Bad battery “karma” – Taxpayers’ Green ‘Investment’ in Battery Company Withers

By Paul Chesser, National Legal & Policy Center

Image representing A123 Systems as depicted in...

Image via CrunchBase

A123 Systems – the taxpayer-funded electric vehicle battery manufacturer that famously shipped duds to Fisker Automotive, which caused one of its luxurious Karma EVs to shut down just before a Consumer Reports test – is now the defendant in an investor class action lawsuit and its stock has tanked to below $1.

Massachusetts-based A123 received more than $279 million in grants from the Department of Energy, most of it used to refurbish two plants in Livonia and Romulus, Mich., for the production of EV batteries.

The company laid off 125 factory workers in November, lost $257.7 million in 2011 (including an $11.6 million write-down of its stake in Fisker), and announced it would spend $55 million to fix the defective batteries it delivered to Fisker and other customers.

Fisker Karma @ Detroit Auto Show.

Fisker Karma @ Detroit Auto Show. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Meanwhile A123’s top executives received big raises and inflated parachutes should the company change ownership.

Read the rest here: http://ow.ly/a4y5s

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76 Responses to Bad battery “karma” – Taxpayers’ Green ‘Investment’ in Battery Company Withers

  1. The Occupy Movement was basically protesting the favouritism awarded by their own heroes. Or so it appears.

  2. Lance says:

    And thus more proof that the only real green in green energy is the cash that these companies scam from the tax payer.

    “Progressive” politicians are still shamelessly foisting these boondoggles, under the pressure from credulous lefties, onto the population at large..

  3. R. Campbell says:

    Just curious, does anyone know the actual total of taxpayer dollars used for green energy? Is there a website I could share with my friends? Elections will be here before you know it.

  4. Anthony —

    It is getting to the point, you might want to add a “green turkey” feature to the blog’s resource lists, showing all the taxpayer funded green energy and related companies that have gone toes up.
    Seems a new one is cropping up every few days now that the wheels are falling off the green band wagon. Some you have already documented such as abandoned wind farms and the media darlings like Solyndra.

    I suspect if you added such a feature your readers could provide you with a nearly endless list of smaller local endeavors that have quietly bit the dust as well with out a great deal of media fan fare. Might be a worth while crib sheet for later on when the CAGW brigade tries to tell us that there were no significant failures in the green industries and that is just an urban myth that such failures were rampant in the the 2010 and later time frame.

    Larry

  5. kbray in california says:

    “Chu” on this :

    63,000 jobs for Michigan…

    Thank you Mr. President, for another loser.

  6. rbateman says:

    A veritable Panoply of Paint-Job Paragoric.
    It all started so innocently green.
    Amber waves of parachuting Execs. Chameleon’s are seen changing color as they drive off, vine ripened to a golden brown exodus on the Money Tree.

  7. DirkH says:

    Yesterday, Q-Cells in Germany announced insolvency. They were the largest maker of solar cells in Germany.

  8. Steve from Rockwood says:

    Is it too late to buy stock? I can see a cat hitting the pavement.

  9. Fred Allen says:

    Proof yet again, that when it comes to capitalism and free market economics, no organization knows better about returns on investment than a Democrat president and a government entity. Dr. Stephen Chu must have his packed bag under his desk. Surely the Republicans have a big imaginary target painted on his back.

  10. Ally E. says:

    I totally agree with Larry. There are so many green companies going belly up all over the world, I can’t keep up with it. I’d love a list, simply because it’s so amazing.

  11. Curiousgeorge says:

    The usual response from the green lobby is that all this is just normal industry shake out. Same thing happened in the oil industry.

    Ok, so that means we will all be dealing with Big Battery in the future, right? Every company works to secure vertical integration of their suppliers and swallow their competition. Banks, airlines, manufacturers, etc. Gee. I can hardly wait.

  12. MattN says:

    That’s a shame. I had decently high hopes for the Karma. Did you know that thing weight 5000+ lbs? And costs over $100K? Bajeebus….

  13. William McClenney says:

    You know, the sad thing is battery technology is just now undergoing a much-needed technology update. I remember reading somewhere that battery storage is the singular technology that has undergone the least evolution of any power technology in the last century. Another sad thing is rushing something to market that should really await event horizon potential revolutions….

    From a touch over a year ago today we have this:

    New structure allows lithium-ion batteries to get a quicker charge (03/22/2011)
    Joey Peters, E&E reporter

    A research group at the University of Illinois has developed technology that may have lasting
    implications for electric vehicles (EVs) and other electronics.

    The group, led by Paul Braun, a professor of material sciences and engineering, has come up with
    technology that creates a much more rapid charging time for lithium-ion batteries, which power
    electronics like cellphones, laptops and defibrillators. Lithium-ion batteries also power EVs,
    which can take all night to charge at home and up to an hour to charge at EV stations.

    Braun’s findings, published last week in an online version of the journal Nature Nanotechnology,
    could lead to an EV charging time comparable to that for filling a tank of gas. Smaller objects
    like cell phones could charge in well under a minute, Braun said.

    “We have batteries in the lab that can charge in tens of seconds,” he said.

