The sniping and backbiting behind the financial scenes are escalating as those involved with Fisker Automotive and other green tech flops seek to direct blame for their investment failures. U.S. taxpayers, as usual, have suffered bystander casualties.
The latest controversy surrounds Silicon Valley investment firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, which has suffered a series of setbacks over its strategy to place sizable wagers on so-called “clean energy” companies. Their tech bettors hit on several huge successes during the 1990s dot-com boom, which history shows was a huge bubble with a nasty burst. The same thing happened with the government-fueled housing expansion and now the renewable energy sector is ballooning for the same reason.
An audit by the Department of Energy’s Inspector General found that the persistent weak demand for electric vehicles harmed the deployment and timeliness of a $135 million-plus taxpayer funded charging network, which spun a cycle of excessive grants and project expansion, that led to an enormous waste of public money.
The investigators, led by IG Gregory Friedman, determined that conditions for reimbursement to Ecotality, Inc. (and its subsidiaries) for the EV charging demonstration project were “very generous,” although not explicitly prohibited under federal regulations.
Reports have trickled out lately that, all of a sudden, demand is so great for the all-electric Leaf that Nissan’s production just can’t keep up.
“We’re going to be short on inventory all through the summer,” said Erik Gottfried, director of electric vehicle sales for Nissan, to Automotive News. “It will be late fall before we can produce enough to satisfy everybody.”
Then the appropriate question from taxpayers should be, “What did we pay $1.4 billion for you to do in Smyrna, Tennessee then?!?”
Jalopnik.com contributor Patrick George was pointed in the right direction when he characterized DOE’s boastful Loan Program Office as “rosy,” but more accurate descriptors would be “excessive” and “unrealistic.” It’s clear his analysis was one of an automotive enthusiast and reviewer, rather than someone who regularly watchdogs government with a skeptic’s eye and knows how bureaucrats fudge and exaggerate numbers to claim credit for their politician bosses. As NLPC has reported often, DOE – before a taxpayer-backed bank check was ever issued to an electric automaker – has made absolutely unbelievable claims about jobs, fuel savings and carbon dioxide emission reductions that were to be realized as a result of their loans.
Smith’s selling point for its step vans was that, unlike electric automobiles, delivery routes in urban areas did not require a long range between refueling (or, recharging). Frequent stops and short distances alleviated the “range anxiety” that accompanies cars like the Nissan Leaf. Frito-Lay, Coca-Cola and Staples were cited as early adopters of the truck demonstration project, which was launched with the help of $32 million in taxpayer funds.
President Obama’s speech last week that re-emphasized his commitment to reduce US carbon dioxide emissions brought dismay to those who appreciate affordable energy, but it sparked a celebration among corporate types who have long sought caps and taxes on CO2.
While it was still more words from the president, which don’t always match his actions, on CO2 limitation he has largely kept his promise to environmentalists. Critics slammed his plan to bypass Congress and to task the Environmental Protection Agency to curb emissions via executive order, but EPA has operated out of bounds since he was inaugurated in 2009 – especially with the “war against coal” that is now universally accepted as true.
In his much-hyped speech Tuesday, President Obama promised executive action – including greater regulations on the coal industry and approval of the Keystone Pipeline only if its “net effect on our climate” is not significant – to reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide that he alleges is the cause of global warming. He also called for the elimination of tax breaks for “big oil.”
“We can’t drill our way out of the energy and climate challenges that we face,” he said at Georgetown University.
If he really believes that, then why has his administration authorized billions of dollars in new projects to capture carbon dioxide (photo courtesy American Oil and Gas Reporter) and use it for “enhanced oil recovery?”
As 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.
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.
All five ATVM recipients, awarded a total of $8.4 billion of taxpayer-backed financing under the Recovery Act, have earned derision to some degree. Most fit into the already much-ridiculed electric vehicles program. VPG was funded to produce wheelchair-accessible passenger vehicles that ran on compressed natural gas.
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.