September 26, 2013

The Efficient Way to Burn Money

Another blemish on the Energy Department’s record.

There are countless ways the federal government squanders taxpayer dollars, but among the most hard-headed is the Department of Energy and its loan guarantees. A blind squirrel may have better luck in selecting viable companies, but instead we’re saddled with an outfit for which no scheme is too grandiose nor any crony too hapless to be passed over for largesse.

The latest blemish on the DoE’s record: Ecotality Inc. The company received a $99.8 million federal grant in August 2009 for the EV Project, a plan to develop charging stations in metropolitan areas. Instead, it’s gone bankrupt, filing for Chapter 11 protection last week.

Yet even as Ecotality is the latest in a string of failures characterized by the massive implosion of Solyndra, the Obama administration is ready to pour another $8 billion into a program meant to develop “complex, unproven, and expensive” technology the private sector won’t touch. It’s likely a significant sum of that money will go to those who financially backed the president in one of his two campaigns, such as a recent $4 million grant to LanzaTech, a biofuel company. A key investor in LanzaTech also holds interests in eight other companies that have benefited from federal assistance.

Perhaps the TransCanada Corporation needs to pony up some political contributions so they can get in on the fun. All they want to do is build the Keystone pipeline.

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