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We can’t afford Commerce Secretary nominee/solar subsidy mogul John Bryson

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By Michelle Malkin  •  October 19, 2011 12:58 PM

The White House is foisting Commerce Secretary nominee John Bryson on the public.

Harry Reid wants a vote this week.

GOP Sen. James Inhofe is leading the opposition, such as it is. Time for Tea Party activists to mobilize. Call your Senators – 202- 224- 3121. We can’t afford another eco-radical crony with more power to muck up the battered economy.

The Hill:

“We hope to lock in an agreement on the third — on three district court judges as well as the nomination of John Bryson to be Commerce secretary,” Reid said on the floor Wednesday morning.

Senate Republicans were holding up Bryson’s nomination until three key trade deals were moved forward. Congress approved those trade deals last week.

But some Republicans nonetheless remain opposed to Bryson’s nomination, citing the former energy company executive’s past support for cap-and-trade legislation and his role in founding a major environmental group in the 1970s.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), an outspoken skeptic on climate change, placed a hold on Bryson’s nomination in June, citing concerns about his energy and environmental record.

Matt Dempsey, Inhofe’s spokesman, told The Hill Wednesday that the hold still stands, and that Inhofe will object to any effort to vote on Bryson’s nomination without an extended floor debate.

The Oklahoma senator is reaching out to his Republican colleagues “to remind them of the concerns he had months ago and get those back to the forefront,” Dempsey said.

From Inhofe’s office:

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) is trying to rally members of his party to oppose the confirmation of President Obama’s pick for Commerce secretary, John Bryson.

Inhofe spoke out against the environmentalist and businessman yesterday at the weekly Senate GOP caucus luncheon. The lawmaker’s efforts come as the Senate prepares for a potential vote on the long-stalled nomination.

Obama named Bryson as his pick to lead the Commerce Department in May, but his confirmation was put on hold when senators declined to move any Commerce nominees until the Obama administration sent to Congress three free-trade agreements. The approval of those agreements last week opened the door for the Commerce nominees.

Senate leadership sent out a “hotline” on the nomination yesterday morning to see if they could approve Bryson without debate or objection. But multiple senators said they would block the nominee, according to Democratic and GOP aides. Inhofe has been the most vocal opponent of Bryson.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters yesterday that he had hoped to expedite Bryson’s nomination but would instead have to file cloture, which would set a timeline for debate before voting on the nominee. That also means Reid would have to gather at least 60 votes to advance the nomination.

Inhofe spoke to his colleagues yesterday to raise concerns about Bryson, who he thinks will favor alternative energy to the detriment of other industries and jobs.

Bryson, a former energy company executive and co-founder of the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council, has come under fire from Inhofe and other Senate Republicans over his environmentalist past and his position on global climate change.

Inhofe has labeled Bryson a radical environmentalist for his founding of the NRDC and his past support for cap-and-trade climate legislation. Now he is tying Bryson’s support for alternative energy to the controversy over the administration’s grants for solar company Solyndra, which defaulted on its government loans.

“In reality what has happened is a lot of people have forgotten about the Bryson nomination because it was a while ago. Senator Inhofe wanted to bring those issues back to the forefront,” Inhofe spokesman Matt Dempsey said yesterday.

Since his nomination, Bryson has sought to downplay his connection to the NRDC and distance himself from his conservationist past. He has spoken in favor of an “all of the above” energy policy and said that if approved for the position he would focus on jobs — not an environmentalist agenda (E&E Daily, June 22).

Bryson is a former member of the United Nations’ advisory group on energy and climate change, and he publicly called the Democratic climate change bill passed by the House in 2009 “moderate.” The controversial effort to curb carbon emissions failed in the Senate.

Refresher course, WSJ – Secretary of Subsidy:

President Obama nominated John Bryson to head the Commerce Department on Tuesday, praising the Californian as “a business leader who understands what it takes to innovate, create jobs and to persevere through tough times.” That’s one way of describing someone with a talent for scoring government subsidies.

Mr. Bryson, who had a long tenure running California energy company Edison International, has more recently served as chairman of BrightSource Energy, a startup specializing in solar-thermal power. Founded in 2004, the company has attracted more than $500 million in private funding and has become a renewables darling, with agreements to supply electricity to California utilities PG&E and Southern California Edison.

That’s the good news. But the company’s SEC filing in April for a $250 million IPO tells a more, er, interesting story.

The company has posted a string of net losses, totaling $177 million. Much of its $32 million in revenue over the past three years has come not from power generation, but from a contract with Chevron to use its technology to recover . . . not-so-renewable heavy oil. The filing advises investors that BrightSource has “generated substantial net losses and negative operating cash flows since our inception and expect[s] to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.”

There’s also trouble at its flagship venture, a 3,600-acre solar project in the Mojave desert called Ivanpah. In April, the Bureau of Land Management suspended some construction in the name of “threatened” desert tortoises. The company faces at least two lawsuits from environmental coalitions. Its technology has never been implemented on a “utility-scale” project, it depends on “unproven” equipment necessary to clean the Mojave dust off its solar mirrors, and the project faces potential cost overruns. The Energy Information Agency also lists solar-thermal as the most expensive source of energy on the books?making offshore wind look cheap by comparison.

Fortunately for BrightSource, its efforts are sustained by an impressive array of federal, state and local subsidies, including a $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, one of the largest solar guarantees on record. The company notes federal provisions providing solar projects with a 30% investment tax credit through 2016, as well as accelerated depreciations of capital costs for solar entities, among other goodies.

The risk is that the subsidy spigot could someday be turned off as voters get wise to the high costs, economic inefficiencies and unintended environmental side-effects of renewables. That’s a possibility the filing acknowledges, though it adds brightly that it expects demand to “continue to increase as a result of regulatory policies and incentives put in place to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and improve energy security.” As an example, it points to California legislation requiring retail energy sellers to “derive 33% of the energy they supply from renewable energy sources by 2020.”

We have enough of these solar hucksters infesting 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Enough is enough.

***

Related Solyndra news:

Solyndra Investor’s U.S. Tax Status Faulted by Senate’s Grassley

Calif. green tax breaks in question

In-house Counsel on All Sides Under Pressure on Solyndra Loan

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