Economics, Energy and the Environment

Energy fact of the week: Who got the money?

Courtesy of the Washington Post, we can produce the chart below showing which sector got how much of the $36 billion Department of Energy loan guarantee program, which began under the Bush administration chiefly as a fillip for reviving nuclear power, but was expanded under Obama to support a broad range of “green” energy sources. As the chart shows, nuclear got its share, but the big winner was autos (for electric cars), $9.1 billion, and solar generation installation, $12 billion (the Solyndra loan was part of the smaller solar bar, “Solar [Manufacturing]”).

Sources: Energy Department, Environmental Protection Agency, Bonnie Berkowitz and Todd Lindeman/The Washington Post.

So how’s this all working out? Solyndra turns out to be just the tip of the #GreenEnergyFail iceberg. We can hardly do better than to refer to the Washington Post’s grim summary:

Obama predicted in 2008 that green cars would create thousands of new U.S. jobs as demand soared. But in recent months, production lines and sales expectations have been dramatically scaled back.

A123 Systems, a battery maker that received $380 million in government support, announced recently that declining orders had forced layoffs. Instead of up to 3,000 new Michigan jobs as Obama and the company had predicted, it now has 690 employees.

Battery maker EnerDel, recipient of a a $118 million federal grant, took a hit when its key customer, electric-car maker Think, declared bankruptcy this year. Johnson Controls, which received a $299 million stimulus grant, opted to build one factory instead of two because of lower-than-projected demand, a company official said, and that one is now operating at half capacity.

California electric-car maker Aptera announced it was shutting its doors because of problems raising capital. And General Motors — whose moderately priced Volt was supposed to drive Obama’s push for 1 million alternative vehicles by 2015 — revealed last week that it would fall roughly 38 percent shy of its goal of selling 10,000 Volts this year.

One thought on “Energy fact of the week: Who got the money?

  1. Solyndra was taken under by falling solar panel prices (as well as some poor management choices, of course). The price of solar panels has dropped through the floor and solar-generated power is now competitive with fossil-fuel generated power. That fact tends to get lost in the politics of government guarantees. Solar power no longer needs guarantees, which are generally used to incent high-cost producers to produce, the hope being that cost sof manufacture will come down. Well, they’ve come down. But it’s due to the Chinese driving the cost down, not government guarantees.

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