Dismal Outlook for EVs on Both Sides of the Atlantic

Nissan Leaf photoFor electric vehicle enthusiasts with the “if you build it, they will come” mentality, who endorse endless taxpayer subsidies for plug-in automobiles and infrastructure to charge them, there’s bad news this week.

The Daily Mail reported that sales of electric cars in the United Kingdom have fallen so sharply that there are now more charging stations than there are vehicles. If you thought the flaccid U.S. sales of the Chevy Volt (7,671 units) and Nissan Leaf (9,674 units) were a letdown – despite significant government funding for research and development, batteries, charging systems, and a $7,500 tax credit for buyers – the signs from Europe won’t lift spirits.

“Just 2,149 electric cars have been sold since 2006, despite a government scheme last year offering customers up to £5,000 (about $7,700 U.S. dollars) towards the cost of a vehicle,” the U.K. newspaper reported. “The Department for Transport says that around 2,500 … Read More ➡

Energy Dept. Makes More Bad Bets with Taxpayer Money

Chu photoAs the U.S. government Venture Capitalist-in-Chief (and President) Barack Obama and his Department of Energy investment guru (and Energy Secretary) Steven Chu pour other peoples’ money into their favorite “clean” technology schemes, private backers appear to be following them off the cliff, “as publicly traded battery makers watched their stocks tank and their businesses stumble,” according to a Dow Jones report late last month.

According to a Dow Jones-owned industry tracker called VentureSource, private investors put $372.7 million into 14 battery deals over the first three quarters of 2011. Whether they would have transferred so much cash into the otherwise shaky enterprises, without the government leading the way, is doubtful at best. But since the Obama administration wants to create “Green jobs” with a new energy economy, the fools have rushed in, ignoring the fact that government manipulation of industry only creates bubbles that eventually burst.

“Building a whole new … Read More ➡

Democratic National Committee Taps Crony Corporations

Obama InvescoAs Democrats struggle to raise funds to coronate President Obama as nominee in Charlotte, N.C. this September, the role of two crony corporations increases daily.

Bloomberg reported yesterday that the president’s re-election organization will consider moving his acceptance speech at the Democrat National Convention to Bank of America Stadium.

Three unidentified Democrats “involved in the fundraising” told the news service the goal would be to sell more skyboxes to wealthy donors, apparently because fewer are available at Time Warner Cable Arena where the convention is presently scheduled.

“The almost 74,000-seat home of the Carolina Panthers professional football team would also have room for the convention to sell more floor passes close to the stage,” Bloomberg reported. “Planners for the event are struggling to meet a $36.6 million fundraising goal, according to the Democrats, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter.”

Back in … Read More ➡

Russian Oligarch Tries to Cash In on Obama’s Crony Capitalism

Alexi MordashThe Department of Energy announced on Friday it would not complete a low-interest, $730 million loan to Severstal North America, after it had given the company a conditional commitment in July under its Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program.

DOE gave no reason for its disapproval of the loan, but it had come under scrutiny about its judgment after the collapse of solar company Solyndra, which was lent $535 million in taxpayer dollars. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa called upon Energy Secretary Stephen Chu to revisit the Severstal project – which would modernize its facility in Dearborn, Mich. to produce so-called advanced high-strength steel (AHSS) – because the company “had ample means to carry out the project” and had “apparently no need for federal financing,” among other reasons. Severstal N.A. is a wholly owned subsidiary of OAO Severstal, owned by Russian tycoon Alexei Mordashov (in photo), … Read More ➡

Taxpayers Take Hit as Solar Industry Implodes

First Solar Logo

In a year where Solyndra became the face of the solar industry’s chronic failures, even the holiday season could not prevent one last flurry of layoffs in 2011.

The Mountain Enterprise (based in Frazier Park, Calif.) reported over the weekend that First Solar, Inc. – which the media sometimes identifies as the largest solar company in the world – laid off half its employees on Friday at its Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One project. The facility has been the subject of controversy in the local community over the effects it will have on land use, wildlife, and water usage.

