Department of Energy

Inspector General Confirms Fun & Games at LG Chem

LGChem logoThe employees of battery maker LG Chem still haven’t found anything to do worthy of their pay since they were caught playing games and watching videos four months ago, and now the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Energy has embarrassed the company into returning some – but not much – of the $142 million (out of a $151 million grant) in taxpayer money they took.

Gregory Friedman released his report – which was based on an inquiry spurred by the original media stories in the fall about the mostly idle workers in Holland, Mich. – last week. Turns out the reports about workers on-the-clock playing Texas Hold ‘Em and video games, doing Sudoku and crossword puzzles, and volunteering at nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity, were not exaggerations.

Taxpayer Millions, Lithium Ion and Rich People Just Don't Mix Well

Elon MuskUndoubtedly alternative energy and transportation innovator Elon Musk (Flickr photo: Jurvetson) – like his competitor for the taxpayer-funded, six-figure electric automobile market Henrik Fisker – is a smart guy. But will economic and technological realities humble him, or worse, make him look like a fool?

After the experience recounted last week by New York Times journalist John Broder, who test drove the Tesla Model S in frigid conditions that required frequent unplanned recharging stops throughout the Northeast, humility is out of the question for Musk. The jury is still out on inanity.

Sale of A123 Systems to Chinese Gets Final U.S. Approval

A123 logoA123 Systems has received approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States for the controversial bankruptcy sale of most of its taxpayer-funded technology and assets to China-based Wanxiang, according to a statement released by subsidiary Wanxiang America Corp.

The authorization was the final major hurdle needed to complete the transaction. A123 had been granted $249 million to refurbish two plants in Michigan for battery production, another $30 million as a subcontractor for another stimulus-funded wind energy storage project, and various other grants and contracts by state and federal governments. But A123’s executives, while making sure their own bank accounts were well-taken care of, ran the company into the ground and now Wanxiang will reap whatever technology value is left, for cheap.

Will Departing Duke CEO Rogers Officially Join the Obama Team?

Jim Rogers and windmill photoNow that he’s been forced out as chairman and CEO of Duke Energy, James Rogers is apparently looking for something else to do, and may now be more receptive to the idea of becoming President Obama’s next Secretary of Energy.

The new speculation, primarily from the Charlotte Business Journal, which is based in Duke’s home city, arose following an interview that Rogers did with Bloomberg News while at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Whereas Rogers used to routinely dismiss suggestions that he might be up for a cabinet post, when asked this time by Bloomberg reporter Tom Keene what he would bring to the job if the president asked him to serve, he was unhesitant.

Fiscal Cliff Deal Saves Big Wind for Another Year

wind turbineThe “fiscal cliff” agreement was not only low-lighted by a wholesale surrender on taxes and spending by the Republicans, but also featured special favors and breaks for recreational industries like film production ($430 million) and motorsports ($70 million), as well as the sector that has been oft-criticized since President Obama entered the White House: renewable energy.

2012: The Year of Taxpayer ‘Green’ Waste

Obama InvescoThe 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.

Fisker Failures May Prevent Delaware From Getting Its Money Back

Fisker logoAmidst its ongoing financial problems and search for a “strategic alliance” that it says is not an attempt to sell the company, Fisker Automotive continues to make its current business partners extremely nervous.

In particular are those “investors” that represent the taxpayers of Delaware, who foolishly committed $21 million in public money to the California-based company, in exchange for a promise to take over a former General Motors manufacturing plant to build its next electric car, the Atlantic. But rather than generate thousands of “green jobs,” instead the factory sits dormant while Gov. Jack Markell and the state’s economic development officials stew. And now the state has learned that if Fisker goes belly-up or fails to operate in Delaware, the repayment of the funds it has outlaid is subordinate to the rights of other lenders to get their money back, including the U.S. government.

Nissan Admits Arrogance in Sales of Taxpayer-Subsidized Leaf

Ghosn photoA top Nissan official has said the company was “arrogant” in its marketing and sales approach for the all-electric Leaf, which received a $1.4 billion stimulus loan guarantee from President Obama’s Department of Energy.

Not that the company is going to return taxpayers their money, since the premise upon which Nissan received the loan were ridiculously high production estimates. Too much in expenses would have to be eaten otherwise.

Will Fisker Be Sold to the Chinese Now Too?

Fisker logo

This story has been updated at the end.

Fisker Automotive finally received a good review for the only model it has produced – the highly subsidized, widely panned and sometimes burned extended-range electric Karma – from automobile aficionado Jay Leno.

But that didn’t prevent the recipient of $193 million out of President Obama’s green stimulus from laying off another 40 workers. According to the Orange County Register, Fisker spokesman Roger Ormisher said the company – which had been awarded a $529 million loan guarantee by the Department of Energy only to see it halted due to unspecified shortcomings – had to halt production because its bankrupt supplier, A123 Systems, left them with a low battery inventory. Ormisher said Fisker has laid off about half its employees since February.

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