House GOP eyes another possible green-tech scandal

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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GOP leaders are investigating Ecotality Inc., yet another troubled green-tech company that has received taxpayer funds and public support from the White House.

The firm has received roughly $126 million from the the Department of Energy to install roughly 14,000 electric car chargers, has donated thousands of dollars to Democratic politicians, and was showcased by President Barack Obama in his 2010 State of the Union speech.

But the company has installed less than 7,000 of the chargers, its subsidiary is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for insider trading, and it has only created 144 jobs, according to the federal website.

The Heritage Foundation’s investigative unit reported that the company’s financial document showed the company got a SEC subpoena in Oct. 2010.

“It is the same story, different day, with the administration’s green-energy agenda,” said a source. “They’re rewarding friends at the expense of taxpayers.”

Several other taxpayer-funded green-tech companies have gone bankrupt or laid off employees.

Famously, California-based Solyndra went bankrupt in 2010 after getting more than $500 million in federal loans, and General Motors recently stopped production of the Chevy Volt because of low sales. Battery-maker A-123 laid off a third of its workforce in 2011, despite getting $249 million in taxpayer funds. (RELATED: Obama proposes bumping Chevy Volt subsidy up to $10K)

Private sector funding for green-tech companies is also drying up as investors worry about declining federal subsidies.

The numerous problems have delayed pending loans by the Energy Department, even though Obama again touted the green-tech push in his 2012 State of the Union speech.

So far, the administration has spent at least $13 billion on green-tech subsidies, which are derided by GOP advocates as “crony capitalism.”

On Monday House Republicans asked the Department of Energy for more information about the troubled green-tech program and the Ecotality company.

The information is needed to weigh the merits of Obama’s 2013 budget-request for $1 billion “National Community Deployment Challenge” program that would subsidize local governments’ support for green-tech vehicles.

“Details of the President’s initiative are severely lacking… it is imperative that Congress receive further details on this proposal,” said a March 26 letter from Maryland Rep. Andy Harris, the Republican chairman of the House science committee’s panel on energy and environment.

Harris’ letter to the Energy Department Secretary Steven Chu also demanded more information about Ecotality, whose charging stations for electric autos — such as the stalled Volt — might be funded by the proposed $1 billion NCDC program.

“Was DoE aware Ecotoality received a subpoena from the SEC in October 2010? Why did DoE award Ecotality and additional $26 million contract nearly a year after SEC issues the company a subpoena in October 2010?” asked Harris’ letter.

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Tags : energy
Neil Munro