“There is an urgent need for investment in new technologies in America,” Honda said. “There is an urgent need for venture risk in America, and the federal government must be involved through programs like the Department of Energy's loan guarantees.”
The bill is scheduled for a Friday vote. It would sunset the federal loan guarantee program that gave California solar-panel maker Solyndra a $535 million loan guarantee from the government, only to have the company go bust in 2011.
Though some Republicans say they want to end the program outright, Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) told The Hill on Thursday that advisers said doing so would present legal issues.
Whitfield, who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Energy and Power subcommittee, said those legal problems are why the bill would permit loans to be issued for applications received by the end of 2011.
Honda said most of those loans are for nuclear and coal loan guarantees.
“This approach will leave taxpayers at risk of even higher losses if the projects fail, and have taxpayers supporting technologies that do not deliver the return on investment of clean, renewable energy,” Honda said.
Republicans have argued clean-energy technology is too risky a bet to make with taxpayer dollars. They contend those technologies should not get federal support if they cannot survive on their own in the competitive market.
Honda acknowledged solar and other clean technologies are still a “high risk venture.”
But he noted U.S. competitors, such as China, provide heavy government subsidies for clean-energy technology. He said the United States must continue to invest in research and development and back risky clean-technology enterprises to carry weight in the international market.