White House considered replacing Energy Secretary over Solyndra, email reveals

Several White House officials saw a plan to oust Energy Secretary Steven Chu months before a scandal surrounding solar power company Solyndra, the Associated Press has reported.

The proposal to replace Chu came in a Feb. 25 email from Dan Carol, a former issues adviser to Barack Obama's presidential campaign, and was circulated by Peter Rouse, Obama's chief of staff at the time, AP reported Friday.

Spokesmen from the White House and from Energy said the plan was not taken seriously, the report said.

The White House released the email in response to Nov. 3 subpoenas issued by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is looking into a $500 million federal loan granted to the now-bankrupt Solyndra Inc.

"As our investigation has unfolded, many more questions have emerged about both the initial loan to Solyndra and the subsequent restructuring [of the firm] that put taxpayers at the back of the line," committee chairman Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., and investigations subcommittee chairman Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., said in a joint statement.

"Interest in Solyndra was not limited to the Department of Energy or Office of Management and Budget: some of the president's most senior advisers were closely monitoring the loan as well."

In his email, Carol suggested offering the Energy' top job to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and making Chu the department's chief scientist, AP reported.

"This is a huge job and he would be perfect for it," Carol said in the email, adding that Chu "is a wonderful and brilliant man, but he is not perfect for the other critical DOE mission: deploying existing technologies at scale and creating jobs."

Solyndra's bankruptcy and allegations that Energy acted illegally in supporting the failed firm have been a point of controversy for the administration.

Dan Leistikow, Chu's spokesman, said the emails "reaffirm that decisions were made on the merits and that all of the baseless allegations about political considerations just aren't borne out by the facts," AP reported.

Chu will testify before the House energy committee on Thursday.

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