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Beckwith

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Paul Chesser says as 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 industry is challenging,” said David Vieau, CEO of A123 Systems. “But there’s no doubt that the opportunities are immense.”

That’s easy for him to say. As NLPC reported in early December, A123 was given $249.1 million by DOE to help launch two battery-manufacturing plants in Michigan. A123 also received grants and tax credits from the state that could total more than $135 million. In a separate federal grant as a subcontractor for another grantee, A123 received nearly $30 million for a wind energy storage project.

The rewards looked the part of a mutual backscratching relationship between Vieau and the administration. According to records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, A123 executives gave nearly $22,000 to Democrat candidates during the 2008, 2010, and 2012 election cycles. And Vieau gave then-Senator Barack Obama $2,300 three weeks before he was elected president in 2008, and has given $5,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee during the last two years. Vieau was also featured in a 30-second spot in late 2009 to promote energy and climate legislation wanted by President Obama and his fellow Democrats.

Eight other advanced battery manufacturers, both established and new, received nearly $1 billion in grants from DOE under the same program. Ten more produced parts and materials for the new batteries, costing taxpayers $235 million via DOE.

The significant public funding, however, has not kept the companies out of financial trouble. Indiana-based EnerDel, a subsidiary of a company called Ener1 Inc. that was created after the purchase of Delphi Corporation’s lithium ion battery business, has fallen on hard times despite the gift of $118.5 million from DOE. According to the Indianapolis Business Journal, Ener1 dumped its executive team in November. Despite plans to have 1,400 employees in Indiana by 2015, the company has downsized in the state from 380 to approximately 250 since March.

“Ener1’s shares tumbled from more than $4 a share in January,” IBJ reported, “when Vice President Joe Biden visited EnerDel’s Greenfield battery plant, to less than a dollar in a matter of months.”

Ener1 was booted from the NASDAQ stock exchange in October, when its stock was trading for less than 20 cents.

At A123, 125 employees were laid off at its two subsidized plants in Michigan. Through the end of September this year, A123 had a net loss of $172.8 million, and is heavily in debt. It's stock now trades at around $2 per share, down from over $10 a share a year ago. The outlook from some Wall Street analysts is discouraging.

“Ford, Nissan, and GM are all getting into electric vehicles, but none has had much success so far,” wrote Travis Hoium of The Motley Fool, a former research and development engineer. “A123 Systems and other battery makers could benefit if they do, especially after signing a deal to provide batteries to the Chevy Spark, but sales have been so bad I would stay away from battery makers.”

The slow development of the EV market, plus the similar pace in battery utilization to store power from renewable energy for electricity, could not present a clearer illustration of how government in incapable of “building a whole new industry,” as Vieau said.

“The return on equity is poor, incredibly poor,” said Peter Hebert, co-founder and managing director at venture firm Lux Capital, to Dow Jones. “It’s one of those things that could be incredibly valuable. That’s the reason that a lot of venture investors still trump hope over experience.”

The same is true of nearly the entire clean energy sector – wind, solar, biofuels, advanced batteries, electric vehicles, vehicle chargers. They are mostly not profitable, and without considerable sums of money from government, venture capitalists would not be investing him them nearly as much. It’s not just the little companies; the three major U.S. automakers have received billions in taxpayer funds to support their electric vehicle research and production. And Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn -- recipient of a $1.4 billion loan guarantee from DOE for the electric Leaf -- has explicitly stated that his company’s development of EVs is dependent on where the subsidies are, not on the value of the car to potential customers in a free market.

“It does not matter if, for example, Portugal stops the incentives, as long as other countries like the United States continue to support,” Ghosn said to Reuters. “If countries like France, Japan and the UK support and then China, that is about to start to support, that's fine.”

And many of the smaller start-ups, like cargo truck manufacturer Smith Electric Vehicles, look to the government to validate them with grants and make them appear economically viable, to help kick-start or enhance their private fundraising efforts. The private venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, which boasts Al Gore as a partner and has whose executives have donated more than $1 million to federal political causes and campaigns over the last two decades, invests heavily in renewable energy start-ups. Another Kleiner Perkins partner, California billionaire John Doerr, serves on President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Kleiner Perkins is a major investor in EV company Fisker, which received a DOE-guaranteed $529 million loan, and Dow Jones says it has seven battery company start-ups in its portfolio. But the venture capitalists are willing to gamble, because thanks to taxpayers, there isn’t nearly as much risk.

“It’s the nature of these high-risk, high-reward things that most of them will fail,” said David Wells, another partner at Kleiner Perkins. “But one or two will succeed.”

That’s the Obama clean energy economic policy in a nutshell. Ho-hum, it’s only the taxpayers’ money.
  


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Beckwith

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The Department of Energy brags, "Super Bowl city leads on energy efficient forefront"

From Energy.gov:

While the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers compete to hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy this weekend, eco-friendly fans and city leaders in New Orleans are competing to maximize sustainability practices to the fullest.

To make this the greenest Super Bowl, the New Orleans Host Committee has partnered with fans and the community to offset energy use across the major Super Bowl venues. The exterior of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome features more than 26,000 LED lights on 96 full-color graphic display panels, designed to wash the building in a spectrum of animated colors, patterns and images. The system draws only 10 kilowatts of electricity -- equivalent to the amount of energy used by a small home -- and the lights are expected to last for many years before needing replacement.
 
