Taxpayer-Supported Fisker Looking to China, Like A123

Fisker logoStimulus déjà vu-lishness lurks: Another “green” tech company that received hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars is financially troubled, seeks a buyer (or their preferred term – a “partner”), and China is ready to swoop in and buy up the remains on the cheap. And the same two Republican senators who slammed the last deal that went down like this are sickened again.

The first time this happened it was electric car battery maker A123 Systems that set up a deal to get $249 million (plus other multimillion dollar grants) from U.S. taxpayers, who then got left holding the bag when executives ran the company into bankruptcy, made off with some sweet bonuses, and left the techno-carcass for China’s Wanxiang Group to buy and learn about American battery innovation from.

The potential repeat scenario that appears to be playing out features Fisker Automotive, which once was A123’s … Read More ➡

Boeing Woes Balloon as Battery Fix Remains a Mystery

Boeing 787 DreamlinerWould you be willing to fly on a newly developed jumbo airliner with battery technology that has been known to cause fires, whose exact cause is still unknown, but whose manufacturer has claimed to find a temporary “fix” that would allegedly contain –but not prevent – future flaming flights?

Boeing bets you would. Airbus bets you wouldn’t.

On Sunday the Seattle Times reported that Boeing might propose a plan as early as this week to get the troubled Dreamliner airborne again, after two incidents involving fires with the jet’s sizable lithium ion battery packs shut down all 50 of the units now in service. The rumored remedy doesn’t appear to be an actual repair of the volatile battery itself, but instead “includes a heavy-duty titanium or steel containment box around the battery cells” and high-pressure tubes to vent dangerous gases outside the fuselage in case of what engineers call “thermal … Read More ➡

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 stimulusRead More ➡

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.

The Times published Broder’s devastating account on Friday. The plan was for the reporter to set out from the Washington, D.C. area and examine the claims that the Model S battery has a 300-mile range on a full charge, utilizing the carefully spaced new superchargers located at rest areas in Newark, Del. and Milford, Conn. – approximately 200 … Read More ➡

Interior Nominee Would Likely Continue Bad Policies

Sally JewellConsidering the anti-fossil fuel track record of President Obama and his first-term cabinet members Lisa Jackson (EPA), Steven Chu (Energy Dept.) and Ken Salazar (Interior Dept.), there is no reason to expect that Department of Interior nominee Sally Jewell (photo courtesy Fortune Live Media) would impose a different agenda – especially since the president no longer has to worry about re-election.

While there might not be anything to prevent her confirmation by the Senate, U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah is weary of the resource development haters the administration keeps producing for its energy and environment regulatory regime. Jewell, the CEO of Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) who always tilts for nature preservation rather than human utilization, looks like she would carry on the anti-exploratory and –drilling policies of Obama and Salazar.

“I have some reservations about President Obama’s selection of Sally Jewell,” Bishop, a Republican, said in a statement issued on … Read More ➡

Lobbying Muscle and Green Agenda Blinded Boeing to Reality

Boeing 787 DreamlinerWith the revelation that All Nippon Airways replaced defective lithium ion batteries 10 times, Japan Air Lines replaced “quite a few,” and United Airlines replaced “multiple batteries,” in the months preceding the smoke emergency that grounded their Dreamliners, is there anything that can be said about the technology that can overcome its now-horrible reputation?

Boeing has worked on the 787 for 10 years or so, with an ample amount of time to determine what kind of battery technology would be functional with the “super-efficient” jet with “exceptional environmental performance.” Had the Chicago-based manufacturer –and its airline customers – concerned themselves more with achievable plans that built on proven fossil-fuel designs and economic sensibility rather than appeasement of environmental activists, and the accompanying millions of dollars in government subsidies for such, they might not be burning through millions of dollars in costs and lost productivity due to idle airplanes … Read More ➡

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.

“We’re pleased the government has completed its review and provided us with the go-ahead to finalize this transaction,” said Pin Ni, president … Read More ➡

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.

“What I would bring is someone that’s been in the industry a long time and understands the importance of getting the balance right between cheap, affordable energy and meeting our … Read More ➡

Boeing Battery Quick Fix May Be Elusive

The crisis that has enveloped Boeing over the grounded Dreamliner, at a cost of billions of dollars in losses in addition to what has already been “invested” in it  — voluntarily by its owner/investors and coercively from taxpayers – exemplifies perhaps more than any other redistributionist corporatism scheme why government intervention is more headache than help.

Pass the industrial-strength Excedrin.

Of immediate concern to the Chicago-based jet-manufacturer is the lithium-ion battery that powers so many of the 787’s critical functions. Two instances of “thermal runaway” on Dreamliners’ owned by Japan-based airlines caused that country, and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, to suspend their use pending investigations. Other flaws since July such as cracked engines, damaged cockpit windows, and fuel leaks have compounded concerns.

But the scare factor surrounding the battery is the biggest deal.

“This is an unprecedented event,” said Deborah Hersman, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety … Read More ➡

Boeing’s Green Dreamliner Costs the Company, Customers and Taxpayers

Boeing 787 DreamlinerSeemingly endless government subsidies and the impetus to “go green” have made a mockery yet again of those who direct their business toward pleasing politicians and activist groups rather than delivering quality products built upon a proven history of performance.

Such is the case with Boeing’s troubled – and now grounded – Dreamliner.

The much-delayed 787 is supposed to be “a super-efficient airplane.” Designed (so Boeing says) in response to airlines’ demands for an energy-saving transport, the Dreamliner provides “unmatched fuel efficiency, resulting in exceptional environmental performance.” Boeing claims it uses 20 percent less fuel than similarly sized planes, in part by making it lighter by using composite materials for 50 percent of the primary structure, including the fuselage and wing. According to Popular Science, the Dreamliner is 80-percent composite “by volume.”

But the main problem Boeing has with the Dreamliner – which has led airlines … Read More ➡