The administration will review the procedures for almost $36 billion in loans for renewable energy projects, conceding flaws in the program that brought about the Solyndra debacle.
The review was ordered by chief of staff William Daley, CNN reports, and will be completed around Christmas. (What a nice gift for the commander in chief.) Herb Allison, the same official brought on to oversee Fannie Mae when it was taken into receivership at the end of the Bush administration, will conduct a review of the federal government's clean energy investments.
As other presidential maneuvers, the Obama decision is a Rorshach test of sorts. Fox News, for instance, sees blood in the water. The Solyndra fiasco — where the administration approved loan guarantees for a solar panel maker as it plunged toward bankruptcy — is of the "controversies that threaten to derail Obama's bid for re-election," the network blared in a headline. A more measured analysis might chalk his questionable re-election prospects to a lingering recession and historic levels of unemployment, not a solar panel company's bankruptcy filing.
For their part, administration officials are turning up the business-as-usual tone in their statements on the Solyndra review, gliding past the fact that the White House has previously asserted that the facts of Solyndra evince no broader weakness in the investment model.
The White House description of the review didn't specifically mention Solyndra. Chief of Staff William Daley said the review will examine "the current state of the Department of Energy loan portfolio" to "ensure that we are strong stewards of taxpayer dollars."
The portfolio includes nearly $36 billion in completed and pending loans for dozens of solar-power plants, electric-car factories and other clean-energy projects.
President Barack Obama has defended the program several times this month, saying it will help the U.S. compete against Chinese companies. At a news conference Oct. 6, he said, "We knew from the start that the loan guarantee program was going to entail some risk. … But the overall portfolio has been successful."
Obama himself is turning elsewhere. The president is channeling a little of Bill Clinton's Reinventing Government ethos as he tries to lift small businesses's fortunes, and voters sagging affections. The latest push is to simplify businesses interactions with the federal government and the Small Business Administration, Alexis Simendinger writes for RealClearPolitics. Potentially valuable stuff. But nary a word about pumping federal dollars into new, innovating industries. The backlash from Solyndra still stings.