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Opinion

Energy secretary shortlist: All ‘green’ subsidy winners

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Opinion,Lachlan Markay,Op-Eds

In the wake of President Obama’s reelection, attention has turned to possible shake-ups among top cabinet secretaries. One official expected to be shown the door is Energy Secretary Steven Chu. The short-list of likely replacements is made up entirely of individuals with ties to green energy companies that got taxpayer money during Obama’s first term.

“[T]he Solyndra debacle has been a disaster,” Politico notes in a Thursday report on Chu’s imminent exit, “and the Hill is unhappy too.”

But judging by the four names Politico floated as likely replacements, DOE’s green energy strategy won’t likely change dramatically, despite its market-distorting effects and poor track record. All four are either heads of companies to receive taxpayer backing under Obama, or have invested such companies personally or through venture capital firms.

Kathleen McGinty

A “protege of Al Gore,” according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, McGinty is an environmental policy veteran. She currently sits on a DOE advisory committee on natural gas. She was the founding director of the White House Office on Environmental Policy, the chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

McGinty has ties to at least seven companies that have received significant federal backing in some form. She is an operating partner at venture capital firm Element Partners, which has invested in taxpayer-backed green energy companies EdeniQ, Petra Solar, TAS Energy, TPI Composites, and Wind Tower Systems.

She is also a director at NRG Energy, which has received nearly $4 billion in DOE loan guarantees under Obama. That company is under scrutiny from a pair of Senators who raised questions about the viability of an offshore wind project recently approved by the Interior Department.

McGinty is the senior vice president and director for strategic growth at environmental consulting firm Weston Solutions, where she “leads [the company’s] Green Development business.” Weston is a major beneficiary of federal contracts from DOE, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Defense Department.

In addition to her ties to beneficiaries of federal green energy payments, McGinty served on the board of the Apollo Alliance, a coalition of left-wing environmental and labor groups that works to maintain a steady stream of taxpayer funding for green energy companies.

Cathy Zoi

Like McGinty, Zoi has spun through the green energy revolving door. In 2011, she left her post as Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency, where she oversaw the disbursement of more than $30 billion in stimulus funds, to join Silver Lake Kraftwerk, a venture capital firm owned by billionaire liberal financier George Soros.

While at DOE, Zoi faced conflict of interest questions when her husband’s company received the first energy efficiency stimulus tax credit, and accolades from both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Zoi and her husband were both heavily invested in other companies that stood to benefit from increased taxpayer funding for energy efficiency technologies.

Among SilverLake Kraftwerk’s investments is Solar City, which was in line to receive a DOE loan guarantee but missed a deadline due to increased paperwork it attributed to the Solyndra scandal.

Lewis Hay

While McGinty and Zoi are in the venture capital business, Hay is the chief executive NextEra Energy Resources, a company that benefitted directly from the Obama Administration’s green energy “investments.”

NextEra won about $2.3 billion in loan guarantees through the same DOE program that helped finance Solyndra. Those payments drew scrutiny due to Hay’s seat on on Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), ranking Republican on the Budget Committee, said Hay was "in a position that he couldn't possibly be objective."

Hay has also been an outspoken advocate of a carbon tax, which, given his company’s green energy investments, would benefit him financially.

Jim Rogers

Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy, made headlines earlier this year when he committed $10 million in credit for the Democratic National Convention, which was reportedly strapped for cash. He and his wife also supported the president’s reelection campaign, donating $10,000 each.

Duke has reaped windfalls from the Obama Administration’s “smart grid” push, landing $204 million in stimulus funds for the effort. The company also got a $22 million stimulus grant to develop energy storage batteries for wind farms and a $4 million stimulus grant for electrical wave measuring technology.

Lachlan Markay is an investigative reporter for the Heritage Foundation.

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