Federico Pena, Obama surrogate, defends Abound Solar, federal loans

Is the negative coverage regarding Abound frustrating for Peña?

"What's frustrating to me is when I was in the Department of Energy, I didn't have that kind of money," he said. "I wish I would've had a loan guarantee program like that, because we could've done a lot more. But we were going through a crisis and trying to reduce the deficit and all that. The president is trying to get the economy going, create this new energy economy. It's absolutely the right thing to do."

Federico Pena 2.jpeg
Photo by Brandon Marshall
Federico Pena, speaking at a Joe Biden rally in Arvada.
In terms of accusations about political motivations in Abound's investments, Peña said, "I don't believe in [those reports]...because, look, all the documentation is public, so DOE will have to release all that information. And of course, what people forget is some of these investments were made when Bush was president.... He started the loan guarantee program, so if it was so bad, why did a Republican president start the program to begin with? So you have to sort of put it in context.

"But the most important point is that the overwhelming majority of the projects have been successful, are going to be successful. A few are not going to work, but that's why they call it a loan guarantee program."

Peña pointed out that risks are inherent in these kinds of investments in private business and in government-backed innovations.

"When a bank makes a loan, there's a certain level of risk. When a private equity fund makes an investment...there are no guarantees that 100 percent of the companies you invest in are going to succeed. But when over 95 percent of them do, that's a pretty good track record," he said.

In the larger picture, this kind of backlash is hostile to alternative energy, he added.

"Mr. Romney has been very clear. He doesn't believe in it. He thinks the private sector should do it all. Well, let me tell you something: The private sector is not going to invest in these programs by themselves. They need guarantees. They need government-backed guarantees.... They're not gonna do what the DOE is doing."

Plus, he said, the government has a history of supporting unsustainable energy industries.

"The other irony is that a lot of these conservatives and people who are supporting Romney and Ryan say that the clean energy industry ought to exist on its own," he noted. "Well. if that's true, then why did we give a hundred years of tax breaks and incentives to the oil and gas industry and the coal industry?"

More from our Environment archive: "Joe Biden in Arvada: Mitt Romney's a liar, doesn't believe in average Americans."

Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.

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