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In a few short days, Congress will be considering whether to re-up authorization for the Export-Import Bank, an entity designed to facilitate trade and international cooperation by providing taxpayer-funded loans. After a series of exposes and watchdog reports, concerned primarily with the expansion of the Ex-Im loan program under the Obama Administration, the Ex-Im Bank’s re-authorization isn’t a done deal.
According to a recent report from American Transparency, which researched the Ex-Ims loans since 2007, most of the $172 billion in loans the Ex-Im has doled out has gone to large corporations, including Boeing, Halliburton, Exxon Mobil and General Electric, in something of a massive crony capitalism scheme. Where the numbers get really concerning, however, is how much the Ex-Im, which is funded by American taxpayers, has doled out to green energy boondoggles that, in some cases, were supposed to be kept at arms length from taxpayer funds.
One such case is that of Abengoa, a Spanish company that has routinely benefited from American taxpayers’ unintentional generosity. Marita Noon, a well-known author and researcher, has been tracking the tale of Abengoa, which includes more than $2.5 billion in Department of Energy grants from the same program that facilitated “green energy” boondoggle, Solyndra. Although Abengoa is a general alternative energy company, it has two American solar projects, Solana – a solar thermal plant – and Mojave – a solar assembly collection, both located in California and both billion-dollar grant recipients under the DOE loan program, as well as a biofuel project in Kansas. According to Noon, leadership for these projects justified obtaining the grants by rationalizing that a loan guarantee is not an “explicit subsidy” and that taxpayers would be protected if anything happened, as it did with similarly situated Solyndra.
Abengoa has had its share of problems, which Noon documents in a Daily Caller expose from last year. The criticisms range from poor management practices, to concerning bidding processes, to crony connections to local legislators, including Dianne Feinstein, to health insurance fraud, immigration abnormalities and deliberately delayed payments to contractors. But all along, it insisted that it was subsisting on its own quite well. But thanks to revelations in the AT’s report, we know that Abengoa was taking millions from the Ex-Im bank, meaning they were certainly not walled off from taxpayer funds.
The addendum highlights the $3 billion green energy companies received from Ex-Im. There are more than $140 million worth of failures within the financial transaction portfolio—though “additional time, resources and further research would turn up much more.”
Solyndra is on the list. Just six months before its infamous bankruptcy, Ex-Im, in February 2011, approved $10.3 million in long-term credit to Solyndra’s exports to Belgium.
Spanish solar company Abengoa, which is under investigation for a variety of violations, has an interesting connection to Ex-Im: Former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson is an advisory board member to Ex-Im and sits on Abengoa’s advisory board. The addendum states: “Abengoa has obligations of over $225 million in Ex-Im support.”
Bill Richardson is incredibly important to Abengoa’s financial health. Richardson sits on Abengoa’s International board as well as the Ex-Im bank advisory board. He joined Ex-Im’s board at the end of 2012, at around the same time that the first two Ex-Im loans, totaling around $150 million were issued to Abengoa. In 2013, while Richardson sat on both boards, Ex-Im authorized a second round of loans totaling $33 million.
The bank itself insists that Richardson had little to do with any decision explicitly authorizing the transfer of money, but that doesn’t mean that Richardson hasn’t exacted his influence on key decision-makers other ways. In 2013, when the Free Beacon was doing their investigation, he headlined a fundraiser for Diane Farrell’s congressional campaign, Farrell being a former director of Ex-Im bank who had, conveniently, approved a large loan to Abengoa to open a solar plant in Mexico just two years earlier.
Richardson also has another very important connection that greatly benefited Abengoa: the godfather of the green energy movement himself, Al Gore.
Gore’s company, Generation Investment Management, has a stake in Abengoa. Gore himself has had a crush on Abengoa’s operations for years, visiting their solar platform in Seville, Spain- a visit that Abengoa still keeps a record of on its website. He returned to Abengoa’s headquarters two years later to deliver a major speech on alternative energy sources. Abengoa shares at least one advisory board member with GIM as well. This connection – along with reams of political spending – has helped Abengoa secure government loan after government grant after government loan.
As the Ex-Im bank nears re-authorization, it’s important to note exactly what it means for green energy companies and what it means for taxpayers – most importantly, how taxpayer funds are being used to create a seemingly endless stream of finance for well-connected companies that might not otherwise survive market forces. Green energy makes a lot of people very rich, often on the backs of Americans who don’t know where their money is going.