Energy Secretary Steven Chu firmly pushed back against Republican allegations that political favoritism and bureaucratic incompetence led his agency to approve a $535-million loan guarantee to Solyndra, in a much-anticipated appearance by the highest level Obama administration member so far before congressional investigators looking into the failed solar equipment maker.

A Nobel-prize-winning physicist and Washington outsider, Chu remained as unflappable as any seasoned Washington politico while parrying often-repetitive questions for more than four hours from the oversight subcommittee of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. During his testimony, Chu made clear that he had little hope of recovering most of the money backed by the Energy Department’s guarantee.

Republicans have insisted that Solyndra received more than half a billion in federal loan guarantees because its biggest investors are backed by a major Obama campaign donor, George Kaiser…

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