Off the football field, New Orleans is embracing energy efficiency with help from the Energy Department. The city retrofitted four libraries using an integrative design approach -- adding motion sensor lights, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, and upgrades to the building envelopes. These improvements helped cut the libraries’ energy costs by 30 percent and serve as a standard for other city-owned buildings. New Orleans streets feature more than 1,200 energy-efficient light fixtures. In addition to saving the city money on energy costs -- an estimated $70,000 annually -- the new lights help the city reduce routine maintenance due to their longer lifespan.
 
Embracing energy efficiency and renewable energy is having a profound impact on attracting developers and private industry in the New Orleans’ re-building efforts. The push to re-invent this destination city contributes to making Sunday’s game the greenest in Super Bowl history.

So!  How dis this buzzword-filled boast stack up against performance?


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Beckwith

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DoD doles out $7 billion in wind-energy contracts to foreign companies

Erika Johnsen asks us to remember, earlier this year, when the Obama administration was transforming each and every sequestration budget cut into some nightmarishly dire prediction about how each and every major department wouldn’t be able to perform the full extent of their absolutely and irrevocably essential duties? It would seem that, even as there are Defense Department employees being furloughed and Secretary Hagel warns of more layoffs and our military slims down on equipment, training programs, and etcetera, the Pentagon evidently continues to prioritize the forceful implementation of so-called “green” and “renewable” sources into their energy repertoire. Via Reuters:

The U.S. Army has picked 17 companies that will be eligible to receive orders for wind energy under an umbrella contract valued at up to $7 billion, the Pentagon said on Monday.

The companies include many large energy producers including Dominion Energy, a unit of Dominion Resources Inc ; the U.S. unit of Spain’s Acciona SA ; Duke Energy Corp ; the U.S. unit of France’s EDF Energies Nouvelles; and the U.S. unit of Spain’s Iberdrola SA.

All the companies were awarded potential “indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity” contracts that have a cumulative value of up to $7 billion, the Pentagon said in its daily digest of major contracts.

Why the Obama administration insists upon using the military as a sponsor of what they, rather than the free market, have arbitrarily and falsely deemed to be practical and cost-effective sources of energy, it pains me to think on -- but the point is that the U.S. military is currently choosing to spend big money on energy sources that do not offer them the biggest bang for their buck.

Even better, the Pentagon dished out a similarly sized set of contracts for solar energy companies last month; and this is all on top the Navy’s push to outfit a number of cruisers, destroyers, and fighter jets with biofuel-blended gas. While proponents of using the military as a renewable-energy guinea pig often point to the completely bogus argument that these initiatives will enhance the military’s energy security, the fact is that this is yet another way for the Obama administration to brag about their green-energy commitments and prop up the technologies on which they’ve already spent so much taxpayer money in the form of subsidies and handouts, all for political and ideological purposes -- and in the long run, it’s a disservice to actual opportunities for renewable energy.


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Another Obama-backed "green" company leaves trail of unpaid bills and broken promises

Four years have passed since Barack Obama visited Kansas City's main airport, rolled up his shirt sleeves and admonished the skeptics who said Smith Electric Vehicles was unlikely to make good on its promises to build 510 experimental electric-powered trucks and buses suitable for commercial use.

"Come see what’s going on at Smith Electric," Obama said, inspecting a table full of bright green truck batteries in what was once a maintenance hangar for TWA. "I think they’re going to be hard-pressed to tell you that you’re not better off than you would be if we hadn’t made the investments in this plant."

The skeptics turned out to be right.

Despite $32 million in federal stimulus funds and status as one of Obama's favorite "green" companies, the firm has halted production, having built just 439 of the promised 510 vehicles.

It has also left a trail of broken promises and unpaid bills.

Smith created just a quarter of the jobs it initially promised the state of Missouri it would create in return for $1.4 million in tax credits. Meanwhile, it has also stiffed the Missouri University of Science and Technology, the state government, and a local electrical supply company, as well as its landlord, the Kansas City city government, for hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to interviews and reviews of public records by the Washington Examiner.

As of today, the company still owes $36,000 to Missouri S&T for work the university performed as a subcontractor on a U.S. Army project.

"If you’re not going to pay your [subcontractors] for satisfactory work that was performed, then it does wave a red flag whether the company was a responsible company and whether it should even be doing business with the federal government," said Scott Amey, general counsel for the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight.

An American subsidiary of a British firm, Smith Electric stopped production at the end of last year, a fact that was made public only last month. Angela Strand, the firm's chief marketing officer and a company spokeswoman, declined to discuss its financial problems, telling the Washington Examiner in an email, "we do not comment on financial matters." The company hopes to resume production this summer.

Smith failed to hire at least 100 workers over a two-year period in return for up to $1.4 million in state tax credits. At the end of two years, it had hired only 54 workers, records show.

Rest here... http://washingtonexaminer.com/smith-electric-vehicles-leaves-trail-of-unpaid-bills-and-broken-promises/article/2548035


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