Conservative Media Baselessly Invoke Solyndra To Smear Obama Budget

Conservative media revived their Solyndra scandal-mongering to attack the proposed clean energy funding in President Obama's budget. But contrary to their claims, Solyndra did not receive the clean energy tax credits included in the President's budget, and the budget doesn't increase funding for the largely successful loan guarantee program that did support Solyndra.

President Obama's Proposed Budget Would Make Substantial Investments In Clean Energy

National Journal: Obama's Budget Would “Boost” Funding For Clean Energy.  On February 2, President Obama released his budget proposal, outlining his plans for a $3.99 trillion budget for fiscal year 2016. Obama's proposed budget includes $7.4 billion for clean energy programs in fiscal year 2016, as National Journal reported:

The budget also proposes to boost federal spending on clean-energy technology, with $7.4 billion being invested across the Energy and Defense departments. That's up from the $6.5 billion that Congress spent this year for clean-energy programs, according to the White House. Among the specific programs targeted are advanced vehicles, energy-efficient vehicles, and carbon capture and storage from fossil fuels. Within that spending, the administration also boosts DOE research into clean energy, with targeted increases for research and development of alternative-fuel vehicles, energy efficiency, and advanced manufacturing and renewable power.


All told, the Energy Department would see a slight bump, with funding proposed at $29.9 billion compared to $27.3 billion in fiscal 2015. [Reuters, 2/2/15; National Journal2/2/15]

WSJ: Budget Would Also Repeal “Nearly $50 Billion In Tax Breaks From The Oil, Natural-Gas And Coal Industries” Over Next Decade. The Wall Street Journal reported: “Mr. Obama's budget proposes repealing a raft of oil, natural-gas and coal tax deductions that the administration estimates would raise nearly $50 billion for the federal government over the next decade.” [Wall Street Journal2/3/15]

Conservative Media Invoke Solyndra To Attack Obama's Budget Proposal

Free Beacon: “Obama's Budget Makes Solyndra Tax Credit Permanent.” In a February 3 article, The Washington Free Beacon wrote that Obama's proposed budget would “make permanent the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), a benefit used by Solyndra to build solar panels.” The article also quoted American Action Forum press secretary Doug Hochberg's claim that “even with the extra tax credit and $535 million in government loans, Solyndra was still unable stay afloat.” [Free Beacon, 2/3/15]

Fox Nation Suggests Obama's Budget Paves Way For “More Solyndra's In The Making.” A February 2 post on Fox Nation featured the headline: “More Solyndra's in the Making? Obama Budget Calls for $48B for 'Green Energy'.” The Fox Nation headline was referring to a February 2 Daily Caller article that did not mention Solyndra, but claimed that Obama's budget “includes $48 billion in 'green energy' subsidies.” [Fox Nation, 2/2/15; Daily Caller, 2/2/15]

Fox Guest: “It's Hard Not To Be Skeptical” About Obama's Budget When You “Look At Solyndra.” On the February 4 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, the co-hosts discussed Obama's proposed budget and the “about 50 billion” it included for “green energy” with guest Brian Brenberg, a professor at The King's College and former grants manager at the Charles Koch Foundation.  Brenberg claimed that it was “hard not to be skeptical” about Obama's proposal when “you look at Solyndra.”  Co-host Steve Doocy agreed, stressing that the government had given Solyndra "$535 million in government loans" and that “no money” had been recovered. Doocy went on to speculate that Obama's proposed spending on clean energy was in fact just a way of “saying thank you for the support” to the President's donors.  [Fox News, Fox & Friends2/4/15]

But Solyndra Did Not Receive The Tax Credits Included In Obama's Budget

Solyndra Received Its Funding Through The Dept. Of Energy's Loan Guarantee Program. Solyndra received its funding as part of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Section 1705 loan guarantee program, one of three loan programs DOE administers to help companies and lenders “mitigate the financing risks associated with clean energy projects, and thereby encourage their development on a broader and much-needed scale.” [, accessed 2/4/15; 2/4/15]

Solyndra Did Not Receive The Investment Tax Credit. Contrary to the Free Beacon's claim that Solyndra “used” the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) “to build solar panels,” the ITC provides incentives for individuals and companies that install or develop solar energy projects, not for manufacturers of solar panels like Solyndra. The Free Beacon based its claim on a 2009 IRS ruling, which clarified that the ITC could apply to a different company that was considering installing a Solyndra solar panel system -- not that the ITC could apply to Solyndra itself. As Solar Energy Industries Association Vice President of Communications Ken Johnson explained in an email to Media Matters, “Solyndra received money from the DOE loan guarantee program, which was part of the President's stimulus package. Solyndra could not claim the ITC because the company used the money to build a factory - not to develop a solar energy project.” [Media Matters, 7/25/12; email to Media Matters, 2/4/15]

Obama Budget Would Increase Funding For Tax Credits, Not Loan Guarantee Program.  The Daily Caller's claim that Obama's budget “includes $48 billion in 'green energy' subsidies” is based on the following tax credits in the proposed budget, none of which involve increasing funding for the loan guarantee program that supported Solyndra:

Modify and permanently extend renewable electricity production tax credit and investment tax credit

Modify and permanently extend the deduction for energy-efficient commercial building property

Provide a carbon dioxide investment and sequestration tax credit

Provide additional tax credits for investment in qualified property used in a qualifying advanced energy manufacturing project

Extend the tax credit for second generation biofuel production

Provide a tax credit for the production of advanced technology

Provide a tax credit for medium- and heavy- duty alternative-fuel commercial vehicles

Modify and extend the tax credit for the construction of energy-efficient new homes [, accessed 2/4/15]

And The DOE Program That Did Support Solyndra Has Been Successful Overall

AP: Program That Funded Solyndra Is “Working” And “Producing Success Stories.”  In a December 30, 2014 article titled “Program that funded Solyndra failure producing success stories,” the Associated Press pointed to “signs that the [DOE loan guarantee] program is working.” The AP quoted Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz calling the program a “tremendous success,” and noted that “20 of the program's 30 enterprises are operating and generating revenue”:

“This program, let me say, not only here in Hugoton, but across the board has been a tremendous success,” Moniz said. “I mentioned $30 billion in loans with a 2 percent default rate -- that is a pretty enviable in any portfolio.”


Despite the program's failures, the department projects a profit of between $5 billion and $6 billion during the next 20 to 25 years. Overall, 20 of the program's 30 enterprises are operating and generating revenue, according to the department. [Associated Press via Washington Post12/30/14]

98 Percent Of DOE Loan Program Funds Went To Successful Ventures. According to testimony by the Executive Director of the DOE Loan Programs Office, as of 2013, 98 percent of the funds provided under DOE's three loan programs had gone to companies that have not defaulted on their loans, despite a few high-profile defaults from companies like Solyndra. [Senate testimony by Peter Davidson, 7/18/13]

DOE funds