Obama on Solyndra Loan: ‘This Was Not Our Program’

Blames 'Congress' and 'the Chinese' for firm’s failure


President Obama denied culpability for the failure of solar firm Solyndra in a radio interview on Tuesday, instead pinning the blame on Congress and the Chinese.

The loans initiative used to finance Solyndra was “not our program,” he told American Public Media in response to question about Solyndra’s bankruptcy and subsequent controversy.

“Understand, this was not our program per se,” Obama said. “Congress–Democrats and Republicans–put together a loan guarantee program…to help start-up companies get to scale.”

APM: With all respect, it was a gutsy move I think to come to a solar facility. Your administration has staked a lot on clean technology, green jobs – the biggest item most people know about that strategy is, of course, a company named Solyndra, which your administration gave loan guarantees to, then went bankrupt and has been the subject of many investigations. Are you doing your ‘all of the above’ strategy right if that’s what we have to show for it, Solyndra?

OBAMA: We are doing the all of the above strategy right. Obviously, we wish Solyndra hadn’t gone bankrupt. Part of the reason they did was because the Chinese were subsidizing their solar industry and flooding the market in ways that Solyndra couldn’t compete. But understand, this was not our program per se.

Congress–Democrats and Republicans–put together a loan guarantee program because they understood historically that when you get new industries–it’s easy to raise money for start-ups, but if you want to take them to scale sometimes there’s a lot of risk involved, and what the loan guarantee program was designed to do was to help start-up companies get to scale. And the understanding is that some companies are not going to succeed, some companies are going to do very well, but the portfolio as a whole ends up supporting the kind of innovation that helps make America successful in this innovative 21st century economy. Do I wish that Solyndra had gone bankrupt? Absolutely not. And obviously it’s heartbreaking it happened for the workers who were there.

Obama has previously argued that the Department of Energy program used to finance a $535 million federal loan guarantee to Solyndra “predates” his presidency.

That’s an exaggeration of the truth, according to FactCheck.org: “Solyndra’s loan guarantee came under another program created by the president’s 2009 stimulus for companies developing ‘commercially available technologies.’”

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