In a shocking turn of events, Republicans have turned on the very man they chose to speak for them this week in response to Obama’s State of the Union address — Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. He is taking a drubbing in the conservosphere, but what’s most peculiar about the scandal that threatens to engulf him is that Republicans don’t seem aware that they’re attacking him.
Let me explain.
You’ll recall that ever since the Solyndra faux scandal, the right has been on the hunt for a “new Solyndra,” another company that received help from the Dept. of Energy and subsequently went under. For a while the New Solyndra was going to be Fisker Automotive, for a while SunPower, but those attempts sank like a stone.
The latest candidate is lithium battery company Ener1, Inc., which just declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy as part of a long-term debt restructuring deal. Ener1’s subsidiary EnerDel received a $118.5 million grant as part of the stimulus bill. Rep. Cliff Stearns, the GOP’s Solyndra point man, has a characteristically melodramatic statement out on it.
Substantively, Ener1’s restructuring means very little. As DOE spokesperson Damien LaVera pointed out, “This is one of 30 new advanced battery and electric vehicle component plants that the administration has invested in across the country.” What matters is the success of the broad portfolio, and more important, the success of the industries and innovations the support is meant to stimulate. Of course there will be failures and setbacks along the way. In fact, Congress itself expected the DOE loan guarantee program to have a much higher failure rate than it has actually had; it set aside $2.4 billion in anticipation. That’s the nature of supporting cutting-edge companies.
Nonetheless, it’s bound to be embarrassing for those who supported EnerDel. For instance, just last year Joe Biden traveled to Ener1’s factory and praised the company for expanding its operation and creating jobs. Ha ha, Joe Biden!
Who else is going to be embarrassed by this?
Well, the United States Advanced Battery Consortium — including Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors — signed a $6.5 million contract with EnerDel in 2007 (in partnership with George W. Bush’s Dept. of Energy). Dummies!
The U.S. Dept. of Defense awarded EnerDel a $4 million research grant in 2008 “(i) to create lightweight, high-performance battery solutions for real-time tracking of vital military assets in harsh climates, and (ii) create high-energy batteries to power miniature unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), increasingly critical to battlefield troops.” Bozos!
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) was a key advocate for EnerDel. He visited its factory in 2008 and said, “Fostering research for advanced batteries should receive high priority as part of our nation’s effort to develop a diversity of energy sources.” Here he is acknowledging the risks but saying that companies like EnerDel represent the future:
Lugar and Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) sent a letter to energy secretary Steven Chu in 2009 that cites EnerDel’s application for a loan under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, as well as its more recent application for funding under the stimulus bill, and says, “We add our individual voices to urge its favorable consideration.” Egg on their face!
Of course everyone knows Lugar’s a big RINO. What’s perhaps more surprising is the heretofore undetected socialism hiding in the heart of hyper-conservative Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), who in 2007 called EnerDel “the wave of the future … cutting edge technology [that] will help relieve our dependency on foreign oil.” Here he is bragging on the company’s DOE partnership. Whoopsy.
There was also Wanxiang, the largest producer of auto parts in China, which announced a joint venture with EnerDel in 2010. Shows what the largest producer of auto parts in China knows!
Hm … anyone else? Oh yes, here’s one. In 2008, the “Indiana Economic Development Corporation offered EnerDel up to $7.125 million in performance-based tax credits and up to $58,000 in training grants.” Those tax credits were unveiled by none other than Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels:
EnerDel leaders praised Daniels for his strong leadership in crafting a package designed to bring new jobs and enhanced competitiveness for the state’s high tech and automotive manufacturing base at a crucial time in a growing industry …
“Eight hundred fifty jobs of any kind is great news. When those jobs are in a technology of tomorrow, like electric cars, it offers the prospect of even bigger news to follow. Indiana has what it takes to lead this automotive revolution and today is step one,” said Gov. Daniels.
Here’s how much Mitch Daniels loves EnerDel:
Fox News is not going to be happy about this.
Meanwhile, as Michael Grunwald wrote in Time last year:
Before 2009, the U.S. was supplying less than 2% of a tiny global market in advanced batteries. When the stimulus-funded factories are all complete, they’ll have the capacity to supply 40% of a rapidly growing global market, about 500,000 batteries a year.
The Obama administration created a U.S. advanced-battery industry more or less from scratch. I feel confident history will view that as a bigger deal than the failure of a single company.