Whatever you think of Mitt Romney's quest for the GOP presidential nomination, one must admit that he and his speech writers turned a nice phrase in an Orange County Register op/ed earlier this week quoted in the headline. Romney's op/ed is excoriating federal green car loans amounting to $1 billion to two electric car manufacturers, Fisker Automotive and Tesla. As Romney writes:
The Obama administration has shoveled $1 billion out the door to two California-based electric car manufacturers. Fisker Automotive got a $529 million loan from the Department of Energy; Tesla got $465 million. President Obama has hailed such subsidies as a "historic opportunity to ensure that the next generation of fuel-efficient cars and trucks are made in America."
Alas, like Solyndra, these loans are turning out to be historic opportunities to line the pockets of major campaign fundraisers. Fisker investors, including Al Gore himself, have donated more than $1 million to political campaigns – primarily Democrats. Tesla, for its part, has financial backing from a fundraiser who bundled hundreds of thousands of dollars for the President's campaign; Tesla's CEO is also a major Democratic donor who has poured money into Obama's campaign coffers.
Tesla's next vehicle is expected to list for $57,400. Fisker's car, already a year behind schedule, will cost $97,000. "We have a history of losses and we expect significant increases in our costs and expenses to result in continuing losses for at least the foreseeable future," says Tesla's most recent quarterly filing.
And neither firm has created many jobs. So far, approximately 100 workers are employed by Fisker in Wilmington, Del., while an additional 500 are actually assembling the cars in Finland. Tesla's record is only slightly better. Even these few jobs may be illusory: studies of Europe's green job experiments have found that each new green job destroys several other jobs elsewhere in the economy.
As it happens, Americans already have the opportunity to buy a highly subsidized green electric car, the Chevy Volt. How's that working out? Not all that well according to Wired.com:
General Motors has repeatedly claimed a sales target for 2011 of 10,000 units for the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt sedan. But, nine months into the year, they've only shipped 3,895 off the lot. In fact, in September sales numbers, released an hour ago, GM sold only 723 Volts.
Americans aren't buying Volts even with a $7,500 federal tax credit deal sweetener. The Daily Caller observes:
There are 3,370 Volts sitting in auto lots around the country, up from 2,600 on Oct. 3, according to cars.com, one of the nation's largest automotive classified sites.
The Chevy Volt was to be a centerpiece of President Barack Obama's green technology industrial revolution, and of his 2012 re-election campaign.
It, and similar green technology products, were expected to employ up to two million people by 2010, according to Obama's economic advisers. The electric car boosters at the Department of Energy, for example, predicted production of up to 120,000 Volts per year from 2012 onwards, according to a Feb. 2011 update of the DOE's ambitious report, "One Million Electric Vehicles By 2015."
The Daily Caller adds:
The car is now being promoted by GM as a 'loss-leader,' an experiment that will goose future sales of other cars by boosting the brand. "It is an assertion of leadership — there is nothing else like it on the road," said company spokesman Greg Martin. By pushing ahead with the car, and using it to help develop a wide variety of alternative power plants, "we're exercising some vision and leadership that people have accused of of not exercising in the past," he said.
The GM spokesman's argument brings to mind the quip cited today in the New York Times by Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) made at a recent hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee when he …
… compared the benefits of solar power to the Tennessee farmer who drives into Alabama to buy watermelons for a dollar each and resells them at home for 75 cents.
"He does this a few times, and clearly he isn't making a profit," Mr. DesJarlais said. "And he comes to the conclusion that he needs a bigger truck."
Evidently this works for electric cars too. Sadly, this is what crony capitalism looks like.