House Committee Grills DOE Loan Program Director Over Secret Emails

Jonathan SilverA hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform last week investigated the Obama administration’s practice of concealing email communications, with former top officials getting grilled about their use of private Internet accounts to conduct government business.

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….”

Jackson, of course, said it was perfectly normal to direct a corporation official that she regulates to communicate with her via methods for which the public has no access. Marlo Lewis …

A123 and Fisker Fire at Each Other as Taxpayers Run for Cover

A123 logoFisker logoAs if taxpayers didn’t already have to stomach enough corruption, incompetence and dysfunction in the government’s promotion of “green” energy, two past exemplars failure have returned to discharge blame at each other.

Fisker Automotive and A123 Systems are the costly malfunctions that zap you over and over again.

The latest, from a FoxBusiness.com report, reveals that sparks flew between the two as both of the Department of Energy-financed companies plummeted in their production, public profiles and value. According to an anonymous source the network says was “familiar with the situation,” when Fisker announced last fall it would cease production, the manufacturer of the $102,000 plug-in Karma blamed the bankruptcy of its battery manufacturer – A123 – for its downfall. The last of Fisker’s only model was produced in July last year.

As Fox Business recounted, Fisker CEO Tony Posawatz told Bloomberg News in November, “Because we have no …

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.

In the words of the inspector, “We confirmed the allegations.” The work that was supposed to be done under DOE’s stimulus

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.

Solar Favors Don’t Stop Fizzle

Solyndra went bankrupt in 2011, and the reverberations over $535 million in lost taxpayer money were felt throughout 2012. Money still flowed out from the Department of Energy and its stimulus stash, but Congressional Republicans’ scrutiny of big projects – especially in the Loan Program Office –paralyzed some new projects.

The year began with BP, which not long ago downplayed fossil fuels in favor of a “Beyond Petroleum” motto, exiting the solar business despite having received a $7.5 million grant from the U.S. government …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

Taxpayer-Funded EV Company Abandons IPO It Thought Would Save It

Frito Lay Electric TruckThe failing British electric vehicle company that pretended to become an American one in order to save its U.K. investors has scrapped its planned initial public offering that it hoped would save it in Kansas City.

Smith Electric Vehicles, recipient of $32 million in taxpayer stimulus, had reportedly fantasized it would raise $76 million (down from $125 million) via an IPO by selling roughly 4 ½ million shares at $16 to $18 each. CEO Bryan Hansel bowed to reality Thursday night and rescinded those plans.

“We received significant interest from potential investors,” he said in a statement. “However, we were unable to complete a transaction at a valuation or size that would be in the best interests of our company and its existing shareholders.”

Hansel said that the company will pursue “private financing opportunities” instead, which is also likely a fantasy – at least one that will enable …

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