Corporate Welfare

Ener1 Goes Bankrupt, Becomes Second or Third Next Solyndra

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Ener1… EnerDel… Where does this leave InnoTech?

After spending $55 million of a $118.5 million grant from Stephen Chu's Department of Energy, Ener1, an Indianapolis-based maker of batteries whose facilities were toured by Reason's Ronald Bailey in 2010, has declared bankruptcy

Ener1, which got the grant for its EnerDel subsidiary, is another candidate in the increasingly competitive race to become the Next Solyndra. Bailey took that bet in early November, but I believe the title had already been won by the Bay State's own Beacon Power the day before Bailey's pick. However, since Beacon only spent $39.5 million of its DOE-guaranteed loan, Ener1 has a higher cumulative score. 

One thing we know. It's going to be a long time before we see the last Solyndra

This headline is not accurate.

Although Ener1 received taxpayer money from the Obama Administration and President Obama unwisely tried to advance his green pork agenda in the State of the Union address, the president did not, as has been suggested elsewhere, single out Ener1 in the speech. The company he referred to is Energetx Composites, a maker of turbine blades headquartered in Holland Michigan, the Tulip City. 

Here are the president's reference to battery companies: 

In three years, our partnership with the private sector has already positioned America to be the world's leading manufacturer of high-tech batteries. Because of federal investments, renewable energy use has nearly doubled….

I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here. We have subsidized oil companies for a century. That's long enough. It's time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that's rarely been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that's never been more promising. 

These could be construed as references to Ener1, as Obama only mentioned a "California business that will put a thousand people to work making solar panels" in his 2010 speech. This seems unlikely, because Ener1's poor condition has been known at least since November. Then again, I get the feeling the president doesn't read Reason. 

Here is the reference to Energetx, which Obama praised for creating jobs rather than for being a viable business: 

When Bryan Ritterby was laid off from his job making furniture, he said he worried that at 55, no one would give him a second chance. But he found work at Energetx, a wind turbine manufacturer in Michigan. Before the recession, the factory only made luxury yachts. Today, it's hiring workers like Bryan, who said, "I'm proud to be working in the industry of the future."

An Energetx spokesman tells me the company is up and running and has no derogatory financial information to report. He would not comment on Energetx' ('s?) profitability, but said the company had sold more of its turbine blades in 2011 than in 2010. 

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, also works the State of the Union angle: 

Only two days after President Obama highlighted federal investments in high-tech batteries in his State of the Union address, Ener1 joined Solyndra, Beacon Power, Evergreen Solar, SpecrtaWatt, and AES in bankruptcy – all recipients of taxpayer dollars.  We have a national debt exceeding $15 trillion, and the Administration is borrowing money from China to waste on subsidies for companies that are not viable.  It is interesting that Ener1 made the filing after the President touted subsidies for batteries given that the Administration asked Solyndra to hold off the announcement of job losses until after the 2010 elections.

Update: Stearns keeps the fun coming, revealing enthusiastic White House support for Ener1, a now-embarrassing ARRA stimulus brag, and the inevitable Kinsleyan gaffe from Vice President Joe Biden:  

Vice President Biden visited Ener1 one year ago, January 26, 2011, the day after the President pledged in his State of the Union address to put one million advanced technology vehicles on the road by 2015 with the help of taxpayer funding. On several occasions, Biden called the company "Enron one" during his visit, invoking a seemingly unintentional but ultimately prescient reference to the collapse of the energy giant Enron. The company was also ranked number 67 in the White House Report100 Recovery Projects that are Changing America.