OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Abound Solar collapse draws GOP attention

State of Play: House Republicans will attack the Energy Department’s embattled loan guarantee program on two fronts Wednesday.

A House committee will delve into the recent collapse of Abound Solar, an advanced panel manufacturer that received $70 million in Energy Department-backed loans.


An Oversight and Government Reform Committee panel is slated to question the bankrupt firm’s CEO, and will also hear from both the current and former heads of DOE’s embattled loan program.

All of their testimony is here.

Republicans have made the loan program's struggles a centerpiece of election-year political attacks against White House, alleging that the administration was reckless — or worse — with taxpayer dollars.

Meanwhile, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will begin its markup of the GOP’s “No More Solyndras” bill Wednesday, named after the California solar panel company that went belly-up last year after receiving a $535 million loan guarantee in 2009.

The plan would sunset the loan guarantee program, and create new restrictions on existing application and loans. The Energy Department has attacked the bill.

The Energy and Power subcommittee will only offer opening statements Wednesday. The real action will arrive Thursday.

The Energy Department has defended the loan guarantee program for advanced energy technologies, saying the overall portfolio is performing well despite the woes that have befallen some companies.

CEO says competition from China was tough ...

Back to the Abound hearing for a moment: Craig Witsoe, who served as CEO of Abound, will tell lawmakers that “aggressive price-cutting from Chinese competitors using older crystalline-silicon technology” did the company in.

“With over $30 billion in reported government subsidies, Chinese panel makers were able to sell below cost and put Abound out of business before we were big enough to pose a real competitive threat to China’s rapidly growing market share,” his prepared testimony states.

The company drew $70 million on a $400 million Department of Energy loan guarantee before DOE halted the money as the company struggled.


House Republicans take aim at White House drilling plans

The House Natural Resources Committee will mark up a bill Wednesday that would mandate much wider offshore oil-and-gas leasing in coming years than what the White House envisions.

The GOP plan, unlike the Obama administration’s program, would require Interior Department lease sales for waters off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. It also features a more aggressive schedule for lease sales in Arctic waters off Alaska’s coast than the Interior Department’s 2012-2017 plan envisions, among other differences.

Shimkus is bullish on next-wave biofuels

Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) sounded a more positive tone Tuesday than most of his Republican colleagues about the future of cellulosic biofuels.

"I do believe we are getting close to our national cellulosic goals and desires," Shimkus said during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing.

That breaks with Republicans who have criticized biofuels proponents' claims that cellulosic biofuels — which are considered "next generation," compared with corn ethanol — stand to play a role in transportation fuel technology.

Shimkus's Illinois district contains the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Cellulosic biofuels are supposed to supply 21 billion gallons of transportation fuel by 2022 under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard that was expanded in a 2007 energy law. So far, no U.S. biorefinery can produce cellulosic biofuels at scale.

House GOP plan would block ‘black lung’ rule

House Republicans want to block a planned Department of Labor regulation that aims to protect coal miners from the dust that causes black lung disease.
The Labor, Health and Human Services spending bill released Tuesday explicitly prohibits funding to develop or implement the Mine Safety and Health Administration regulation.

“It is the chairman’s position and the position of the subcommittee that that particular regulation is harmful and costly to the industry and to the economy in general,” said Jennifer Hing, a spokeswoman for House Appropriations Committee Republican, referring to Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.).

But the plan didn’t sit well with Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), a top ally of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
“Republicans are sending a message that profits for their wealthy campaign contributors are more important than the lungs and lives of America’s coal miners,” said Miller, the ranking Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, on Tuesday in a statement. “It’s clear that voices wealthier than coal miner families drowned out that message.”

A subcommittee will mark up the legislation Wednesday.
Court upholds EPA air pollution rule

A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld Environmental Protection Agency air pollution standards for nitrogen dioxide. The oil industry had challenged the rules.

Reuters has more here.


Check out these items that ran on E2-Wire Tuesday ...

- Senate sees stalemate on flame-retardant chemical regs
- Shell's Arctic drilling plan could go down to the wire
- Sens. Lieberman, Collins press regulator on grid security
- Sen. Bingaman to push for expanded grid oversight in security bill
- Climate scientists want 'serious' State Dept. oil sands emissions review
- Co-ops rally against Obama DOE plan
- Ad hits GOP lawmakers for opposing Navy biofuels

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