Only a year after Tesla Motors and CEO Elon Musk extracted themselves from the $465-million taxpayer stimulus loan that brought critical scrutiny to the company’s performance, the electric automaker has once again put itself under the spotlight that comes with taking government corporate welfare.
Today the company will announce its plans to build a battery manufacturing plant near Reno. The new gambit was the culmination of competition that pitted at least five states against one another for the “privilege” of hosting Tesla’s “Gigafactory” – named so because of the amount of stored power they plan to produce. Cost to build the plant is estimated to be $5 billion, and Musk said he expected the winning bidder to cover at least 10 percent of that, according to the Associated Press. That means at least $500 million in some form of incentives or conciliations from Silver State taxpayers.
The dance …
As green energy stimulus recipients raked in billions of dollars the last few years, with President Obama declaring what a great “investment” they were for taxpayers, friends of mine would jokingly ask, “Where’s my dividend?” “Where are my stock certificates?” “Where’s my free electric car?!”
In the case of our $193-million stake in Fisker Automotive, thanks to a Department of Energy loan guarantee, it looks like American shareholders will end up with the whole company itself.
With the Anaheim non-automaker (no cars produced since last summer) firing about 160 of its 200 remaining employees on Friday, a bankruptcy law firm hired, and no buyer to pick over the $102,000 Karma model’s carcass, the Chicago Tribune reported Monday the imminent insolvency “could leave the federal government essentially owning” Fisker.
That would be quite a feat, since it’s been widely reported that Fisker drew more than $1 billion in private investment …
For weeks now the buzz about Fisker Automotive, the latest Department of Energy-funded clunker, is that two China-based automotive companies – Zhejiang Geely Holding Group (which owns Volvo) and Dongfeng Motor Corp. (which is state-owned) – were in bidding negotiations to buy an ownership stake of an unknown size. The speculation was that Fisker was following a similar path as stimulus-financed A123 Systems, which supplied the batteries for Fisker and was recently bought by Sino-owned Wanxiang Group.
But what seemed like the inevitable has been halted if a Wall Street Journal report (subscription-only) from Tuesday is to be believed. Apparently Fisker’s management still thinks it can access the remainder of a $529-million DOE loan, which it had received a portion of ($193 million) before its shortcomings forced the feds to say “no mas.” According to one of the newspaper’s sources, Fisker negotiators proposed to the …
The claim that the many beneficiaries (like Solyndra and Fisker Automotive) of President Obama’s green energy stimulus program received their millions of taxpayer dollars based on measurable metrics rather than political favoritism has always been undermined by the circumstantial evidence, but documents obtained by Complete Colorado indicate the White House applied direct pressure to its own Department of Energy to reward (another) one of its allies.
The company that reaped the benefit was Abound Solar, which filed for bankruptcy in June. In a copy of a June 2010 email, as analysts who evaluated applications were discussing doubts about the Loveland, Colo.-based solar panel manufacturer, DOE Loan Program Executive Director Jonathan Silver informed an agency credit advisor “that the WH (White House) wants to move Abound forward.” Another message from that loan program credit adviser, James McCrea, describes an atmosphere of “transaction pressure under which we are …
First Solar, the beneficiary of at least $3 billion in Department of Energy loan guarantees, paid its former CEO $32 million over two years as he stewarded its stock price from $143 to below $100. Today it sells for less than $21-per-share, hitting a 52-week low last week, and yesterday the company announced it would slash global payroll by 2,000 workers in Malaysia, Europe and the U.S.
The Arizona Republic reported Thursday that Rob Gillette, who was terminated as CEO in October, received $16.55 million during the first three months of employment in 2009 (October to December), and then $13.3 million for all of 2010. Last year he made $2.46 million, $1.7 million of which was severance. The newspaper also reported First Solar also paid its eight top executives nearly $16 million last year.
Before yesterday’s news, the company announced in December it would sever 100 employees. Then …
An Ohio-based solar company received millions of dollars in state and federal subsidies despite government officials’ knowledge that the company was in financial trouble, and now a local newspaper reports little activity at the manufacturer’s Perrysburg plant.
According to a report last month in The Toledo Blade, Willard & Kelsey Solar Group was lent $10 million by two state agencies even though the company showed little more than a half million dollars in revenue for 2009 – that being a grant from the Buckeye State – and a loss of $4.2 million. State officials told the newspaper that loan was completed because it had already been promised.
“We are just executing that commitment at that point,” Daryl Hennessy, assistant chief of the business services division at the Department of Development, told The Blade. “While it looked like a lot of bad things happened in between, the commitment had …
This story has been updated below.
Automotive and green technology advocacy Web sites are abuzz with a story about a former employee of Fisker Automotive who claims the company released its $102,000-plus Karma electric sport sedan prematurely, in order to meet targets set forth by the Department of Energy so Fisker could access funds from a $529 million loan award.
This followed reports from all over the Internet that Consumer Reports purchased a Karma in Connecticut for $107,850, only to see it totally disabled before the magazine could run it through its tests.
The whistleblower story originated on the pro-Clean tech Web site Gigaom.com, and was written by electric vehicle cheerleader Katie Fehrenbacher. According to her report, “The former Fisker employee said that it wasn’t uncommon for the first Karma cars to have technical issues, and said that was one reason for leaving Fisker — the employee now works …
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.
Oslo-based Think Global itself filed for bankruptcy again last June.
Think, whose primary model is a two-seater called the Think City, was to produce its glorified electric scooters at a revamped plant in Elkhart, Ind. – a plan that was also endorsed and supported by popular (with national Republicans) Gov. Mitch Daniels, who is still dreamed about by some conservatives as a worthy presidential candidate. Think’s economic development goals were closely linked to …
Wind power is not economically feasible. It is only a reality because of tax breaks and government subsidies, which are often the seed corn for political favoritism and cozy dealings.
In Missouri, a company called Wind Capital Group (WCG) is more than well connected. In the photo to the right is the firm’s CEO is Tom Carnahan. His brother is Congressman Russ Carnahan (D-MO), and his sister is Robin Carnahan, the Missouri Secretary of State. His father was governor and his mother a U.S. Senator.
WCG applied for a whopping $90 million in Obama’s stimulus package. In addition, WCG has successfully sought property tax exemptions where it is putting up windmills.
According to no-lesser light than Vice-President Biden, the stimulus made the difference in allowing CEO Carnahan to proceed with a project that the free market had deemed unviable. According to Alyson E. Raletz, a columnist for the St. Joseph …
Ford Motor Company has applied for $11 billion in taxpayer funds for retooling, and has access to an additional $9 billion line of credit from the government. Yet, the company was a financial sponsor of Al Sharpton’s national convention last week that featured a speech by Vice-President Joseph Biden.
In a letter today to Steven Rattner, who directs President Obama’s auto industry task force, I wrote,
Ford’s financial support for Sharpton places into doubt the judgment of Ford executives. I can think of no expenditure farther removed from the core mission of saving the company and the American auto industry than bankrolling Sharpton. It is your responsibility to ensure that no more capital is wasted on controversial political causes, no matter how supportive they are of the administration you represent.
In a Complaint filed today with TARP Inspector General Neil M. Barofsky, I wrote,
Ford’s major donation to Al Sharpton’s