Picking Losers and Losers

Government investments in green energy projects rack up massive losses, analysis finds


President Barack Obama’s taxpayer-financed “investments” in green energy firms netted huge profits for company executives even as they cost taxpayers millions, a recent Washington Examiner analysis found.

Corporate insiders at publicly traded green energy firms that received taxpayer funding in the 2009 stimulus made more than $60 million selling company stock after the government’s investment.

Top executives in some cases cashed out before seeing their company’s stock value plummet. The sum value of Obama’s “portfolio” of green energy investments has fallen 78 percent since he took office, a level of performance worse than that of green energy firms not receiving taxpayer funding.

Biofuel manufacturer Amyris Inc., for example, was given $24.3 million in taxpayer money to turn plant sugars into diesel fuel. At one point, this helped push its stock price above $30 a share. Today, Amyris has closed two of its three plants, and its stock sells for less than $3. Amyris’ insiders got rich first, though, netting $21 million in stock sales after the firm went public in September 2010.

Solazyme, another biofuel manufacturer, received $21.8 million from Obama’s Energy Department. Its stock once traded at more than $25 a share but now is worth less than $9. Its corporate insiders realized $18.4 million in capital gains before the stock price collapsed.

Corporate insiders at A123 Systems were not as quick to cash out as their biofuel colleagues. The Massachusetts electric-car battery manufacturer received a $249 million grant from Obama’s Energy Department in 2009, before going bankrupt last month. Its stock was worth more than $25 a share when it first went public in September 2009. A123 officers and directors still made more than $11 million in stock sales.

Obama has promised to “double-down” on his green energy agenda if he is reelected on November 6.

Recently uncovered emails reveal that Obama played an active role in the Department of Energy (DOE) loan program despite previous assertions to the contrary, the Examiner reported on Wednesday.

The emails also show collusion among top administration officials to target taxpayer dollars to green energy firms in Nevada with the aim of helping Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) win reelection in 2010.

The Obama administration has funneled taxpayer dollars to foreign companies such as the Spanish solar firm Abengoa, as well as to companies such as Fisker Automotive, which has shipped production overseas and whose signature car model suffers from a tendency to explode.

Two U.S. senators on Thursday wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner expressing concern over the bankruptcy filing of A123 Systems, the battery company that supplied components to Fisker.

Sens. John Thune (R., S. Dak.) and Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) say they are worried that a Chinese firm could acquire A123, which was awarded several military contracts for research and development. The firm could then gain access to highly sensitive information and technology, potentially compromising U.S. security interests.

The administration’s most high-profile green energy failure was its decision to gamble more than $500 million by investing in Solyndra, a California solar firm that filed for bankruptcy in in September 2011. Solyndra was partially owned byprominent 2008 Obama campaign bundler George Kaiser.

Kaiser can expect to see a better return on his investment than American taxpayers. As part of a 2010 agreement to restructure Solyndra’s loan, Obama’s DOE granted priority status to private investors such as Kaiser with respect to the first $75 million recovered in the event of the firm’s bankruptcy. The move may have violated federal law.

California investment guru and partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) John Doerr, who has personally contributed more than $170,000 to Democratic campaigns and committees since 2008, owned stakes in several green energy firms that received taxpayer funding in the stimulus.

Doerr, an early and outspoken advocate for federal investment in “green” technology, was named to the president’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board in 2009 where he helped craft the $787 billion stimulus package. Of the 27 companies listed in KPCB’s “green-tech” portfolio, 16 received some form of taxpayer support.

Steve Westly, a top Obama bundler who was appointed to a White House advisory board on energy policy, is another prominent investor with ties to taxpayer financed companies.

Westly has openly acknowledged that a close relationship with federal lawmakers is key to investing in green technology. In response to a reporter’s question about which green energy companies he likes to invest in, Westly said: “Who cares what I think. Let’s talk about ‘what does Obama like? Here’s what he likes,’ because here’s where the federal government is putting money. And let me tell you, whatever he likes, that’s what I like.”