The Department of Energy’s Loan Guarantee Program—its green energy loan program—is a money loser, according to the GAO.
The Government Accountability Office says the DOE’s oft-touted $28 billion loan program will cost taxpayers $2.21 billion over the lifetime of the loans. Not only that, the costs to taxpayers for green loans has risen about $500 million as “the result of loan guarantee defaults” from companies like Solyndra and Abound Solar.
That’s not bad by itself; the sorts of projects and companies being loaned to via this, essentially, venture funding program are high risk, losses are normal, and for a venture capital effort to lose money overall isn’t at all unusual.
What makes this particular program and its losses bad, however, is that it’s a government program. True venture capital entities, whether they fund through lending or any other method, are private companies. The participants in a private venture capital enterprise are voluntary participants who know, or have the opportunity to learn, beforehand the risks entailed in such a thing and who commit their own money to the effort.
When government gets involved in venture capitalism, the participants—the taxpayers—are not voluntary, they’re dragooned into the effort by the government’s commitment of those taxpayers’ money; the taxpayers have no opportunity to evaluate, before their money is irrevocably committed, the risks being run; and government is committing OPM to the enterprise, not its own money (indeed, the government has no money of its own to commit; it has only those taxpayers’ money).
Government has no legitimate role in the venture capital market.