A week and a half ago cash-poor A123 Systems, recipient of $279 million-plus in federal money and millions more from the State of Michigan, announced it would access $39 million via a stock sale to institutional investors and the release of other cash after meeting requirements related to its existing reserves.
It has been downhill ever since – all the way down to its all-time low of 75 cents per share price Tuesday (and 69 cents Thursday morning). It may be too much for even these masters of the press release cycle to overcome by creating good news out of thin air.
The Obama Administration has over-stimulated the electric vehicle battery market, as companies inspired by the flow of federal stimulus support don’t have enough customers for their products.
The government promise of a coming electric car (and truck) revolution, thanks to moves such as President George W. Bush’s signature to approve a $7,500-per-electric-vehicle tax credit and Congress’s passage of the Recovery Act, instigated a buildup of capacity and inventory for batteries. Now putrid EV sales – including the newly introduced Ford Focus electric – have put their battery makers in peril, according to the Detroit Free Press.
A Department of Energy-funded solar company that laid off 280 workers last week quietly imposed a mandatory, temporary cessation of its operations during the holidays, and warned employees to “not let the rumor mill create false purposes for this shut down.” And in another sign of potential financial troubles, a company document that is supposed to guide “the next great solar company” advises leadership to “stretch payables” to help attain its goals.
In administrating its stimulus-fed loan and grants programs, the Department of Energy has been accused of incompetence, carelessness, recklessness, and cronyism. Now it can add inconsistency to those distinguishing characteristics.
Among the objections about taxpayer subsidies for the high-profile Chevy Volt, manufactured by Government Motors, is that the many grants, loans and tax breaks that lowered the sticker price on the electric hybrid car facilitated its (paltry) sales for the benefit of wealthier individuals who were purchasing it – those with average annual salaries of $170,000. So can you imagine how happy the affluent customers (like Leonardo DiCaprio) of the heavily subsidized, $102,000 electric Fisker Karma are, to be able to purchase their gimmicky sports sedan at a discount, with a $7,500 tax credit to boot?
President Obama said in his State of the Union speech last month that he would not “walk away from the promise of clean energy,” and according to a Politico report, he “doubled-down” on the promise by highlighting (more) commitments to federal grants and incentives for wind energy, solar power and natural gas vehicles in quasi-campaign speeches out West.
Last week yet another treasured Obama administration “Green” energy company – electric vehicle battery manufacturer Ener1 – went bankrupt, after having been granted $118 million in stimulus funds in August 2009. But the gift did more than just sustain it and subsidiary EnerDel; the cash enabled the company to bail out what would be its top customer, a Norwegian electric car company that had already been drained of cash on at least three previous occasions.