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TheStreet Open House

Congress Comes Full Circle in Solyndra Absurd Theater

Stocks in this article: FSLR

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Should the government be in the business of picking winners and losers in the clean energy race?

Congress can't seem to decide, based on the latest twist in the Solyndra hearings. The answer to this question seems to shift as a matter of whatever is most politically expedient in trying to keep the Solyndra issue alive.

With Republicans running out of ways to make the Solyndra "smoking gun" argument -- proving that the White House was just giving away money to its buddies in an act of "crony" clean energy capitalism -- Darrell Issa (R.- Calif.) will lead a new attack against Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu when he testifies on Tuesday.

Republicans will argue that the granting of a loan to a First Solar (FSLR) energy generation project was a violation of the congressional authorization because the technology was not innovative, according to a statement released by Issa and detailed in the New York Times.

Here's the tortured, two-faced political logic to help the reader bottom line the latest act in the absurd theater known as Solyndra.

When Solyndra went bankrupt, Republicans vented about the folly of the Obama administration trying to pick "winners and losers" in the alternative energy sector. The claim that the government should not play the role of a venture capitalist in a high-risk innovation sector was the main rhetorical thrust of the philosophical attack, that is, when the Obama administration was not being directly accused of funding the pet projects of its biggest donors.

To counter the attacks, the Obama administration and DOE officials stressed that many of the loans it made were for energy generation projects with a low-risk profile, as opposed to high-risk innovative manufacturing companies like Solyndra. The congressional testimony of DOE officials stressed that these energy generation projects, like First Solar's Agua Caliente project, ran a very low risk of default compared to Solyndra.

It was a good argument to show that some of the loans in the DOE portfolio wouldn't go the way of Solyndra. It was also a way for the Obama administration to try and move past the foot-in-mouth moment of the president standing on the Solyndra plant floor and saying how the company was manufacturing the future.

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