By Alison van Diggelen, host of Fresh Dialogues

The implosion of Solyndra last year was a blow to the Obama administration’s clean energy technology program, but as the 2012 State of the Union underlined, it hasn’t dampened the president’s enthusiasm for encouraging renewable energy sources. In this exclusive Fresh Dialogues interview, I sat down with David Axelrod, Obama’s Chief Political Strategist, to find out why. Interview transcript here

President Obama chose to address clean energy in his first 2012 Campaign ad - Why?

“The ad that it was responding to was an ad sponsored by a SuperPAC…sponsored by the Koch brothers… two oil billionaires … and it was an attack  particularly on the Solyndra issue but it was really an attack on the whole green energy initiative of the president’s. We’re proud of that initiative…we’re proud that we’re on par to double renewable energy during the course of his first term. He believes very strongly that we need to command the clean energy technology of the future and that as a country we need to be encouraging the development of clean energy technology or we’re going to see that go to other parts of the world.”

Solyndra appears to have become a thorn in the side of Obama. How does he intend to remove the thorn?

“All you can do is be open and candid about it. We knew when made investments in clean energy technology that some would do well and others would not. That’s the nature of this…these are speculative investments. And that’s the reason why they needed some nudging from the government in order to blossom…We’ve seen real growth in solar and wind energy and so these are investments that are paying off for the country. I’m very certain that we’re going to look back at the seeds that were planted during this period and we will say that it has made a big difference for the country in a positive way.”
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What percentage of the program’s investment went to Solyndra?

“There were forty under this specific program, so it was a small percentage of the entire program. It was a program… that was begun under the Bush Administration and we accelerated that program because we do believe that we are in a real competition for the clean energy technology of the future and we as a country have a great interest in developing alternative energy and home grown domestic energy and renewable energy. These were investments that made sense. Some will pay great dividends, others unfortunately will not.”

Note: in a recent report at ClimateProgress, Stephen Lacey confirmed that Solyndra’s loan guarantee amounted to 1.3% of the DoE’s total loan portfolio.

On the importance of clean energy technology

“We have our eye on the future and really encourage and develop renewable sources of energy. It’s good for the planet, it’s good for the economy, it’ll create great jobs…high end manufacturing jobs.”

On the future

“This is going to continue being a thrust for us. We’re not going to back off.”

The interview took place backstage at Foothill College’s Celebrity Forum on January 27, 2012. Check back soon for more with David Axelrod:

On Michelle Obama’s influence on green policy

On The First Lady’s organic garden at the White House

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