By Adam Andrzejewski
This isn’t the first time President Joe Biden has helped oversee a massive infusion of taxpayer dollars into “green energy” and critics doubt whether there were many lessons learned.
The president’s new $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal includes the same kinds of “green energy” provisions that cost taxpayers billions following the 2009 stimulus bill – The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
Recently, when rolling out his new American Jobs Plan, the president called it “a once-in-a-generation investment in America,” and asked Congress to invest $35 billion in green energy leadership.
Beyond the White House fact sheet, Biden hasn’t provided specific details, like who will get the funding, for how much, and for what purpose.
So, it’s a good idea to review recent history and take a closer look at the massive green energy projects funded by the Obama-Biden administration the last time around.
Here is a short list of some failures compiled by our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com:
Solyndra – $570 million taxpayer dollars wasted
Solar panel start-up Solyndra was the first company to get government-backed loans from ARRA after its passage, collecting $535 million and receiving a $25 million tax break from California's agency for alternative energy.
Solyndra’s federal loan came from a program created by the 2009 stimulus for companies developing “commercially available technologies,” and the company said it would use the funds to invest in its one-of-a-kind technology using cylindrical panels to generate solar energy.
But the company misled the U.S. Department of Energy in its application, and about two-and-a-half years after receiving the funds, filed for bankruptcy, laid off its 1,100 employees, and shut down all operations.
Only six months before it went out of business, the company also got $10.3 million in long-term credit from the U.S. Export-Import Bank for Solyndra’s exports to Belgium.
A report from the Inspector General’s Office later found that the DOE didn’t properly manage and approve Solyndra’s loan guarantee.
Abound Solar – $401 million taxpayer dollars wasted
Another solar cell start-up, Abound Solar, received $400 million in federal government-backed loans from the DOE in 2010 to expand its manufacturing capacity in its Colorado and Indiana facilities.
The company also collected $18.2 million in EXIM (U.S. Export-Import Bank) export support to India in 2011, as well as $1 million in property tax rebates from Colorado and $12.1 million from the Indiana Development Corporation.
Despite all this investment, in June 2012, Abound Solar filed for bankruptcy, leaving 405 people unemployed and its production facilities abandoned. The company cost taxpayers an additional $3.7 million by failing to clean up 100,000 solar panels and 4,100 gallons of toxic waste.
Calisolar – $280 million taxpayer dollars wasted
Yet another solar cell start-up, Calisolar, which later changed its name to Silicor Materials, collected $275 million from the 2009 stimulus and $4.5 million from EXIM, only to fire 80 workers in 2011 and another 36 employees in early 2012.
Fisker Automotive – $193 million taxpayer dollars wasted
Fisker Automotive, a Finnish electric carmaker, got a $529 million DOE loan guarantee, but its funding stopped at $193 million when it didn’t reach milestones for its luxury vehicle, Karma.
Multiple recalls due to technology flaws and fire-producing batteries cost the company money and reputation.
Fisker suspended production when its battery manufacturer, A123 Systems, filed for bankruptcy (see below). In November, 2013, Fisker Automotive filed for bankruptcy. The DOE auctioned its debt and sold it to Hybrid Technology LLC for $25 million.
Eventually the technology and assets were sold to a Chinese company.
A123 Systems – $132 million taxpayer dollars wasted
A123 Systems manufactured defective batteries and declared bankruptcy in 2013, but not before the Massachusetts-based company scored $279 million in loan guarantees from the DOE to refurbish two Michigan plants (among other projects). In the end, it collected about $132 million before declaring bankruptcy.
ABB, Inc. – $12.6 million taxpayer dollars wasted
This power equipment maker collected more than $12.6 million in federal stimulus funds to create green energy manufacturing jobs while federal loans of $89.2 million supported the company’s exports to Mexico in 2012.
The company’s Lake Mary, FL, manufacturing plant made switchgears — electrical protective devices that prevent power outages and surges — for Zurich, Switzerland-based ABB Inc. ABB -1%
But the company laid off 160 employees at its Lake Mary facility and transferred the work to a new facility in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.
The layoffs came in 2009 as ABB was collecting stimulus funding while the company should have been creating domestic jobs.
When the government tries to pick winners and losers in the marketplace, like the Obama-Biden administration did in 2009, taxpayers often get to foot the bill.
Critics say that any new infrastructure spending on green energy must have three components:
1. The companies and projects must be vetted and transparent.
2. Funds must be targeted to agreed-upon bipartisan infrastructure objectives unlike in 2009, when Republicans overwhelmingly opposed the legislation.
3. After the funds are spent and the projects built, everything gets an audit.
Otherwise, the only green in the green energy bill will be the taxpayer money down the drain.