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Another DOE Loan Scandal: Are We Bailing Out Spain’s Solar Collapse?

Following the collapse of Spain's solar sector, a Spanish company with ties to Democrats received $2.7 billion in US Energy Department loans.

by
Richard Pollock

Bio

November 10, 2011 - 12:00 am

According to DOE, the $1.45 billion loan guarantee will employ or “save” 60 permanent jobs at the Solana solar plant, working out to $24.2 million per permanent job “created or saved.” The Mojave solar plant is similar. It will save or create 70 permanent jobs, which is $17.1 million per permanent job. The biomass plant will create 65 permanent jobs. That is a real job creator, generating each permanent job for $2 million.

The firm’s global profitability is due to non-renewable industrial activities; yet Abengoa’s U.S. solar and ethanol projects would not exist without the existence of Obama administration money. The $2.78 billion constitutes an American bailout of Spain — and Europe’s — collapsed solar industry.

As the Solyndra bankruptcy illustrates, solar technology is not profitable or sustainable without major government subsidies. Spain briefly enjoyed one of the most advanced solar industries in the world when it was subsidized by $26 billion in grants from the socialist-led Spanish government. However, the short-term injection of government funding was not sustainable. When the money ran out the Spanish solar industry collapsed, and more than 30,000 solar energy workers lost their jobs.
For years, Abengoa has been extolled by former Vice President Al Gore, including during a high-profile speech he delivered at the company’s Spanish headquarters in October 2010. Gore himself invested in the company in November 2007. The day he announced his investment, the company’s stock jumped 7 percent.

The Spanish firm has connections to Democratic operatives. According to federal lobbying records, Democrat Mark Rokala — a top Washington lobbyist who worked at the now-discredited Democratic lobbyist firm PMA — headed up Abengoa’s effort.

In 2008, PMA was embroiled in a government ethics “pay-to-play” scandal in which the late Democratic Rep. John Murtha directed $137 million in government contracts to PMA clients. PMA and its clients in turn donated $2.37 million to Murtha and other Democratic congressmen who sat on a defense appropriations subcommittee.

In 2007, the non-profit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington named Murtha one of the “most corrupt” members of Congress. Rokala’s boss and PMA president Paul Magliocchetti is now serving a 27-month federal sentence for illegal campaign contributions. PMA has shuttered its doors, but since 2006, Rokala has led the lobbying effort on behalf of Abengoa at another D.C. lobbying firm, Cornerstone.  Since 2006, Cornerstone has received $870,000 in lobbying fees from Abengoa.

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