In a September 30 press release that announced the sale of the 230-megawatt photovoltaic “farm” to Exelon (First Solar will still build, manage and operate the project), up to 400 construction jobs and as many as 15 operations positions were supposed to result. The Department of Energy, which provided a $646 … Read More ➡

Taxpayers’ Leaf: Four Recharging Stops Needed to Go 180 Miles

Nissan Leaf photoConsumer Reports has painted an ugly picture of the Nissan Leaf, as did an early enthusiast based in Los Angeles, who described his frustrations with the heavily subsidized, all-electric car in a recent column.

Now comes what must be the definitive example of the Leaf’s impracticality – this time from a (still) hard-core advocate, whose 180-mile Tennessee trek to visit family over the holidays required four lengthy stops to keep the vehicle moving.

Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, set out from Knoxville on Monday with his wife and son, headed for the Nashville area. His plan (appropriately) was to follow Interstate 40 West, where a series of Cracker Barrel restaurants – equipped with so-called “fast” vehicle chargers (if you want to call 30 minutes or more “fast”) along the route – would provide an electricity security blanket as the Leaf’s charge diminished. 

Only problem … Read More ➡

‘Beyond Petroleum’ Gives Up on Solar

bp solar no more

BP Solar, the alternative energy subsidiary of the oil industry giant which received a $7.5 million Department of Energy grant only four years ago, announced last week it would exit the solar business.

The unit just closed its only U.S. manufacturing facility, in Frederick, Md., last year. The company said it would outsource its production of solar photovoltaic panels to China and India. BP CEO Tony Hayward told the Washington Post at the time it was “moving to where we can manufacture cheaply.” BP auctioned equipment in January this year from the closed plant, and in a sign the overall industry – with bankrupt Solyndra as its face – is completely tanking, an experienced industrial auctioneer told the Frederick News-Post, “We’ve been doing more solar technology auctions lately.”

So much for the excuse that U.S. solar companies “can’t compete” because of the cheap, heavily subsidized production of panels in … Read More ➡

Facebook Caves to Greenpeace After Pressure Campaign

white Coke can

Greenpeace, which has campaigned against technology companies for nearly two years over their coal-burning electricity use at “cloud computing” data centers, has convinced one – Facebook – to promise to use renewable energy at facilities they build in the future.

The international environmental pressure group’s members have singled out the popular social networking site in a drive to “Unfriend Coal,” in order to fight the global warming problem that is still vivid in their collective imagination. They are particularly incensed that Facebook has built data centers in Oregon (Pacific Power) and North Carolina (Duke Energy) that are customers of utilities that generate a large percentage of their electricity from coal. Greenpeace initiated its campaign using the site’s own online tools against it, by starting groups in English and Spanish that gather members who wanted “Facebook to run on 100 percent renewable energy.” The group also attempted to … Read More ➡

FERC Flunks Duke Energy-Progress Energy Merger Proposal, Again

white Coke can

Fresh from its latest payoff of environoia groups in exchange for their support of their merger, Duke Energy and Progress Energy must return to the drawing board after the second rejection of their proposal by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

It’s a story of two Davids against a Goliath, and no, it’s not the utilities against the big bad government regulator. Rather, two small eastern North Carolina cities – Rocky (“Gonna Fly Now”) Mount and New Bern – convinced FERC that the merger plan would harm their ability to purchase electricity in a competitive environment. Both municipalities deliver power to their residents through a cooperative of cities and towns in eastern North Carolina, but dissented from their fellow members’ approval of the merger. Coastal New Bern has been led by Mayor Lee Bettis Jr., a former New York Mafiosi defense lawyer, who has vowed to “go it alone the … Read More ➡

Indiana Official Indicted After Improper Duke Energy Interactions

white Coke can

The former head of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, who was fired in October 2010 by Gov. Mitch Daniels for improper contact with top officials at troubled Duke Energy, has been indicted.

The Indianapolis Star reported that David Hardy was charged on Monday by a grand jury with failure to disclose secret meetings with Duke executives, and for his aid to IURC’s top lawyer in his effort to get a job with Duke. The newspaper, after it obtained emails via open records request, had revealed over several months “that Hardy had been chummy with industry executives and autocratic with his staff. That raised questions about whether Hardy had compromised the agency’s mission of balancing the needs of utilities and ratepayers.” 

Indiana laws forbid private communications about active cases between regulators and company representatives. In one February 2010 meeting Hardy met with Duke Energy CEO James Rogers and two other … Read More ➡