A123 goes bankrupt: Time to stop green energy giveaways

Questions face electric vehicles.


With an unprecedented fiscal mess unfolding before us, now is a good time for taxpayers to demand an end to wasteful green energy subsidies. Those of us in the automotive industry have had a front row seat to this folly, thanks to the recent bankruptcy of A123, which makes batteries for electric and hybrid cars, and the financial woes of electric car maker Fisker Automotive.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for alternative energy that will help the environment and save money. I look forward to watching the alternative fuel makers prove there is a viable market for their products, just like the gasoline fuel engine did. And when that day comes, we can rest assured that a real demand exists for these cars and those whose jobs depend on it will sleep well at night.

But that day is a long way off.

A recent survey by Indiana University’s School of Public Policy and Environmental Affairs found that for most consumers, the drawbacks of electric vehicles outweigh the advantages. The primary drawbacks are the limited driving range, the vehicles' high price and the inconvenience of recharging batteries.

Complicating the matter are new taxes on electric cars. According to the Associated Press, Washington State now requires electric car owners to pay a $100 annual fee for road and highway improvements intended to compensate for the lack of gas taxes they pay.

Is Washington listening?

The taxpayer is on the hook for hundreds of millions invested in A123 and Fisker Automotive alone.

Forbes Magazine recently pointed out the “triple irony” that the U.S. government borrowed money from China to help A123 compete with Chinese-subsidized battery makers that drove A123 into bankruptcy and resulted in A123 being auctioned off to a Chinese company. (Johnson Controls, which previously owned A123, recently contested the sale of A123’s assets to Wanxiang, the Chinese company.)

The government has proven itself an incompetent investor in alternative energy. The folly predates the current administration, but under Obama, the losses have mushroomed to hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.

Following President Obama’s re-election, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors Inc., crowed with enthusiasm for more federal investment in electric cars. He’s hoping to see the federal tax credit extended from $7,500 to $10,000 for buying an electric car.

It’s time to stop this taxpayer gravy train.

The A123 and Fisker Automotive problems are only the tip of a taxpayer-financed iceberg meltdown. Meanwhile, the country faces an uncertain future thanks to a historic national debt.

As taxpayers, it’s our responsibility to demand that our public officials be held accountable. So far, we have failed to act as responsible taxpayers.