    ……

    Digital quantum batteries: Energy and information storage in
    nano vacuum tube arrays
    Alfred W. H¨ubler and Onyeama Osuagwu
    Department of Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,
    1110 W Green Street, Illinois 61801, USA
    (Dated: September 22, 2009)
    Abstract
    Dielectric material between capacitor electrodes increases the capacitance. However, when the electric field exceeds a threshold, electric breakdown in the dielectric discharges the capacitor suddenly and the stored energy is lost. We show that nano vacuum tubes do not have this problem because (i) electric breakdown can be suppressed with quantization phenomena, and (ii) the capacitance is large at small gap sizes. We find that the energy density and power density in nano vacuum tubes are large compared to lithium batteries and electrochemical capacitors. The electric field in a nano vacuum tube can be sensed with MOSFETs in the insulating walls. Random access arrays of nano vacuum tubes with an energy gate, to charge the tube, and an information gate attached to the MOSFET, to sense the electric field in the tube, can be used to store both energy and information.

    From the BBC on Wednesday, 11 March 2009

    Battery that ‘charges in seconds’

    A new manufacturing method for lithium-ion batteries could lead to smaller, lighter batteries that can be charged in just seconds. Batteries that discharge just as quickly would be useful for electric and hybrid cars, where a quick jolt of charge is needed for acceleration. The approach only requires simple changes to the production process of a well-known material. The new research is reported in the scientific journal Nature. Because of the electronic punch that they pack, gram for gram, lithium-ion batteries are the most common rechargeable batteries found in consumer electronics, such as laptops. However, they take a long time to charge; researchers have assumed until now that there was a speed limit on the lithium ions and electrons that pass through the batteries to form an electrochemical circuit.

    Tiny holes

    Gerbrand Ceder, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), US, and his colleagues used a computer simulation to model the movements of ions and electrons in a variant of the standard lithium material known as lithium iron phosphate. The simulation indicated that ions were moving at great speed. “If transport of the lithium ions was so fast, something else had to be the problem,” Professor Ceder said. That problem turned out to be the way ions passed through the material. They pass through minuscule tunnels, whose entrances are present at the surface of the material. However, the team discovered that to get into these channels, the ions had to be positioned directly in front of the tunnel entrances – if they were not, they could not get through.

    The solution, Ceder discovered, was to engineer the material such that it has a so-called “beltway” that guides the ions towards the tunnel entrances.

    Traffic management

    A prototype battery made using the new technique could be charged in less than 20 seconds – in comparison to six minutes with an untreated sample of the material.

    —————————-

    As fast as the fiery Volt isn’t rolling off the assembly lines at the moment wouldn’t it have been more prudent to look a little farther upstream before plunking down? On talk of government picking winners and losers the discussion ends here.

  14. Tom Murphy says:

    kbray in california says:

    “Thank you Mr. President, for another loser.”

    Agreed, and don’t let the President talk you into taking a Vegas trip with him…

    What’s even more amazing, though, is his response to the abject, public, and multiple green job failures, which has been a doubling down on the inherently-progressive mantra. President Obama’s 2013 budget (released admittedly more as a campaign talking point than actual spending plan) establishes a number of “Clean Energy Provisions” – clean is the new green because the latter has become soiled by unchecked stupidity – http://tinyurl.com/7n9drfs .

    Unfortunately, the President’s opposition in the pending elections appears reluctant (at best) to prominently highlight his misplaced faith in all things green. And such reluctant is, essentially, an abdication of responsibility on a magnitude similar to the President.

  15. u.k.(us) says:

    Wikiquote goes so far as to allow this:
    —–
    A quote attributed to Margaret Thatcher goes along the lines of
    “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money [to spend].”
    ===============
    And then there is an election in November.
    Another bloodbath, no incumbent is secure.
    Interesting times.

  16. Gixxerboy says:

    And not just companies. Our bio-diesel mandate which the Green party have been pushing since 2009 (and was fully endorsed by the last Labour govt.) finally died its death in the NZ Parliament this week.

    A victory for sanity.

  17. Catcracking says:

    The really sad facts are that the viability of an electric car for any use, except local trips, is a non starter. Any engineer who is familiar with the Research Process knows that one does not rush into investing in commercialization of a device when there is a fatal missing link that makes the development useless.

    It is utterly stupid to spend fortunes developing details of a technology while a critical link for it’s function is missing. The smart work process is to first through a careful technical review to identify all the critical weak links and focus your efforts and resources on resolving/developing solutions for those items before you go whole hog on commercializing the easy parts.

    The $$$ spent on the electric car is just an attempt to deceive the public into believing there is a near term viable alternative to gasoline as a transportation energy source. Were they so stupid to not believe that a day of judgment would occur, or are they so incompetent to think throwing money at it will certainly solve the problem.
    Unfortunately this is not the first or the last misstep.
    Mandates and subsidies with timetables for Ethanol from cellulosic sources is another huge failure.
    What’s next?

  18. _Jim says:

    Ally E. says:
    April 4, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    I totally agree with Larry. There are so many green companies going belly up all over the world, I can’t keep up with it. I’d love a list, simply because it’s so amazing.

    This might be a place to start: http://www.dailyjobcuts.com/ which lists bankruptcies, layoffs and closings each month.

    .

  19. steve o says:

    Hmm. Anybody want to sell a pile of books? Compile and discuss the waste in Energy projects. Not ALL the projects. Just the ones focused on energy.

  20. Mac the Knife says:

    Larry Ledwick (hotrod ) says:
    April 4, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    I concur and second your request, Larry!

    How about it, Anthony? Each of us have friends saying “Have ya heard about the Green Weenie Company that just went TU?” A tracking and inventory page could be quite useful.

    MtK

  21. SAMURAI says:

    I heard this company is changing its name from A123 to A321….ZERO!

    From $20/share to $0.79/ share and soon to be zero….

