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 ➡

Emails Show White House Exerted Pressure for DOE Loan to Abound Solar

Abound logoThe claim that the many beneficiaries (like Solyndra and Fisker Automotive) of President Obama’s green energy stimulus program received their millions of taxpayer dollars based on measurable metrics rather than political favoritism has always been undermined by the circumstantial evidence, but documents obtained by Complete Colorado indicate the White House applied direct pressure to its own Department of Energy to reward (another) one of its allies.

The company that reaped the benefit was Abound Solar, which filed for bankruptcy in June. In a copy of a June 2010 email, as analysts who evaluated applications were discussing doubts about the Loveland, Colo.-based solar panel manufacturer, DOE Loan Program Executive Director Jonathan Silver informed an agency credit advisor “that the WH (White House) wants to move Abound forward.” Another message from that loan program credit adviser, James McCrea, describes an atmosphere of “transaction pressure under which we are … Read More ➡

Executives at Bankrupt A123 Now Want Bonuses

A123 logoTaxpayer stimulus waster A123 Systems has not only declared financial bankruptcy – its executives also seem to be driving toward moral bankruptcy as well.

CEO David Vieau and his lieutenants, after receiving well over $279 million in Recovery Act funds and at least $135 million from Michigan taxpayers, have run the company into the ground. Yet they have asked a bankruptcy court judge for his blessing to receive up to $4.2 million in executive and retention bonuses to see through the company’s takeover, likely by Johnson Controls.

NLPC detailed the self-serving nature of A123’s leadership in February. At the time A123 had laid off 125 employees in November at its two plants in Livonia and Romulus, Mich. Company officials said diminished production by A123’s top customer, Fisker Automotive, led to the cutbacks. A123 had expected to deliver batteries for 7,000 plug-in hybrid Fisker Karma models, but faulty wire harnesses … Read More ➡

Timeline: A123 Systems’ Downward Spiral to Bankruptcy

A123 logoAs Bloomberg reported today, stimulus-funded electric vehicle battery maker A123 Systems filed bankruptcy in federal court after failing to make a debt payment that was due. Milwaukee Business Times has reported that Johnson Controls will purchase the “automotive business assets” of A123 for $125 million, and that A123 will receive from Johnson $72.5 million in “debtor in possession” financing to continue operating during the sale process.

Regular readers won’t be surprised, as the company’s gradual sink to its current depths – despite receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from taxpayers – has been covered by NLPC since late last year. A review:

December 2011: A123 announced it would lay off 125 employees at its two refurbished plants in Michigan, attributing the cutbacks to diminished production by its top customer, Fisker Automotive. NLPC documented how A123 was also an investor in Fisker, which has had its own difficulties … Read More ➡

Government Love for Failing A123 Systems Was Unconditional

A123 logoAs stimulus-funded ($249 million-plus) A123 Systems sees its stock price drop back near its all-time low and waits for a Chinese rescue, two Republican senators want answers about whether taxpayer dollars are again funding jobs and technology that will be transferred overseas.

Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the ranking minority member on the Judiciary Committee, and South Dakota Sen. John Thune queried A123 CEO David Vieau about the logistics of a proposed sale to China-based Wanxiang Group Corp. In August, just as the company reported another $82.9 million in second-quarter losses, a deal was announced in which Wanxiang would deliver $75 million in initial loans and then would buy $200 million of senior secured convertible notes, followed by a possible $175 million “through the exercise of warrants it would receive in connection with the bridge loan and convertible notes.” If fully consummated, the end result could mean A123 ends … Read More ➡

DOE Hiding Truth About Bankrupt Abound Solar’s Defective Panels

Abound logoAs the now-bankrupt stimulus loan recipient Abound Solar filed for Chapter 7 (liquidation) bankruptcy in early July thanks largely to its defective modules, the Department of Energy still praised the company’s work as “innovative” and cost competitive, all while it blamed Abound’s failure on China for dumping underpriced panels on the market.

And now, despite the fact that Abound no longer exists, DOE is still withholding public information about the company because it claims it would harm the inactive business’s competitive edge by disclosing trade secrets.

The Daily Caller reported last week that the company sold defective or underperforming products, and cited inside sources at the company who claimed officials knew their panels were faulty before they received taxpayer dollars. Abound received a reported $70 million out of a total $400 million stimulus loan guarantee – financing that was closed on in December 2010, two months after Abound knew … Read More ➡

Asthmatic Subjected to EPA Experiments; Inhofe Wants Hearing

A former student at the University of North Carolina has come forward publicly to call attention to the disturbing experiments the Environmental Protection Agency has conducted – and is likely still performing – at its Human Studies Facility in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Meanwhile Sen. James Inhofe (pictured), ranking minority member on the Environment and Public Works Committee, has requested that Chairman Barbara Boxer conduct a hearing about EPA’s activities during the current lame-duck session.

The student, Landon Huffman, found out about the EPA program through an advertisement in The Daily Tar Heel, the university’s newspaper. The experiments exposed subjects to fine particulate matter (called “PM2.5”) at extremely elevated levels for up to two hours at a time. Researchers – at the direction of medical doctors – sought test subjects with health problems such as heart conditions, obesity or breathing difficulties. Huffman is an asthmatic and is a member-plaintiff in … Read More ➡

Consumer Reports: Fisker Karma the Worst Luxury Sedan

Fisker logoIt’s been six months since the taxpayer-subsidized ($193 million) Fisker Karma broke down at the test facilities of Consumer Reports before the publication could even take it for a review spin, but now the researchers have finally been able to put the luxury electric car through its paces and their assessment is complete.

Verdict: fail.

Why did it take so long for the car loved by Leonardo DiCaprio, Justin Bieber and Al Gore to get the full evaluation? Consumer Reports explains:

“With the Karma, much attention has been paid to our unfortunately routine problems, including an early failure on our track that left the car immobile and led to the battery being replaced, frequent instrument, window and radio glitches, and recurring warning lights. So far our Karma has made multiple trips back to the dealer (who, by the way, has provided excellent service, flat-bedding the car to and … Read More ➡

EPA Sued Over Heinous Experiments on Humans

Lisa JacksonAfter accumulating evidence via the Freedom of Information Act that showed the Environmental Protection Agency conducted disturbing experiments that exposed humans to inhalable particulates the agency has said are deadly, sound science advocate Steven Milloy has sued the federal government

The trials, which were carried out at EPA’s Human Studies Facility at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, exposed subjects to fine particulate matter (called “PM2.5”) at extremely elevated levels for up to two hours at a time. EPA’s Web site on particulate matter and its 2009 “Summary of PM2.5 Risk Estimates,” stated, “an examination of cause-specific risk estimates found that PM2.5 risk estimates for cardiovascular deaths are similar to those for all-cause deaths….” Also, in July 2011 EPA stated in the Federal Register announcement of its Cross-State Air Pollution Rule that “a recent EPA analysis estimated that 2005 levels of PM2.5 and ozone were responsible for … Read More ➡