WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama distanced himself from solar panel firm Solyndra amid Republican charges that his administration improperly secured a $535 million government loan guarantee.
“Obviously, we wish Solyndra hadn’t gone bankrupt,” Obama said about the firm that went under shortly after obtaining the loan.
“Part of the reason they did was because the Chinese were subsidizing their solar industry and flooding the market in ways that Solyndra couldn’t compete,” he told NPR radio’s “Marketplace” program.
The interview was recorded Wednesday in Nevada and broadcast Thursday.
California-based Solyndra filed for bankruptcy in September, closed its doors and laid off 1,000 workers, leaving taxpayers on the hook for the loan.
“This was not our program, per se. Congress — Democrats and Republicans — put together a loan guarantee program because they understood historically that when you get new industries, it’s easy to raise money for startups, but if you want to take them to scale, oftentimes there’s a lot of risk involved,” Obama said.
“The understanding is that some companies are not going to succeed, some companies will do very well — but the portfolio as a whole ends up supporting the kind of innovation that helps make America successful in this innovative 21st century economy.”
Republicans have linked administration efforts to help the firm to the fact that a charitable foundation run by George Kaiser, a generous contributor to Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, was a major investor in the firm.
The Republican-led House Energy and Commerce Committee launched an investigation in early 2011.
But the White House has denied pressing for the loan.
While expressing regret for the “heartbreaking” loss of Solyndra jobs, Obama said it was important to make sure “we’re not just cashing in our chips and letting the Chinese or the Germans develop the technologies that we know are going to be critical in the future.”
“I’m proud to say that we’re going to continue to support it,” he added about the green energy sector.
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