    This is what happens when free-market capitalism is replaced by crony socialism.

  22. _Jim says:

    William McClenney says April 4, 2012 at 7:23 pm:

    From a touch over a year ago today we have this:

    New structure allows lithium-ion batteries to get a quicker charge (03/22/2011)
    Joey Peters, E&E reporter

    Traffic management

    A prototype battery made using the new technique could be charged in less than 20 seconds – in comparison to six minutes with an untreated sample of the material.

    Do these research guys have ANY idea the size the conductors are going to be to supply this current without substantial I-squared*R (current-squared times R) power loss in a practical implementation? And that includes the lines running to the charging station(s)?

    .

  23. Justa Joe says:

    MattN says:
    April 4, 2012 at 7:08 pm
    That’s a shame. I had decently high hopes for the Karma. Did you know that thing weight 5000+ lbs? And costs over $100K? Bajeebus….
    ———————-
    All the progressies say that it was a great car. why? Because the sheet metal looks nice. Colour me unimpressed.

    Massachusetts-based A123 received more than $279 million in grants from the Department of Energy,
    ———————–
    Michigan gave them a ton of money too. I wonder if all the government money given to Karma and A123 was contigent on Karma using A123 battery packs. The dominant colossuses of the battery industry are outfits like Panasonic, Sanyo, Toshiba and LG. You cannot run businesses with progressie politicians pulling all of the strings for very long anyway.

  24. Bob says:

    My favorite quote of the week: “Just goes to show – you can’t just shove money up a unicorn’s ass and realistically expect something useful to come of it”

    Obomber (he who loves to bomb innocent civilians) gave away another $2 billion to his mates to save-the-planet with solar power and failed yet again:

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/worlds-largest-solar-plant-21-billion-energy-department-loan-guarantee-files-bankruptcy

  25. polistra says:

    Wonder why nobody is trying to build nickel-iron cells? They use common materials that are mined in North America (or could be taken from ordinary recycling)… and they last 100 years through all sorts of weather, with or without recharging. They never turn into bricks. Basically indestructible.

    http://polistrasmill.blogspot.com/2012/02/edisons-revenge-on-tesla.html

  26. Mr Lynn says:

    Catcracking says:
    April 4, 2012 at 7:36 pm
    The really sad facts are that the viability of an electric car for any use, except local trips, is a non starter. . .

    There are specialized uses where EVs might make sense. My son Andy worked for the Postal Service one summer, and pointed out that the postal vans, jeeps, and small trucks, which are started to run a couple of blocks and then stopped, over and over again, would make more sense as electric than gas vehicles. Most of them probably don’t go even 40 miles in a day, which is about the range of current all-electric cars. Andy used to run around town in an electric project car the high school had. It used plain old lead-acid batteries.

    /Mr Lynn

  27. TG McCoy (Douglas DC) says:

    Yes! Agree with Hotrod! this could keep a single topic feature page going for a while!
    Josh could do a green Turkey, too!

  28. Canman says:

    While most government spending on green energy usually turns out to be horendous boondoggles, I think there is a role for funding research. Apparently, ARPA-E funding to a company called Envia may have helped produce a major breakthrough in Li-ion car batteries:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/yonicohen/2012/03/21/envias-energy-dense-battery-could-cut-electric-vehicle-costs/

    Joe Romm’s Climate Progress blog broke this story on the day that Obama gave a speech about GM. AFAIK Obama never mentioned this in his speech, which seems odd, since it seems like it could be a much needed victory in a long string of failures.

  29. Goracle says:

    If it wasn’t my kids and grandkids $$$ the greenies are betting on a losing proposition, I could laugh. I must admit, though, that the green agenda imploding under the weight of its lies is priceless. “Karma” is a bitch.

  30. William McClenney says:

    _Jim says:
    April 4, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    “Do these research guys have ANY idea the size the conductors are going to be to supply this current without substantial I-squared*R (current-squared times R) power loss in a practical implementation? And that includes the lines running to the charging station(s)? ”

    At this stage, probably not. I think here of Beacon. Efficient, easily deploy-able, scalable flywheel storage systems held some promise. But don’t get into the economics of it all.

    The proverbial 3rd rail of renewable’s is robust storage.

    And every penny not spent on fusion research may turn out to be a penny wasted.

  31. Ed Ingold says:

    Does anyone else get the feeling we are watching the last scenes of War of the Worlds? All the wonderful machines that came from Mars are crashing and burning because they never looked at the fact the Earths atmosphere would not accomodate their species. In juxtoposition the real science is not supporting the Green agenda and they are now facing the same fate. Oh the ironing.

  32. Tsk Tsk says:

    _Jim says:
    April 4, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    Do these research guys have ANY idea the size the conductors are going to be to supply this current without substantial I-squared*R (current-squared times R) power loss in a practical implementation? And that includes the lines running to the charging station(s)?
    ———————
    Why, they can just use High Tc superconductors. As long as you don’t exceed their critical current you have no losses. I know! Maybe they could use carbon nanotube HTC’s made with sequestered carbon from coal power plants. That would be like getting free energy or something. /sarc off

    Here’s the real problem that I have:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Energy_density.svg

    Of course I don’t expect a constitutional law professor to understand that graph, but it’s a bit shameful that a Nobel prize winning physicist doesn’t get it either…

  33. Bill Tuttle says:

    Mac the Knife says:
    April 4, 2012 at 7:41 pm
    How about it, Anthony? Each of us have friends saying “Have ya heard about the Green Weenie Company that just went TU?” A tracking and inventory page could be quite useful

    A cache for screenshots would be useful, too. As Larry pointed out, this is an election year, and glowing press releases which turn around later and bite the Dems have a habit of disappearing down the Memory Hole. In 2009, there were a scad of WH and DoE happy chirps about loan guarantees going to various wind-power initiatives and “good-paying green jobs” flooding into Michigan — but the money ‘n’ jobs trail was a one-way street leading to the PRC.

