President Obama defended the green energy industry despite the failure of solar panel maker Solyndra and questions raised about the $528 million loan the company was awarded from the federal government before it folded.
"Clean energy is part of that package of technologies of the future that have to be based here in the United States if we're going to be able to succeed," the president said during an East Room press conference Thursday morning.
The Obama administration touted Solyndra with the president visiting the California company soon after the Energy Department made the loan. But in August, Solyndra declared bankruptcy, laying off around 1,100 workers.
Noting the controversial loan program for green energy companies was always known to have risks, the president said he was confident that the Energy Department's decisions about Solyndra's loan were made based on what it thought would be good for the American economy and the company's failure doesn't mean it's time to give up on green energy.
"I don't buy that," the president said. "I'm not going to surrender to other countries' technological leads that could end up determining whether or not we're building a strong middle class in this country."
Critics have pointed to the Solyndra situation as evidence that money spent on the green energy industry is wasted ad won't have a great impact on the U.S. economy. One congressman has gone as far as saying the U.S. can't compete with China on green energy.
"We can't compete with China to make solar panels and wind turbines," Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., told National Public Radio.
But the president doesn't accept that idea and argues dwindling traditional energy sources and future increases in worldwide demand make the green industry a priority.
"[I]f we don't prepare now, if we don't invest now, if we don't get on top of technologies now, we're going to be facing 20 years from now China that -- and India having a billion new drivers on the road, the trend lines in terms of oil prices, coal, et cetera, going up, the impact on the planet increasing," the president said. "And we're not just going to be able to start when all heck is breaking loose and say, "Boy, we better find some new energy sources.""
The president added that the Solyndra situation shouldn't keep the U.S. from continuing its investment in green energy and that the federal loan program that funded Solyndra was meant to take a risk on the industry.
"[T]he nature of these programs are going to be ones in which for every success there may be one that does not work out as well," Obama said. "But that's exactly what the loan guarantee program was designed by Congress to do, was to take bets on these areas where we need to make sure that we're maintaining our lead."