Discuss as:

Official in charge of energy loan program steps down

Republicans drew some political blood Thursday from the Obama administration Thursday when the embattled head of a loan program at the Department of Energy that oversaw a loan to Solyndra stepped down from that position.

Jonathan Silver, the executive director of the Energy Department's Loan Programs Office, stepped down from that position amid scrutiny from congressional Republicans over loans granted to the now-bankrupt energy firm Solyndra. Energy Secretary Steve Chu told the Post that the departure had been planned.

"In early July, shortly after the fiscal year 2011 budget was completed by Congress and it became clear that no significant new funds were included for the loan program, Jonathan Silver informed me that he intended to return to the private sector shortly after September 30, the statutory end-date of the 1705 loan guarantee program," Chu said, adding that he had "absolute confidence" in Silver.

The loan program started under President George W. Bush's administration, but was expanded during President Obama's first few years in office. During Obama's tenure, he has made investment in green jobs a major political priority. Republicans are suspicious that the administration eased requirements for the company, despite its financial difficulties, in order to avoid embarrassment about the program.

"we knew from the start that the loan guarantee program was going to entail some risk, by definition.  If it was a risk-free proposition, then we wouldn’t have to worry about it," Obama said of the program at his news conference Thursday.

"There were going to be some companies that did not work out; Solyndra was one of them.  But the process by which the decision was made was on the merits.  It was straightforward.  And of course there were going to be debates internally when you’re dealing with something as complicated as this," Obama added. "But I have confidence that the decisions were made based on what would be good for the American economy and the American people and putting people back to work."

Republicans have sent no signal, though, that they itend to relent in their pursuit of the Solyndra investigation. Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, wrote the White House Thursday requesting all communications by staff members regarding the Solyndra loan.