Opposition Grows to Sale of A123 Systems to China

A123 logoThe Chinese government, unsurprisingly, has approved a potential sale of stimulus-funded ($279 million-plus) A123 Systems to one of its own automobile parts manufacturers, should the Wanxiang Group’s bid be the highest this week for the bankrupt electric vehicle battery maker.

That was the easy part.

So far Republican Sens. Charles Grassley (Iowa) and John Thune (S.D.) have repeatedly raised questions and concerns about the possible transfer of A123’s business, jobs and technology from the U.S. – where taxpayers have thrown in approximately $132 million only to see many times that amount in losses since its 2009 initial public offering – to China. They’re no longer the only voices speaking out against the transaction.

Last week the Strategic Materials Advisory Council, a coalition of former U.S. Government and military leaders and industry experts, announced its opposition to a transfer of A123 to Wanxiang’s control. The group sent a … Read More ➡

Jim Rogers to Leave Duke Energy After Merger Fiasco

Jim Rogers and windmill photoThe long, crony-capitalizing, rent-seeking reign of CEO James Rogers at Duke Energy looks like it will come to an end – in a year, but possibly sooner.

The departure follows the saga that was the merger between Charlotte, NC-based Duke and Raleigh, NC-based Progress Energy, which was completed in June – sort of. After the North Carolina Utilities Commission delivered the final regulatory approval it needed, Duke’s board ousted former Progress head Bill Johnson. Throughout the nearly 18-month process the pending partner companies proclaimed Johnson would be the CEO of the new combined Duke, with Rogers moving up to chairman, but the directors schemed in the final months of negotiations and then sprung the firing on Johnson only hours after they congratulated him on his new position.

The NCUC was not happy about the deception, and launched an investigation and hearings with hints dropping all around that … Read More ➡

Nissan Cancels Grand Opening of Taxpayer-Backed EV Plant

Ghosn photoThe moment that all we electric automotive industry stakeholders (that is, taxpayers) have been waiting for has arrived! The dreams that spurred our $1.4 billion investment in Nissan’s Tennessee plant, for construction of the all-electric Leaf, and its batteries, will finally be realized!

Pass out the scissors for the ribbons, set up the podium for the dignitaries, and roll out a few of those shiny new models…what’s that you say? The ceremony’s been cancelled?

Sure enough, the planned grand opening a couple weeks ago for the Japanese automaker’s factory in Smyrna, Tenn. was called off. It’s not going to be rescheduled. The excuse was that there was a scheduling conflict “among key stakeholders,” which is a surprise considering that with so much taxpayer money behind Nissan’s loan guarantee, “key stakeholders” are plentiful.

But seriously, the horrid-selling Leaf never deterred Nissan from celebrating every milestone – real and … Read More ➡

Green Energy Stimulus Bankruptcies Come in All Sizes

ReVolt logoThe little-reported bankruptcy of a relatively small electric vehicle battery manufacturer last month illustrates the many problems with President Obama’s green energy stimulus program, and why the more appropriate location for the ramblin’, gamblin’ White House might be Las Vegas.

This smaller (compared to other Recovery Act beneficiaries) example is ReVolt Technology, which relocated from Switzerland to Oregon to take advantage of a $5 million Recovery Act grant from the Department of Energy in order to develop and mass-produce a “zinc-air” vehicle battery. Its technology was developed in Norway where the company was backed since 2004 by Viking Venture Management. According to the Portland Business Journal, ReVolt believed it could “deliver twice the energy of conventional rechargeable battery technologies, such as lithium-ion.”

Federal money wasn’t the only attraction. The company also received $5 million in city and state loans, as well as business energy tax credits. Thus we … Read More ➡

Payouts to Bankrupt A123 Systems Likely to Continue

A123 logoA reply by stimulus recipient ($115 million of a $249 million grant paid out) A123 Systems to an inquiry by Republican Sens. Charles Grassley (Iowa) and John Thune (S.D.) showed the electric vehicle battery manufacturer received nearly $1 million in Recovery Act funds on the day it declared bankruptcy.

The money flow is not likely to stop.

A123 as a whole, or in pieces, is going to be sold to the court-approved buyer(s). That is likely to be either Johnson Controls, which is the lead bidder for the company’s automotive business, or Wanxiang Group, which wants to buy the whole company. A123 had an agreement to transfer up to 80 percent of the company’s ownership to the China-based automotive parts manufacturer over the summer, but its bankruptcy filing on Oct. 16 – with Johnson Controls as the new automotive assets purchaser – nullified its agreement with Wanxiang.

