Apple’s Fuel Cell Project Presents Conflict of Interest for Al Gore

Al Gore photo

A major project to generate expensive (so-called) renewable energy at Apple, Inc.’s new data center in the North Carolina mountains highlights a conflict of interest for one of its directors, former Vice President Al Gore.

The massive server farm in the small town of Maiden has already been criticized for the large swaths of forest clear-cutting and burning to make way for a 100-acre solar project, and now more acres are being leveled to construct a $30-million fuel cell facility to generate electricity, according to The News & Observer of Raleigh.

Apple is working with Bloom Energy to build the project. Gore is a senior partner with Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, which in 2002 as the first investor helped launch Bloom on its independent mission to “make clean, reliable energy affordable.”

The National Center for Public Policy Research, an investor … Read More ➡

Taxpayers’ $1.4B ‘Investment’ in Nissan EV May Make Volt Look Good by Comparison

Ghosn photoWhile General MotorsChevy Volt assembly workers are sidelined for five weeks (and more this summer) because demand for its strongly hyped electric car is weak, the prospects for its chief rival – Nissan’s Leaf – are shaky at best.

Nissan North America, Inc. – a subsidiary of its Japanese parent – is the beneficiary of a $1.4 billion Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan from the U.S. Department of Energy, to convert a plant in Smyrna, Tenn. to produce the Leaf and batteries for it. The project’s promoters say the alterations will lead to 1,300 new jobs, enabling Nissan to produce up to 150,000 Leafs and 200,000 battery packs per year, which will lead to the all-important avoidance of 204,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions – or so they say.

But there’s just one problem: Sales of the Leaf are not much better than the Volt’s have been, and … Read More ➡

Another Taxpayer-Funded Solar Company Looks Like a Failure

Biden Strickland photoAn 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 … Read More ➡

Taxpayers’ Green ‘Investment’ in Battery Company Withers

A123 logoA123 Systems – the taxpayer-funded electric vehicle battery manufacturer that famously shipped duds to Fisker Automotive, which caused one of its luxurious Karma EVs to shut down just before a Consumer Reports test – is now the defendant in an investor class action lawsuit and its stock has tanked to below $1.

Massachusetts-based A123 received more than $279 million in grants from the Department of Energy, most of it used to refurbish two plants in Livonia and Romulus, Mich., for the production of EV batteries. The company laid off 125 factory workers in November, lost $257.7 million in 2011 (including an $11.6 million write-down of its stake in Fisker), and announced it would spend $55 million to fix the defective batteries it delivered to Fisker and other customers. Meanwhile A123’s top executives received big raises and inflated parachutes should the company change ownership.

The lawsuit, filed in a Massachusetts … Read More ➡

Class Action Filed Against Taxpayer-Backed First Solar

First Solar Logo

Securities law firms are lining up to get a piece of the action after a class action lawsuit was filed against federally subsidized First Solar, Inc., allegedly because the company failed to disclose the massive costs it was incurring due to defects in its solar panels, leading investors to believe the company’s stock was worth more than its actual value.

The complaint, filed by the New York-based Pomerantz, Haudek, Grossman, & Gross law firm, claims that First Solar executives – including founder Michael Ahearn and former CEO Robert Gillette – “made false and/or misleading statements, as well as failed to disclose material adverse facts about the Company’s business, operations, and prospects.” The false information was allegedly delivered via annual and quarterly reports, SEC filings, press releases and other documents. First Solar is a public company traded on the NASDAQ exchange.

According to the complaint, First Solar: “deceive(d) the investing … Read More ➡

10 Reasons Why Fisker May Be Worse Than Solyndra

Chu photo

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 … Read More ➡

Fisker’s Private Fundraisers Face SEC Investigation

A123 logo

The Securities and Exchange Commission has notified the brokers who raised most of the private financing for taxpayer-backed electric automaker Fisker Automotive that charges may be brought against them, in connection with a private offering in 2009.

The co-founders of Advanced Equities, Inc., Keith Daubenspeck and Dwight Badger, were served in January with Wells Notices by enforcement staff from the SEC’s Chicago office. The warning informs defendants of the preliminary results of an investigation, and that findings mean a recommendation for a full hearing before the commission is likely. The subjects of the investigation are given the opportunity to submit a response to the allegations before a hearing is commenced. Crain’s Chicago Business first reported the news.

Advanced Equities, also based in the Windy City, has raised venture capital for Fisker. The investment bank specializes in late-stage equity financing, raising funds to “bridge the gap between venture money and … Read More ➡

Lawyers Who Backed Obama Advised on Failed Loan Programs

Obama InvescoLast week NLPC reported that an international law firm, whose employees provided significant campaign support for President Obama, was paid $1.8 million from the stimulus to review and conduct “due diligence” for the Department of Energy’s suspended loan to Fisker Automotive, an electric vehicle start-up company. Fisker sent 65 workers to the unemployment lines.

Debevoise and Plimpton, which employs top Obama bundler and fundraiser David Rivkin, wasn’t the only largely Democratic law firm to reap such rewards. At least four other major law practices also analyzed DOE’s loan programs and its grantees – three of which gave large sums of money to the campaigns of President Obama and fellow Democrats.

Debevoise, on the heels of  $199,944 in donations to Sen. Barack Obama for his 2008 presidential campaign, was able to land the contract to analyze loans from DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program to troubled Fisker Read More ➡

Can Taxpayer-Subsidized Battery Maker A123 Survive?

A123 logoThe taxpayer-funded ($279 million) battery supplier that gave big raises and parachutes to its executives shortly after it cut “Green jobs” at its Michigan factories, reported last week it would suffer big losses again for 2011.

A123 Systems, whose fortunes were entwined with those of electric vehicle startup manufacturer Fisker Automotive, also announced it would look to China and India in order to survive.

A123 also received grants and tax credits from Michigan that could total more than $135 million.

The company said it would realize a loss of $257.7 million for last year, compared to the $152.6 million in losses for 2010. A123, which received a $249.1 million grant from the Department of Energy to refurbish plants in Livonia and Romulus, Mich. (plus another $30 million sub-grant for another energy storage project), has never been profitable. 

A123 is an investor in Fisker, which had its own $529 Read More ➡

GM-Funded EV Company Gives Up on DOE Loan, Ends Operations

bright automotive

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.

Last week Bright Automotive, an electric vehicle start-up company that General Motors helped two years ago with an investment of at least $5 million from its venture capital arm, gave up hope on winning a $450 million loan from DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program. As the company announced the withdrawal of its loan application and that it would end operations, CEO Reuben Munger and COO Mike Donoughe sent (and released to the media) a letter to DOE Secretary Steven Chu that sharply criticized the loan programs processes and outlined their frustrations. 

“Bright has not been explicitly rejected by the DOE,” the Bright executives wrote, “rather, we have been forced to say ‘uncle….’”

“Last week we received the fourth ‘near … Read More ➡