In a contentious House subcommittee hearing more than a little reminiscent of the Solyndra hearings, Republicans on Wednesday attacked the Department of Energy for its investment in struggling electric car company Fisker Automotive.
Fisker laid off a majority of its workers this month after receiving $192 million in federal aid as part of the Obama administration's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program, designed to aid car companies pursuing energy efficiency.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Oversight Committee's economic growth, job creation and regulatory affairs subcommittee, said at Wednesday's hearing that the department should never have given California-based Fisker a loan in the first place. "Fisker should have never received taxpayer money," Jordan said. "It was rated triple-C plus. It was a junk-grade investment."
Fisker is yet another car manufacturer that finds itself struggling after applying for money from the department's ATVM program, alongside Coda Automotive. That company, based in Ohio, had also sought a loan from Energy, and among the lawmakers who pushed for that loan was Jordan.
In a July 12, 2010, letter to then-Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Jordan was one of a handful of Ohio lawmakers to request a loan guarantee for Coda, a short-lived electric vehicle company that put its flagship store up for sale earlier this year. "Given Ohio's world-class manufacturing infrastructure and central location," the lawmakers wrote in their letter, "we believe that our state could serve as the heart of America's new electrification system." Less than two years later, Coda has released most of its staff.
Jordan was also among the Ohio lawmakers to request a loan guarantee for the commercialization of the American Centrifuge Plant, a uranium enrichment facility in Piketon, Ohio. With its rating of triple-C, the plant represents a riskier investment than Fisker did with a rating of triple-C plus.
Jordan's spokeswoman Meghan Snyder notes that the Coda loan never came through. The uranium enrichment facility comparison, she argues, is unfair.
"There are only four entities in the world that enrich uranium, and we are banned by law from buying weapons-grade uranium from foreign sources," she wrote in an email to HuffPost. "In a joint letter from the Ohio delegation, we asked for a loan guarantee using the centrifuge technology as collateral: if the company does not succeed commercially, the government will own the technology. Piketon presented an opportunity for our country to obtain enriched uranium that is needed for national defense. Unlike Wednesday's Fisker hearing, there was no competition to Piketon and the government was not in a position of picking winners and losers."