But … Read More ➡

Fisker’s Big Fundraiser is Going Out of Business

Fisker logoThe venture finance operation that raised money for crony capitalist investors Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers, and their green tech firms like electric car company Fisker Automotive ($193 million paid in stimulus loan guarantees) and fuel cell manufacturer Bloom Energy, is shutting down, according to a Fortune report.

Advanced Equities, Inc. had recently been reprimanded by the Securities and Exchange Commission and by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for misleading investors and for breach of contract with its brokers. Fortune cited sources that said AEI brokers were told last week that Monday would be their last day. Crain’s Chicago Business confirmed that AEI was shutting down its broker-dealer business following its regulatory troubles, which “made it difficult to run the business.”

The co-founders of the Chicago-based firm, Dwight Badger and Keith Daubenspeck, received a sharp reprimand and severe fines from the SEC in September for delivering … Read More ➡

A123’s Executives Get Their Richly Undeserved Bonuses

A123 logoPresident Obama’s penchant for flushing taxpayer money down the green energy toilet lives at least another four years, and his crony supporters continue to benefit.

The latest example is the pending sell-off of assets by bankrupt A123 Systems, which was awarded upward of $279 million in stimulus funds, plus other assorted government grants and contracts. The top executives who presided over its failure – and supported the president’s cap-and-tax initiatives early in his term – are likely to receive millions of dollars in bonuses, thanks to their scheming earlier this year and a bankruptcy court judge.

Associated Press reported that that judge, Kevin Carey, ruled on Thursday that the electric vehicle battery maker can proceed with the bankruptcy process after a break-up fee – as part of a deal for Johnson Controls to buy its automotive assets – was lowered. Had a deal not been consummated, Johnson could … Read More ➡

Hurricane Sandy Reduces 16 Fisker Karmas to Ashes

Fisker logoWe’ve already seen Fisker Karmas spontaneously ignite in a Texas garage and a supermarket parking lot in California, which were blamed on isolated incidents.

But now the taxpayer-subsidized ($193 million) electric automaker has seen several of its $102,000+ luxury hybrids go up in smoke all at once, thanks to Hurricane Sandy.

Jalopnik.com reported Tuesday night that approximately 16 of the Karmas that were parked in Port Newark, N.J. Monday night as Hurricane Sandy approached were submerged by the storm surge. According to the Web site’s unidentified source, the vehicles then “caught fire” and “exploded.” Jalopnik has exclusive photos of the Karmas in which they all were thoroughly destroyed by what must have been an intense inferno.

Fisker – which was supposed to received $529 million from the Department of Energy’s stimulus allocation but was shut off because its business performance shortcomings – has acknowledged the incident.

“We can report that … Read More ➡

Chinese Back in the Picture to Buy Bankrupt A123 Systems

A123 logoIs it back to China for Obama-boosted battery maker A123 Systems?

In August the Massachusetts stimulus recipient (more than $279 million, plus a bundle of other government contracts) announced that Wanxiang Group would infuse the failing company with quick cash as part of a plan to assume as much as 80-percent ownership. A barrage of questions and concerns followed – most prominently from Republican Sens. Charles Grassley (Iowa) and John Thune (South Dakota) – about the logistics of the deal, the potential relocation of taxpayer-funded jobs overseas, and the protection of U.S.-financed technology. Required approval by both the Chinese and U.S. governments seemed to be a high hurdle.

That, in addition to stipulations such as A123 keeping all its government goodies and maintaining its listing on the NASDAQ, appeared to be too much to see the deal through. So when the company declared bankruptcy on October 16, … Read More ➡

Failed Renewable Technologies Are An Expensive Teaching Moment

LGChem logoA story that went viral over a week ago showed how (non)-workers at a Michigan electric vehicle battery plant, funded through the stimulus by taxpayers, spent their time playing games, reading magazines, watching movies or helping charities like Habitat for Humanity – that is, when they weren’t ‘off-duty’ on their cyclical furloughs.

According to a report by WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids, the LG Chem factory in Holland, Mich. – blessed with $151 million from a Department of Energy Recovery Act grant and $100 million from Wolverine State taxpayers – had “yet to ship out a single battery.”

But another local television station discovered some workers doing something else with their paid-but-free time: teaching students about their failed industry. WZZM, the local ABC affiliate, reported that engineers from LG Chem visited a local job training facility called Careerline Tech Center after they were invited by its director, Dave Searles.

“We’re working … Read More ➡