Joe Barton slams Obama over Solyndra loan guarantees

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, dubbed the bankrupt California solar panel company that received a loan guarantee from the Obama administration as the “poster child of the administration’s failing energy policies — and its failing economic policies as well.”

In an op-ed in to The Hill newspaper today, Barton said he helped wrote the bill making the Department of Energy program that gave Solyndra a $535 million loan guarantee. But he added that safeguards that went into the bill “appear to have been sidestepped or completely ignored in this case.”

“This program deserves to continue, as there is a role for federal support of worthwhile emerging technologies and the companies working on them,” Barton wrote. “However, we have to be considerably more careful whenever Washington puts its citizens’ money on the line.”

Republicans have been probing the botched loan guarantee to Solyndra, a Fremont, Calif., company that President Barack Obama had touted as an example of how the country could invest in cleaner energy. Republican lawmakers said emails between Obama administration officials show the White House tried to speed up financial review of Solyndra’s application, despite officials knowing that the company’s finances were struggling.

The Obama administration has responded that the emails were referring to a “scheduling matter,” not an attempt to give Solyndra a free pass.

Barton’s comments came as part of a broader piece in which he suggested government should reduce regulations and take a more limited role in encouraging alternative energy, and instead rely more on the private sector to develop technologies.

He said upcoming EPA rules to reduce emissions from industrial boilers could effectively bar companies from using biomass and wood to offset fossil-fuel use.

“These and other private sector solutions should not be strangled by federal bureaucratic red tape,” Barton wrote.

Democrats have responded to Republicans that the EPA’s authority to reduce air pollution under the Clean Air Act has delivered a 30-to-1 ratio of benefits to costs. Republicans are “demonizing the EPA by making specious claims that their regulations kill jobs, also without any particularly well-grounded basis, while ignoring all benefits for public health and the economy,” Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C., said at a House hearing yesterday.