How Republicans Are Trying to Kill One of Biden's Most Successful Climate Programs
Republicans are on the hunt for "the next Solyndra." But what does that mean?
A few weeks ago when many of us were celebrating the holidays, Republicans in Congress were doing what they do best: obstructing climate action.
In mid-December, two of the most powerful Republicans in Congress launched an investigation into one of Biden’s most important, and least well-known, climate programs: the Loan Program Office (LPO).
The LPO has a long and tortured history. It’s been one of the most successful federal climate programs. Today, it’s led by Jigar Shah, who has near-unanimous respect among climate leaders. And yet the only reason most laypeople have heard of the LPO is because of the Solyndra scandal of 2011.
With their investigation, Republicans are trying to find the next Solyndra and make the climate program look like an example of corruption and government waste. “Solyndra is going to look like chump change compared to the amount of money that’s been wasted by this administration,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) told E&E News.
None of this is a surprise to anyone who has been listening to Republicans for the last two years. Ever since the IRA passed and the LPO received billions of dollars of funding, top Republicans have said they would attack the program.
A year ago, I asked a group of climate activists how Republicans could use their new House majority to slow the energy transition. Nearly all of them described this exact playbook to me.
At the time, I didn’t really know that much about Solyndra. I had heard about the LPO but didn’t know much about its history or the role it plays in the energy transition. And I had never heard of Republican Congresswomen Cathy McMorris Rodgers, one the key architects of the attack plan and biggest recipients of fossil fuel money in Congress. And so, I did what I do in such situations: I went deep down the rabbit hole.
Much of what I learned is as relevant today as it was one year ago. So, in this post I’ll cover:
A brief history of Solyndra and the scandal that plagued the LPO
Why Republicans—yes, the party of climate obstruction—started the LPO in 2005
The “Valley of Death” problem that prevents much climate innovation
How the LPO helped launch EVs and wind energy
Why Republicans are going after a climate program they created two decades ago
One quick note before getting into it: This story—like many Distilled stories—is more about context than the latest news developments. To read the latest news on Republicans investigation into the LPO, I recommend reading E&E News and Bloomberg’s excellent reporting on the topic.