No April Fools: Obama's Green Energy Stimulus is Officially a Joke

No April Fools: Obama's Green Energy Stimulus is Officially a Joke
April 2, 2013

Paul Chesser

Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center and publishes ... (read full bio)

President Obama’s alternative energy “stimulus,” administered through his Department of Energy by previous Secretary Steven Chu, had already become a joke because of the failures and foibles of so many recipients of Recovery Act funds. But now – as though officially commemorating the absurdity of this historically bad U.S. government program – one of its bankrupt beneficiaries has changed its name from one of simplicity to one of mockery.

Electric vehicle battery maker A123 Systems has changed its name to B456 Systems. Incorporated.

Reporting the development, headline writers across the nation rubbed their eyes, double-checked the wire information, and then – especially realizing how close they were to April Fool’s Day – had to add extra assurance to the breaking news.

For the Boston Herald, where A123 was headquartered near MIT, it was this:

A123 Systems changes name to B456 (seriously)

The Milwaukee Business Journal reported it this way:

No joke: A123 Systems now B456 Systems

And a Wall Street Journal reporter Tom Gara built up the suspense with:

And The Award For History’s Least Creative Rebranding Goes To…

According to the reports, A123 – now under ownership by Chinese-owned Wanxiang America – was required to change its name as a part of a bankruptcy agreement. The company released a statement Friday explaining that the name A123 will still exist, “operating successfully under Wanxiang's ownership,” as a limited liability corporation. B456 represents the parts of the company “still in the bankruptcy process.” I guess they don’t understand the entire enterprise was a failure.

And in an additional element of stooge-ery, as Kai Petainen of Forbes noticed, a B456 is a fire extinguisher – as in dousing the flames from your lithium ion battery. Autoblog observes that Amerex model “happens to be good for ‘energized electrical equipment.’”

The double meaning fits, as A123’s (former) top customer is Fisker Automotive, which appears to be near bankruptcy itself. The manufacturer of the $102,000 Karma suffered two recalls – one in December 2011 and another in mid-2012 – because of A123 battery defects that could cause fires. Fisker did suffer fires in Texas and California last year, and Hurricane Sandy’s flooding ignited several of them in New Jersey – and while none were attributed to their batteries (Texas remains unsolved), an A123 battery did cause an explosion at a General Motors alternative energy research facility in Warren, Mich. last April.

Funny, isn’t it? Not “ha-ha” funny, but ridiculous funny – unbelievably stupid funny. Funny in an “I can’t believe our tax money is paying for these comically bad businesses and technologies” way. And it applies to President Obama’s abject failure to invigorate the economy by creating “green jobs” in the alternative energy and electric transportation sectors, which have been around for over a century and the free market still hasn’t made economical or viable. The examples were plentiful:

  • With a visit by the president, the administration had just boasted how many thousands of green jobs were created by Solyndra, and how environmentally friendly its technology was, thanks to the Energy Department’s $535 million loan guarantee. But months later, with plenty of forewarning to the White House, Solyndra went bankrupt, and left behind a big toxic mess when it shut down. What a rib-tickler!
  • Fellow stimulus loan recipient Abound Solar, not to be outdone, also went bankrupt and had accumulated a hazardous waste site of its own as it liquidated. But it was later discovered that the company sold defective or underperforming products, and even caught fire. Evidence showed Abound officials knew it, before they received taxpayer dollars. Yet as the Colorado company crashed, the Department of Energy still praised the company’s work as “innovative” and cost competitive – a gut buster!
  • Employees of battery maker LG Chem, recipient of $151 million from a DOE Recovery Act grant, were discovered on the clock playing games, reading magazines, watching movies or helping charities like Habitat for Humanity – that is, when they weren’t ‘off-duty’ on their cyclical furloughs. Why? They had no real work to do, and as of late October had “yet to ship out a single battery,” according to a local news report. Stop it – you’re killing me!!

And there are so many more jokes where those came from: The Tesla Model S that was panned by the New York Times after it had to be towed away; the Fisker Karma that broke down for Consumer Reports, which then called it the “worst luxury sedan;” A123 executives expecting their bonuses while going through the bankruptcy process; a Nissan Leaf trip that took six hours because of recharging needs, when it should have taken only three hours; Leaf batteries that can’t tolerate extremely hot climates; First Solar panels that couldn’t tolerate desert heat…etc….

Meanwhile the Obama administration repeatedly touted: how clean the energy was; how the future for the American economy was in “green jobs” and the alternative energy sector; how necessary it was to keep up with China in wind and solar (until it became a disaster for the Communists too); and what a great economic investment it was (tell that to the attendees at the “ECO:nomics—Creating Environmental Capital” conference hosted by the Wall Street Journal not too long ago, who are losing their shirts).

And to this day DOE refuses to update its Loan Program Office Web site with new information about any of its projects. Anyone who isn’t aware of the bankruptcies and other project failures that visits the LPO pages would still think Solyndra and Abound are still in business and still created their projected jobs, and that Fisker is still a smashing success, that a $5.9 billion loan guarantee to Ford Motor Company really did convert 33,000 employees to “green jobs,” etc.

There’s enough material to keep Jay Leno’s monologues stoked for a month. Unfortunately those are not tears of laughter streaming down taxpayers’ faces.

[First published at National Legal and Policy Center]

Paul Chesser

Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center and publishes ... (read full bio)