By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON (AP) - Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Thursday that no one from the White House ever contacted him to make a political decision on a half-billion-dollar loan to a California solar company that later went bankrupt.
Testifying under oath on a widening controversy, Chu said he was unaware of his staff predictions in 2009 that Solyndra was likely to face severe cash-flow problems. He said that market changes which led to a steep decline in the price of solar panels were "totally unexpected."
Solyndra went belly-up after getting the $528 million loan from the government, and Chu told the House Energy and Commerce Committee that he made all decisions involving the loan to the solar-panel manufacturer. He said he made all judgments regarding Solyndra with the best interests of the taxpayer in mind.
Chu also said he doesn't expect taxpayers will recover much of the money lost in the transaction.
The secretary's position before the committee was that politics played no role in the decisions on the loan, despite emails and other documents released by panel that revealed some pressure from the administration on Solyndra to delay an early round of layoffs until after the 2010 elections. Other documents showed that campaign donor George Kaiser was involved in discussions about the loan program.
"I want to be clear: Over the course of Solyndra's loan guarantee, I did not make any decision based on political considerations," Chu said. He was facing sharp questions in the biggest showdown so far in the energy panel's nine-month investigation of Solyndra.
- Brian Wingfield, Bloomberg News
This segment aired on November 17, 2011.