March 04, 2024

Little-Known Biden-Harris Success Stories

News that Didn’t Make the Headlines: Obscure Federal Program of the Month: Department of Energy Loan Programs Office (LPO)

When we go to the polls, we select not only our 500,000 elected officials, but also the teams they appoint. The Biden-Harris Administration has reinvigorated the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office, or LPO, facilitating a new wave of green manufacturing.

Construction spending on manufacturing plants is at an all-time high in the US, thanks to Biden’s industrial policy. Source: FRED (St. Louis Fed).

Private banks do not possess the technical expertise needed to evaluate new technologies’ risk. Luckily, the US Department of Energy is full of experts on new clean energy technologies. Recognizing that public finance is a key tool to push new technologies from research and development to deployment, one of the first acts of the new Democratic Congress after the 2006 midterms was to grant the LPO the authority to guarantee loans. President Obama expanded their lending portfolio to over $50 billion through a long series of successful loans, turning a profit for the government while helping utility-scale solar and electric vehicles get off the ground.

However, under President Trump, Energy Secretary Rick Perry (who had pledged to get rid of the Department of Energy) brought along someone with no experience in renewable energy to lead the LPO—the guy who has overseen the restoration of Texas’s governor’s mansion during Rick Perry’s last term as governor. And so the program hibernated, supporting only the Vogle nuclear reactor in Georgia, and issuing solicitations for fossil fuel projects, though none got support (incompetence often beat out evilness in Trump’s first term, but the MAGA movement won’t let this happen if they take power again).

Biden’s pick for the post, Jigar Shah, came in with big plans to restart the office. Then the Inflation Reduction Act gave the LPO $400 billion in lending authority. His office is in part behind the EV battery manufacturing boom in the US, the virtual power plants preventing grid failure during extreme weather events, battery recycling, carbon-free steel and cement, greener battery chemistries, and advanced geothermal technologies. Now he is partnering with state and local green banks to finance proven technologies in communities needing environmental justice, boosting the power of existing financing mechanisms, like Biden’s robust low-income solar program.

Given the success this office is having in reducing demand for fossil fuels, it is no surprise that Republicans are unleashing new attacks on the program and its director.

In order to keep up this momentum, we will need all Democrats to cast their ballots, ensuring a Blue Wave in November!

 Source: Canary Media.