Opinion: Editorials

Examiner Editorial: Energy Department brags about cash for a clunker

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Photo - FREMONT, CA - MAY 31:  Repubican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney walks to the podium to speak during news conference in front the shuttered Solyndra solar power company's manufacturing facility May 31, 2012 in Fremont, California.  The company filed for bankruptcy in 2011 after receiving $535 million in federal loan money.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
FREMONT, CA - MAY 31: Repubican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney walks to the podium to speak during news conference in front the shuttered Solyndra solar power company's manufacturing facility May 31, 2012 in Fremont, California. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2011 after receiving $535 million in federal loan money. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Editorial

Department of Energy officials are a bit sore about Solyndra, the solar panel company that received $535 million from their stimulus loan guarantee program and abruptly declared bankruptcy, leaving 1,800 workers without a job and taxpayers on the hook.

So, in order to combat the negative press about their green energy programs, DOE officials have created a slideshow highlighting their favorite loan recipients. They titled it "Beyond Solyndra" because they want Americans to understand that their program is about much more than one bad company. Or even three bad companies, if you count two other recent "green energy" bankruptcies -- Beacon Power ($43 million DOE loan guarantee) and Ener1 ($119 million DOE grant). But who's counting?

The department's "Beyond Solyndra" presentation laments all of the unfair news coverage. "[W]hile critics have focused their attention on the Department's loan guarantee to Solyndra," it states, "the full story is that the Department's loan portfolio as a whole is having a transformative impact." Indeed -- DOE also funds transformative firms like Fisker, a Finnish electric car company that is featured in the department's slideshow. Fisker received a $529 million loan guarantee. Fisker's Karma, a $115,000 electric car, received the 2012 Design of the Year award from Automobile Magazine -- a fact that DOE's slideshow makes sure to mention.

Unfortunately, Fisker reportedly plans to cancel the manufacture of vehicles in the United States. Last May, its loan guarantee was frozen by DOE because, as a department spokesman explained at the time, "Fisker has experienced some delays in its sales and production schedule." Two months after winning the design award, Fisker laid off 66 employees since it was running out of the $193 million of the loan that DOE had already disbursed.

In noting how cool Fisker's Karma design really is, Automobile Magazine offered this caveat: "There is no way to know yet whether Fisker will be a Lamborghini-style success or a DeLorean-style failure." The latter is looking increasingly likely. In April, Fisker threatened to pull out of Delaware unless it got more government help -- three years after Vice President Biden's 2009 visit to its factory there. That factory was supposed to employ about 2,500 people by now, but USA Today reported in April that it is "absolutely empty."

Given all this, and the $193 million that taxpayers could lose, it is surprising that Fisker would be featured in the Obama administration's official propaganda as a positive sign of what the Department of Energy is doing. On the other hand, it seems oddly fitting that President Obama's administration would think it grounds to boast that it has subsidized a car that looks cool but doesn't sell.

Correction: The original version of this editorial mistakenly included A123 Systems in a list of green energy companies that have gone bankrupt after receiving federal subsidies. A123 has not gone bankrupt.

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