    The happy chirps all vanished by 2010.

  34. noaaprogrammer says:

    No doubt the current world-wide economic down-turn is not rebounding very fast, largely due to green greed. The Green Hole of save-the-world-at-all-costs is ironically doing just the opposite. This mind-set continues to suck up enough tax dollars to disincentivize productive ventures.

    Now someone please do some research to assign some numerical facts and stats to the above intuition. – e.g. what percent of world GDP is spent on greenery?

  35. Tom_R says:

    Canman says:
    April 4, 2012 at 8:29 pm
    While most government spending on green energy usually turns out to be horendous boondoggles, I think there is a role for funding research. Apparently, ARPA-E funding to a company called Envia may have helped produce a major breakthrough in Li-ion car batteries:

    A better strategy is to set aside prize money for meeting a specific goal. It costs nothing unless results are obtained. For a battery, maybe the criteria are a battery that holds the energy of 40 liters of gasoline, with an energy density at least half that of gasoline, a charging time of 1 hour, and capable of surviving 3600 charge/discharge cycles, and -50 and 50 C temperatures for 24 hours. The prize is $10B.

  36. Dena says:

    polistra says:
    April 4, 2012 at 8:23 pm
    Wonder why nobody is trying to build nickel-iron cells?
    ———————————————————————-
    I am a big fan of Nickel-iron for stationary applications but they have a very low energy density compared to other storage systems. Instead of going 100 miles on a charge, you might be talking 25 miles. They are a good fit in a stationary application size and weight are not an issue. You can buy Nickel-Iron batteries today but like everything else, they are made in China. The market is not big enough to produce them in the United States.

  37. Streetcred says:

    April 4, 2012 at 8:26 pm Mr Lynn says
    ———————————————–

    When I was a youngster at school, our local dairy delivered milk in the early mornings using electric milk floats …. over 45 years ago.

  38. Bill Tuttle says:

    _Jim says:
    April 4, 2012 at 7:46 pm
    Do these research guys have ANY idea the size the conductors are going to be to supply this current…

    Lab guys are traditionally given a set of specs and told “Build this.” We used to do “end-user” testing for the boffins at CECOM and their usual reaction to seeing where the black box had to be installed in the aircraft was “It’s gotta go in *there*?Geez, I wish we’d known that beforehand…”

  39. John F. Hultquist says:

    Mac, Ally E., Larry, others

    In fireworks displays there is one called a Roman Candle – lift off, exploding star, quiet, sinking, death.

    Like this:
    July 2009:
    –World’s largest solar plant may be built in Cle Elum

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2009441447_websolar09m.html

    April 2011:
    –Future of proposed solar-power plant looks dim

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2014793500_solarproject17m.html

    April 2012:
    –Hello. Hello! Hello?

  40. DirkH says:

    Tom_R says:
    April 4, 2012 at 9:27 pm
    “A better strategy is to set aside prize money for meeting a specific goal. It costs nothing unless results are obtained. For a battery, maybe the criteria are a battery that holds the energy of 40 liters of gasoline, with an energy density at least half that of gasoline, a charging time of 1 hour, and capable of surviving 3600 charge/discharge cycles, and -50 and 50 C temperatures for 24 hours. The prize is $10B.”

    Maybe a little unrealistic.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Energy_density.svg

  41. DirkH says:

    noaaprogrammer says:
    April 4, 2012 at 9:05 pm
    “Now someone please do some research to assign some numerical facts and stats to the above intuition. – e.g. what percent of world GDP is spent on greenery?”

    Germany: 16 bn Euro per year in subsidies for reneable energy production; 200 EUR per capita; GDP per capita about 31250 EUR, so that’s less than a percent. Total energy sector costs about 10% of GDP I would say, so we pay a tenth of our energy cost for renewables and get about one percent of our energy needs from it, so the money is practically gone (expended for installing largely useless wind turbines and solar panels; same overall effect as building pyramids or digging holes). Our unemployment is 4.9 percent, half of the current Eurozone value. This is of course not due to the renewables subsidation but as usual due to car exports.

    I did not include the effects of the EU carbon cap&trade/Kyoto schemes. They start to have an effect – steel mills, copper and aluminum smelters are affected, some of them make losses and are about to close shop.

    Basically we’re outsourcing some pollution, profits and employment to China and reduce our disposable income. Electricity prices are skyrocketing; second highest in the World after Denmark, and still rising, by 5% this year – switching off old paid for nukes also has an effect.

    Of course, people are waking up to the fact that green do-gooderism comes with a hefty price tag.

  42. pat says:

    another failed CAGW scham…oops i mean scheme in the State of New South Wales, Australia, where the carbon price is presently 85 cents down from $8.50 in 2003, but will now miraculously become $23 in July, with the NSW taxpayers being left to pick up the tab. nice.

