test across the energy board.
Congress should examine whether the U.S. nuclear industry pressed lawmakers and the Energy Department to alter loan-guarantee requirements for reactors, Representative Edward Markey said.
“I urge you to commence hearings into the implementation of the nuclear power plant loan-guarantee program,” including an $8.3 billion award to a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Co. (SO), Markey said today in a letter to House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican.
With the G.O.P. continuing to hurl accusations about the renewable energy loan guarantee program and House Republicans ratcheting up efforts to attack clean energy, today Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), called on Chairmen Fred Upton and Cliff Stearns to hold hearings on the implementation of the nuclear power plant loan guarantee program, the issuance of the conditional nuclear loan guarantee that has been awarded, and the role the nuclear industry has had in altering the terms associated with subordination. The Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded an $8.3 billion conditional loan guarantee to Georgia Power Company to build 2 new nuclear reactors.
“There are many legitimate public policy considerations that Congress should explore regarding the full suite of the Department’s loan guarantee programs,” wrote Rep. Markey, top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee and a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. “We should subject the nuclear loan guarantee program to the same level of rigorous scrutiny as we are now insisting the solar loan guarantee program undergo.”
The fact is, without generous federal guarantees of near-total indemnity in case of a nuclear accident, we would not have any nuclear power program at all.
Republicans recently have alleged that DOE acted illegally in restructuring the Solyndra deal by putting private investors ahead of taxpayers for loan reimbursement. However, a review of public documents found that the authority to subordinate the taxpayer interest behind that of some private investors’ in the event of bankruptcy or liquidation was strongly advocated for by the nuclear industry and adopted by DOE in an open regulatory process in 2009. Rep. Markey’s letter provides a timeline that indicates the nuclear industry, alongside major utilities, publicly pressured DOE and Congress to both hasten the implementation of the loan guarantee program as well as allow private investors to jump ahead of taxpayers in the reimbursement line. Public documents reveal a series of public comments, testimony and correspondence dated back to 2007 that highlight a concerted effort on the part of the nuclear industry to convince policy-makers to provide more funding to the nuclear industry and alter the subordination requirements associated with loan guarantees.
More from Markey on the House Floor (kind of a rockin stem winder of a speech):