The Daily Caller recently reported that "$3.1 billion in DOE loan guarantees" to First Solar “created mostly overseas jobs.” In fact, the chairman of First Solar testified before Congress that “all the jobs directly created with the loan guarantees” are American.
The Daily Caller embedded video of his testimony in its report, but apparently didn't watch it all the way through. Neither did right-wing news aggregator Weasel Zippers, which ran with a similarly misleading headline.
In a House Oversight Committee hearing, Chairman Darrell Issa attempted to make hay of the fact that First Solar, which is based in Arizona and employs thousands in the U.S., also has solar projects and employees overseas. But Michael Ahearn, the chairman of First Solar, clarified that the loan guarantees only support projects in the U.S.:
REP. DARRELL ISSA (R-CA): OK, so jobs created with loan guarantees, stimulus, and others, basically not American.
MICHAEL AHEARN, FIRST SOLAR: No, no, all those jobs are American and all the jobs directly created with the loan guarantee.
The loan guarantees to First Solar's solar generation projects have almost no risk of default, according to solar market expert Shayle Kann, because they were required to secure a buyer. As Ahearn pointed pointed out, “This is not the same kind of situation” as the smaller number of riskier manufacturing loan guarantees that went to Solyndra and others.
AHEARN: The first point I would make is that the DOE loans that we're talking about in this case were not made to First Solar. This was not First Solar's private capital, corporate capital funding. These loans were made to three projects that First Solar was supplying product to that are owned by sophisticated utility investors with utility offtakes. So these are projects, not funding First Solar. This is not the same kind of situation that Solyndra or Abound or these manufacturing loans. [House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Hearing, 5/16/12, via Nexis]
A Bloomberg Government analysis found that even if all of the higher risk (non-generation) projects defaulted on the full amount of their loan guarantees and “no assets were to be recovered, the DOE would still have $446 million remaining to cover additional project losses” because Congress budgeted $2.47 billion to cover for defaults.