    5 April: Australian: AAP: NSW to close carbon dioxide trade scheme
    THE NSW Government is calling on the Federal Government to provide compensation when the state closes its failed Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme (GGAS) after the carbon tax comes into force later this year.
    NSW Energy Minister Chris Hartcher today announced the state-based trading scheme would be wound up in July.
    “Due to the Federal Government’s desire for a national approach, we will be closing the state scheme to remove duplication and minimise costs to NSW consumers,” Mr Hartcher said in a statement…
    The program, which does not put a price on carbon, has been beset by problems since it came into force in 2003.
    ****The price of certificates has fallen from the initial rate of $8.50 to the current spot price of 85 cents…
    Mr Hartcher said the Federal Government promised in 2009 to compensate holders of unused GGAS certificates, of which there are now 16 million.
    The Commonwealth later reneged on the commitment…
    However, the call for federal compensation has fallen on deaf ears, with a spokesman for federal Climate Change Minister Greg Combet saying “compensation is entirely a matter” for the NSW Government.

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/breaking-news/nsw-to-close-carbon-dioxide-trade-scheme/story-e6frg90f-1226319804803

  43. J B Williamson says:

    Larry gets my vote. Nice idea.

  44. “Now someone please do some research to assign some numerical facts and stats to the above intuition. – e.g. what percent of world GDP is spent on greenery?”

    You need to add in lost ‘opportunity costs’.

    Probably the best example is the failure to develop natural gas vehicles and natural gas co-generation schemes for buildings. These are obvious ways to save money and energy, but are only happening on the initiative of individuals and slowly as engineering and capital resources are tied up developing electric cars, etc.

    A big cogeneration project (labelled tri-generation) has just been launched here in Australia. While the company behind it and the media hype it as ‘low carbon’. It’s really about saving money the old fashioned way – Doing more with less energy.

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/breaking-news/sydney-to-build-low-carbon-energy-network/story-fn3dxity-1226317491286

  45. David Davidovics says:

    I contacted a123 back when they were first starting to inquire about buying batteries for my electric car. They never responded and I ended up purchasing the lithium batteries from mainland china instead. Way cheaper and it seems more reliable too – go figure.

  46. Scottish Sceptic says:

    Larry Ledwick (hotrod ) says:

    I suspect if you added such a feature your readers could provide you with a nearly endless list of smaller local endeavors that have quietly bit the dust as well with out a great deal of media fan fare.

    There is Provan who produced small windmills in Scotland. A very successful company until they got large scale investment which thought that the cautious engineering approach was just holding them back until the blades started coming off.

  47. Ed Mertin says:

    I have been unable to find an inventory of government backed green energy failures. But add this…
    4-2-2012 plant mothballed…

    http://www.swtimes.com/sections/news/mitsubishi-%E2%80%9Cmothballs%E2%80%9D-fort-smith-wind-turbine-plant.html

    http://www.todaysthv.com/news/article/205161/2/Mitsubishi-puts-Fort-Smith-turbine-plant-on-hold-

    2010 announcement …

    http://www.dailyenergyreport.com/2010/10/mitsubishi-building-new-wind-turbine-facility-in-fort-smith-arkansas/

    If someone with time wants to compile a list there is a lot of green energy/spaghettiO & friends slush fund companies here…

    http://www.akdart.com/solar.html

    See ethanol, wind power, electric cars, mass transit, fluorescent light bulbs, green jobs, etc. Even more money down the drain here…

    http://www.akdart.com/abu7.html

  48. Galane says:

    Jay Leno’s 1909 Baker Electric is still running on its original 103 year old battery pack. He drives it from his home to the TV studio once in a while.

    In other vehicular nuttery, by 2013 in California (you knew it had to be CA) all 53 foot and longer semi trucks will be required to have those skirts under them plus the angled tail panels and either one of those bubble caps on the trailer front or a rooftop fairing on the tractor. The mandate may also include fairings to reduce the gap between the cab and trailer.

    Of course they don’t care about the cost to the trucking companies and especially not to owner-operators. It took me about an hour yesterday to find a site that actually had a price on those skirts, during which I found the info on that 2013 California mandate. That article had a picture of a truck driver who after trade in paid $44,000 for a new trailer with all the latest aeromods. The result? He averages a whopping 0.9 MPG increase *with the trailer empty*.

    Those skirts *start* at $1,300 plus installation cost. No wonder all those companies just put “Call for prices.” on their websites.

    The really crazy thing is today’s trucks often get worse MPG with all their aero tricks than the 1988-1993 Peterbilt 372 cabover, which showed it was possible to get over 10 MPG from a semi truck. I’d like to see the latest aero-aids applied to one of those.

    Looks like the price of everything moved by semi truck in CA is set to go up even more, likewise the rest of the country should (as usual) the other States kowtow to California.

  49. Roger Carr says:

    What has The Saturday Evening Post got to do with vehicle batteries?

    The Commercial Truck Company operated in Philadelphia Pennsylvania and produced large electric trucks from approximately 1908 to 1927. They sold twenty-two electric powered vehicles to Curtis Publishing, two of which were used to haul coal to fire boilers for plant operations. The other twenty were randomly used daily to haul paper and to distribute magazines such as Jack and Jill, Ladies Home Journal, and The Saturday Evening Post. These vehicles slipped silently into the streets each day in the early morning hours never awakening their customers. These trucks received the best of care being serviced in the Curtis warehouse after each use

  50. Les Francis. says:

    William McClenney says: April 4, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    You know, the sad thing is battery technology is just now undergoing a much-needed technology update. I remember reading somewhere that battery storage is the singular technology that has undergone the least evolution of any power technology in the last century.

    Technology update…… Hmmmmm. There’s a very good reason why battery technology hasn’t evolved much in the last 100 years. Physics and energy density.
    You can’t get something for nothing.

