As the political jostling over Department of Energy loan guarantees to clean energy companies continues, the hypocrisy keeps getting worse.
The latest is from Republican Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, who co-wrote a letter to the Inspector General on Monday urging him to investigate a conditional commitment for a $730 million loan guarantee to a high-strength steel producer under the DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program.
His argument? That this high-strength, lightweight steel technology is too mature to need subsidies:
“Given the tremendous fiscal crisis that we find ourselves in today, it does not seem appropriate for the program to subsidize technologies that have already achieved commercial success through private-sector means.”
That’s quite a noble fiscal mission. However, this is coming from a Senator who has repeatedly voted to maintain tax breaks to the most profitable and commercially successful oil and gas companies in the world. In the first three quarters of 2011 alone, the top five oil companies have brought in a staggering $101 billion in profits. But Senator Toomey, who says he’s against funding companies that have “achieved commercial success” due to the “tremendous fiscal crisis” has voted against repealing $21 billion in tax breaks over 10 years that could be used to close the deficit or fund clean energy.
In fact, Senator Toomey’s record has been so consistent, the American Petroleum Institute just issued a new ad praising him on his record:
Toomey isn’t alone in having an odd stance on subsidies. Last month, Florida Republican Congressman Cliff Stearns explained to Climate Progress that “when somebody is successful, then you give them subsidies.”
As Republican members of Congress continue to push this mind-bending logic on how subsides should work, 62 others — many of whom have been critical of government investments in clean energy after the Solyndra bankruptcy — have requested money from the Department of Energy to fund clean energy projects in their districts.
Toomey’s co-signer to the letter, Indiana Republican Senator Dan Coats, has at least entertained the idea of rolling back oil tax breaks to reduce the deficit.
When it comes to questioning the loan guarantee, their concerns are not completely unfounded. Although the market for high-strength steel is expected to grow substantially with the increase in advanced automobile manufacturing, there is debate about whether this particular loan guarantee was instrumental in helping build new facilities, or if expansion would have happened without government backing. That is a legitimate question to be asking.
But it’s far different to blast a potential $730 million loan guarantee (one that is designed to create a whole new supply chain for a whole new innovative industry) in the name of fiscal responsibility, and then turn around and support tens of billions in tax breaks to the most profitable companies on the planet.