Spanish-Owned Firm Receives $132 Million Loan Guarantee From Energy Department

Just one day before the controversial federal loan program that backed bankrupt solar company Solyndra was to end, a Spanish-owned firm received a $132 million loan guarantee.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced Thursday that Abengoa Bioenergy Biomass would receive the guarantee to support the development of a commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plant that is estimated to create 300 construction jobs and 65 permanent jobs in Kansas.

“Investing in a domestic advanced biofuels industry will help us compete in a growing, global clean energy economy while creating jobs in rural communities across the country,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said. “At the same time, these investments will help us reduce carbon emissions and decreases our dependence on oil.”

The company is a subsidiary of Abengoa Bioenergy US Holding, Inc., which is part of the Spanish engineering firm Abengoa.

Abengoa has also received more than $2.6 billion in federal loan guarantees from the Energy Department for two power-generating complexes, with the most recent $1.2 billion guarantee closing just this month.

An Energy Department official underscored to that the loan guarantees are for projects, not the companies, and that the projects have to be in the U.S. creating jobs.

The official added, "The fact that most windmill manufacturers are foreign-owned companies is the reason why we need to be investing in the capability to be doing these things at home."

Created under President Obama’s 2009 stimulus, the Energy Department’s $38.6 billion loan guarantee program aimed to ignite the nation’s clean energy sector. But the program, which ends Friday, has come under intense scrutiny since the first recipient, Solyndra, filed for bankruptcy this month, leaving taxpayers on the hook for $528 million. Federal authorities are now investigating the company.

The Energy Department approved three more loan guarantees Friday totaling about $3.5 billion. The Arizona-based First Solar Inc. received a $1.5 billion loan guarantee for a 550-megawatt solar farm on federal land in Southern California and Exelon Corp. received $646 million for a 230-megawatt solar plant near Los Angeles.

A third project worth $1.4 billion will support installation of about 750 solar rooftop panels in 28 states.

"In a last-minute mad dash to beat the stimulus deadline, DOE today rushed out an unprecedented tidal wave of taxpayer dollars -- and the question still remains, where are the jobs?" said Rep. Cliff Stearns, chairman of the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

"American taxpayers are already on the hook for half a billion dollars for the sins of Solyndra -- what surprises does DOE have in store from today's rush job?" he said.

Abengoa’s press releases tout the thousands of construction and other jobs that the two projects receiving $2.6 billion in federal loan guarantees will create. But the Energy Department’s own website reveals that the projects – one in the Mojave Desert in California, the other southwest of Phoenix –will permanently employ no more than 130 people after completion.

According to its 2010 annual report, Abengoa’s entire staff worldwide was 526 employees.