    Green technology is directly related to the amount of fictitious dollars that some politico can order up. No wonder the world is in such an economic mess.

  51. John Moore says:

    What I am waiting to hear is how far a battery electric car will drive at night in a North American winter using headlamps, wipers, heated rear window and (electric) heater. And after it is abandoned, trying to open the central locking. With 45 years experience in the motor trade (in England) — I suggest about 5 miles?

  52. JohnG says:

    “Do these research guys have ANY idea the size the conductors are going to be to supply this current without substantial I-squared*R (current-squared times R) power loss in a practical implementation? And that includes the lines running to the charging station(s)?”

    No problem, just build a small coal fired power station to supply the required power at each of the charging stations.

  53. R. de Haan says:

    Oh dear, one crappy Green Looney Tunes company writing off on their stake in another crappy Green Looney Tunes company. Sounds like AL Gore and Bill Clinton territory to me.

    Thanks God they still have Apple shares.

  54. Wade says:

    The problem with government investing in anything is that they are takers, not earners. Therefore they do not understand how to spend money. If you have to earn your money, you take time to make big financial decisions. That is because you know if the decision was a bad one, it will affect you for a long time. Earners have to work to get they money they have. Takers, conversely, don’t work at all to get the money they have. If they make a bad decision, well they just take some more. Takers did not work to get what they have, so they consider the consequences of bad decisions. In the case of politicians, their only concern is to benefit themselves — either by political soundbites which they can use to get re-elected or by doing things that will put money in their own wallet directly or indirectly.

  55. TANSTAAFL says:

    Can you say “Fascist corporatism” boys and girls?

  56. usJim says:

    Philip Bradley says:
    April 5, 2012 at 12:06 am

    “Now someone please do some research to assign some numerical facts and stats to the above intuition. – e.g. what percent of world GDP is spent on greenery?”

    You need to add in lost ‘opportunity costs’.

    Probably the best example is the failure to develop natural gas vehicles …

    I’m looking forward to GA (General Aviation) moving over to CNG fuels (Cessna 150’s, 172’s, Piper Cubs etc moving up into the ‘high end’ which includes the Gulfstream and Gates Lear Jet (Bombardier) series) … and after that the civil transport aircraft (737, 727 Airbus stock et al) can be adapted to run off compressed, if not liquefied CH4 as well …

    Not.

    .

  57. Bill Illis says:

    This report says that about $100 billion was spent on climate change in 2010 by governments in the top 10 world economies. The US spent $16 billion. Most of that would have been green energy projects since the amount is so huge.

    http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/Durban_dynamics_-_navigating_for_progress_on_climate_change/$FILE/Durban%20dynamics%20-%20navigating%20for%20progress%20on%20climate%20change.pdf

  58. Latitude says:

    The government invests heavily in the manufacture of a product….
    …..then passes laws requiring you to buy that product

    What could possibly go wrong?………………….

    Wake up people….what do you think she meant?

  59. Tom_R says:

    DirkH says:
    April 4, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    Maybe a little unrealistic.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Energy_density.svg

    True, but you have to make the goal meet real-world requirements. If it were easy then there would be no need for a prize.

  60. Edward Martin says:

    Pl consider Larry’s idea; such a list would be most helpful.

  61. Robert Brown says:

    You know, the sad thing is battery technology is just now undergoing a much-needed technology update. I remember reading somewhere that battery storage is the singular technology that has undergone the least evolution of any power technology in the last century. Another sad thing is rushing something to market that should really await event horizon potential revolutions….

    Agreed. Anthony posted an article only a short time ago on zinc-air batteries, which may (or may not) be poised on the brink of a similar revolution. Zinc-air, for those who have forgotten or came in late, has many times the energy density storage capacity of lithium, is built with cheap and abundant zinc (instead of relatively scarce lithium), and would be gangbusters super for energy storage, actually making PV solar or wind instantly suitable for full time power generation and electric cars feasible except for one little thing — like a lead-acid battery but much faster, zinc-air batteries build “dendrites” as they recharge into the wet solution that eventually short out the plates. Where “shortly” can be in as few as a single charge cycle, although engineering can and has extended it reliably past one.

    What it hasn’t achieved (AFAIK) is reliably extending it to thousands of charge cycles, although lithium has just as big a problem with that (he says, typing into a laptop that will die if unplugged on its SECOND set of batteries in just four years). But there are a number of people and even some companies working on it. A breakthrough here would be revolutionary, as would breakthroughs in the lithium camp or elsewhere.

    With that said, let me make an observation. I do not think the readers of WUWT are giving proper attention to the cost-benefit equation associated with technical research, or the nature of the optimization problem being solved. There are technologies out there waiting to be discovered that are vastly beyond the means of any individual, or any traditional group of investors, to search for, if you could convince a corporate or investment group to risk the money against a relatively slim and uncertain chance of payoff when they can invest the money in alternative ways and achieve a very predictable (and often, very nice) return with far less risk.

    Yet the pay-off for those technologies is often spectacularly huge. Consider the laser. Sure, it was done at Bell Labs — a corporate entity — but it was done with government support from beginning to end (read the acknowledgements on the original papers). Bell had no need or desire to invest its own money in the development of a technology that no one could foresee was even possible or had any given particular advantage if developed — it could make money hand over fist doing nothing (and was, it was a monolithic monopoly at that point in time).

