The chairman emeritus of the House's Energy Committee says he's troubled by a failed energy company's ties to Washington.
Rep. Joe Barton, a key Republican on the House energy committee who helped fashion the legislation that opened the door to today's clean energy funding, says the political connections are "eerily similar" between the government-funded A123 Systems battery maker that went bankrupt last week and the earlier failed Solyndra solar maker.
Barton, R-Texas, reacted to a Washington Guardian story last week that detailed how A123's executives spent $1 million on a federal lobbyists and showered Democrats with donations even as the firm struggled for financial viability.
The company scored private meetings with both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama and successfully secured a $250 million stimulus grant before filing for bankruptcy last week, the latest company supported by the Obama clean energy stimulus program to hit hard times.
"I find the Washington Guardian’s report that, just like with Solyndra, A123 executives appeared to have tight connections with the White House the most disturbing similarity. The CEO donated thousands to the Obama campaign and even attended a White House meeting with the President," said Barton, the chairman emeritus of the House Energy and Commerce committee.
"Both were part of President Obama’s green energy revolution. Each was singled out by the administration as the future of American manufacturing. Both were given hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and - perhaps most importantly - both lost that money," he said.
Barton has been a harsh critic of the Obama administration's clean energy efforts. But unlike many Republican colleagues, he still supports a role for the government in spurring clean energy development.
The Texas Republican shephered the Energy Policy Act of 2005 into law, opening the door for the government to fund energy development research. That law was amended by Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 to extend the 2005 law's funding to more clearly to technologies that reduce greenhouse gases.
“I think there is a role for the government when it comes to investing in green energy development, but each dollar handed out must be done so with care because it comes from taxpayers," Barton told the Washington Guardian.
"Those in charge of the grants and loans need to do their due diligence," Barton said. “The facts illustrate that the green gamble on A123 was a bad bet, a bad deal, and now a failed enterprise financed on the backs of honest taxpayers who will likely not be repaid.”
A123 Systems is a Massachusetts based company that chiefly produces lithium batteries for electric cars. The company was awarded about $250 million from the Recovery Act under Obama, and $6 million from the Bush administration.
A123 Systems is a Massachusetts-based company that makes lithium batteries for electric cars. The company received $250 million in grants from the Recovery Act, but has now declared bankruptcy, drawing fire from Republicans who are comparing it to Solyndra (another energy company that went bankrupt after taking federal money).
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, or Recovery Act, is an $831 billion program advocated by President Barack Obama that was designed to inject money into a stagnating economy and provide jobs while improving the infrastructure of the U.S.