“Recognizing that these investments would include some risk, Congress established a loan loss reserve for the program, and the Energy Department built in strong safeguards to protect the taxpayer if companies could not meet their obligations,” Bill Gibbons, an agency spokesman, said in an e-mail to Bloomberg News. “Because of these actions…the Energy Department has protected nearly three-quarters of our original commitment to Fisker Automotive.”
It may be the height of irony that a company that was supposed to soar to the top of the new clean energy economy, with the help of U.S. taxpayers to undergird President Obama’s stimulus visions, has instead left both an environmental and financial mess after its demise.
Yet that’s exactly the case with miserable failure Abound Solar, which the president’s Department of Energy thought so much of, they awarded it a $400 million loan guarantee. That proposition quickly soured and the government halted payouts after about $70 million. The company went bankrupt in June 2012, leaving taxpayers out between $40 million and $60 million that was never recovered.
Then in mid-August Ecotality informed the Securities and Exchange Commission it was in deep financial trouble, with bankruptcy a possibility. A filing showed that the company was unable to obtain additional financing and the DOE had ceased payments to it for the EV Project until the agency could investigate further. DOE also warned Ecotality to not incur any new costs or obligations under the EV Project.
Two of the most egregious offenders were subject to withering scrutiny, although it didn’t last long enough to get very deep. Lisa Jackson, the former EPA Administrator whose FOIA-evadable email address was under the alias “Richard Windsor” – named in part for her dog – was questioned about a message sent to Siemens vice president Alison Taylor in which she asked her to “use my home email rather than this one when you need to contact me directly….”
As the Department of Energy seized the last of Fisker Automotive’s reserves in lieu of an unknown amount that it was due to repay this week, what’s left of the lame electric automaker clings to the slim hope it can survive.
While CEO Tony Posawatz and his team may need an intervention, a hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee yesterday revealed that DOE and committee Democrats (as well as those in the Obama administration) are hopelessly stuck in an alternate universe, where losing millions of taxpayer dollars is considered a good record. Republicans had called officials from the company – including founder Henrik Fisker, as well as administrators of DOE’s loan program – to explain the logic that went into granting $529 million to a fledgling, unproven car company that targets an ultra-rich clientele.
President Obama’s alternative energy “stimulus,” administered through his Department of Energy by previous Secretary Steven Chu, had already become a joke because of the failures and foibles of so many recipients of Recovery Act funds. But now – as though officially commemorating the absurdity of this historically bad U.S. government program – one of its bankrupt beneficiaries has changed its name from one of simplicity to one of mockery.
That’s according to a report published earlier this month by the Government Accountability Office, which reviewed DOE’s loan programs for a briefing to both the House and Senate’s Appropriations subcommittees on Energy. Amusingly though, the Web site of DOE’s Loan Programs Office still calls itself “The Financing Force Behind America’s Clean Energy Economy.” The minor blip that undermines that premise is that DOE is having trouble getting someone to borrow $55 billion.
The past year was a dismal one for the passé idea that government would use taxpayer dollars responsibly, and that was nowhere more evident than with President Obama’s initiatives to promote “clean” energy technology companies and projects with so-called “stimulus” funds and other public money. NLPC reported extensively on some of the most egregious examples.