    The pay-off for the laser has been what, a trillion times the original investment and still coming? If you are reading this, there is very likely at least one laser within a few centimeters of your fingers, and it isn’t entirely unlikely that your screen operates on laser principles. Not all government funded research or government money funnelled into corporations to develop ideas is bad or fails to pay off, and a single big hit pays for many, many failures. Only society as a whole can afford to amortize the really big risks in a scalable way to shoot for equally huge benefits, game changers that don’t just pay off for a day, but pay off for the rest of human history. The original laser bet is still paying off, and every day we reap still more benefit compared to the society we would still have without it.

    It is by no means necessarily foolish for the government to invest our tax dollars in “Solyndra”s, in companies seeking to build a better battery, in seeking thermonuclear fusion, in trying to develop algae that will produce commercial quantities of biofuel out of air, water and sunlight at competitive prices, and so on. The payoff for success to society in all of those cases is potentially huge, and doesn’t stop in a year or ten years but will still be paying us back for both the money invested in the success and for all of the failures a century from now. One can argue that the investments should be more carefully chosen, that more care should be exercised to ensure that the money so invested cannot be looted in the form of golden parachutes or inflated executive salaries, one can always question the wisdom of making any given investment in retrospect, but it is nevertheless an easily demonstrable fact that without this sort of investment, our society would be vastly poorer. I worked for decades with a physicist who was also a grant officer for the Army Research Office, and I can go down a list of technologies that you would not be using (or would be paying a lot more for a far less developed version) if the ARO had not funded them and gotten the idea past the drawing board — such as your flatscreen display.

    It is a simple matter of fact that pure capitalism driving corporate investment to develop new products and technologies using money individually risked by human investors is inadequate to the task of developing breakthrough products. The timeframe is too long — often decades — the risk is too great — dozens of ideas fail, dozens of pathways turn out to be dead ends — before one pathway leads us to the next level of understanding. Individual investors or even large corporations wither and die before hitting the jackpot. Yet the jackpot is often huge — tens, hundreds of times the cost of all of the failures! Much of our current scientific “wealth” comes from just such high risk long time frame payouts, where many modest investments made by our government eventually lead to a return on all investment.

    In the process, we derive various other benefits. For one thing, it helps sustain our educational system, which produces countless benefits for all of society. Ignorance is the devil itself, the source of all human misery, and education and some degree of attendant wisdom are the universal anodyne that can lead us to a peaceful and prosperous existence. For another, it fuels serendipity — people studying and striving to discover one thing often find something else, entirely by accident. Even the outcasts of the process enter society and work for those very corporations that seek to develop new ideas into products and have a greatly increased chance of making a high-payoff contribution.

    Could the process be improved? Possibly, but there are tradeoffs. If you only fund “sure thing” projects, you are almost certainly being far too conservative. DARPA, for example, funds a lot of very wild and esoteric research, but again the payoff from any of the ideas can be as huge as the Internet itself (which used to be called “arpanet”, we might recall, to remind us of who really developed it — it wasn’t Al Gore, all claims to the contrary).

    Open political debate over what is or is not a good government funded or guaranteed investment is certainly a good thing to engage in in a free society, but Randite arguments that the right number is “zero” are so obviously false that they only hold up if you completely blind your eyes to the acknowledgements section of almost every critical paper ever published that is associated with a new idea or eventually leads to new patents, new products. Improved oversight? Perhaps. Better choice of investments? Arguably. But even though Solyndra failed that is not a sufficient proof that trying to support it was a bad idea in the first place. One might try to support ten failures like Solyndra and still build a ten billion dollar a year industry (and growing) on the eleventh success, pay for all of the failures in the first few years, and reap social “profits” in the form of increased wealth, jobs, and the benefits of whatever is actually being produced in the end.

    As I’ve often noted, while anthropogenic CO_2 may or may not be a long term problem for civilization, even if the most catastrophic of prophecies was correct it would not matter. Within the next three decades, even modest continuation of support of research into carbon-neutral energy generation will almost certainly yield fruit that will strongly limit the production of CO_2 compared to egregious overestimates being made today, so that by 2050 total new carbon being burned will almost certainly be strongly decreasing independent of any direct and enormously expensive measures taken today. PV solar will follow a Moore’s Law down to costs per watt that make it a no-brainer for energy generation in plants installed with far more scalable engineering. Breakthroughs in zinc-air or lithium or still other storage will overcome the problem that the sun does not always shine. Fusion (a long shot with a quadrillion-dollar payoff) may come through. Factory-produced biofuels may drop in price even as mined liquid fuels increase in price to where a crossover occurs and future “oil wells” may be chunks of high-insolation desert covered with algae being grown in tubes (that produces cellose, protein, and various other things as side effects of the production of biodiesel, for example). If government investments can shorten the time to any of these things by as little as two or three years, three years of production might pay off decades of investment, but with it or without it, there is no good reason to think that we will double atmospheric CO_2 by 2100.

    rgb

  62. mfo says:

    In the UK there have been electric vehicles for decades called milk floats which delivered milk to homes in the early morning. Like a golf cart for transporting milk bottles. Electric and hybrid vehicles can be useful within their limitations. The foolishness is a government investing taxpayers money in companies which the market won’t invest in because they know these companies are not viable.

    But the human tragedy is those thousands of people, many with families and mortgages to support, who were led to believe by politicians that these jobs were secure and who now find themselves unemployed.

  63. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    Did you ever wonder if Obama’s original plan was to fund lots of Green Tech companies that rational sensible people knew would fail, rack up an impressive string of failures, then declare that since we MUST have the Green Tech to combat global warming, the government HAS NO CHOICE but to set up a government-founded and government-funded Green Tech corporation to develop, make, and sell the Green Tech? OF COURSE the funding wold have been limited to start up money, and some more until it gets profitable, and a little bit more to get it over the occasional economic bump in the road…

    And it would eventually have been profitable, since the government can mandate anyone to use the Green Tech. They can mandate buying health insurance, they can mandate buying and using their Green Tech. And following the EPA sliding restrictions model, the required Green Tech would be to the latest standards, with the government’s Green Tech company being the only one supplying it when the standards are upgraded, which would then be tightened further whenever the free market could meet the current standards cheaper and better.

    To the cries that the federal government can’t own and manage a business like that, unless they officially go socialist/communist, don’t worry about it. I’m certain they would have left the managing and ownership-of-record to proven Green Tech leadership, like GE. Yup, GE would have bit the bullet and made the sacrifice by agreeing to purchase the majority of shares at the government’s price, with the government holding on to only about 49.99% of the remaining ones, once the necessary Executive Orders were signed and perhaps some laws were enacted, and the needed government-mandated bureaucratic mechanisms were in place.

    But then cap and trade fell through, the EPA’s reign of carbon terror may soon end after Inauguration Day 2013…

    BTW, have you seen the reports that big corporations are backing down from supporting Obama, with GE distancing itself a bit? Did you see the latest GE TV commercials, where they are touting their innovation while getting much quieter about their eco-credentials?

  64. More Soylent Green! says:

    When I was a kid, we were in competition with the USSR — We won the Space Race by putting a man on the moon. We won the Arms Race by building high-tech weapons systems the Soviets could not hope to match.

    Now we’re in the Green Energy Race with another (putative) Communist nation. The winner of this race will be the one who can shovel the most money down a black hole. Who will be the first to cry ‘uncle’ and stop p—ing away citizen’s money on utopian energy fantasies?

  65. Curiousgeorge says:

    @ Latitude says:
    April 5, 2012 at 7:07 am

    The government invests heavily in the manufacture of a product….
    …..then passes laws requiring you to buy that product

    What could possibly go wrong?………………….

    Wake up people….what do you think she meant?
    =================================================================

    We’re having a test of that as we speak. Obamacare. Even relevant to AGW/Sustainability. Hopefully it will be struck down.

  66. wiglafthegreat says:

    kbray in california, that video is also shows Stabenow who continues to stab taxpayers in the money purse and how former governor Jennifer Granholm continues to blow the Michigan taxpayer away as her legacy:

  67. wiglafthegreat says:

    btw, I work for a company that makes parts for Fisker. While the CEOs get bonuses, their suppliers continue to wait for payment for parts and tooling. Will it be like waiting for Godot?

  68. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    From Galane on April 5, 2012 at 3:38 am:

    Jay Leno’s 1909 Baker Electric is still running on its original 103 year old battery pack. He drives it from his home to the TV studio once in a while.

    That would be the old Nickel-Iron batteries made by the Edison Storage Battery Company.

    The really crazy thing is today’s trucks often get worse MPG with all their aero tricks than the 1988-1993 Peterbilt 372 cabover, which showed it was possible to get over 10 MPG from a semi truck. I’d like to see the latest aero-aids applied to one of those.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the modern semi’s were loaded down with so much more “environmental controls” they were severely impeding mileage. Those soot-belching monsters absolutely must be reigned in to the tightest emissions standards possible no matter what, right?

    The modern additive-laden low-to-no-sulfur diesel must also work wonders. I doubt those Peterbilts were burning that when they set their mileage records.

  69. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    From Robert Brown on April 5, 2012 at 7:46 am:

    Yet the pay-off for those technologies is often spectacularly huge. Consider the laser. Sure, it was done at Bell Labs — a corporate entity — but it was done with government support from beginning to end (read the acknowledgements on the original papers). Bell had no need or desire to invest its own money in the development of a technology that no one could foresee was even possible or had any given particular advantage if developed — it could make money hand over fist doing nothing (and was, it was a monolithic monopoly at that point in time).

    *ahem* Gordon Gould is now more recognized as the inventor of the laser after decades spent fighting for patents. Practically all of his research was done with private money, and while in theory ARPA supplied some to the one company he worked at, he himself wasn’t directly involved due to security restrictions at the time. Thus government support was decidedly marginal, with free market capitalism doing the yeoman’s share of development and commercialization.

  70. Larry Ledwick (hotrod) says:

    Robert Brown says:
    April 5, 2012 at 7:46 am

    I agree with your comments entirely but the issue is that there is a fundamental difference between pure research projects be they at DARPA, Bell Labs, Kodak and other large corporations.
    The successful ones you cite, were intentional open ended speculative research for its own right with just the gamble you postulated dialed into the mix. It was done quietly and methodically over sometimes decades.

    The difference is that the Solyndra like projects is they were poorly managed with no thought to commercial viability and most importantly were public show case projects that were used to suck millions of dollars of related speculative money out of the economy as scientifically unsophisticated investors scrambled to jump on the band wagon and were literally throwing money at anything and every thing that was remotely related to these show case projects.

    Granted they may in the long term (20-50 years in the future) turn out to be key steps in some other successful innovation but that will not help all the little people who lost their homes and life savings chasing an illusion.

    Much better the government offer competitive prizes like DARPA does or private prizes like the Ansari X PRIZE that morphed in the non-profit X-Prize foundation, that stimulate a thousand innovators to quietly work on the development of breakthroughs at an affordable and sustainable pace, while sustaining an infrastructure that is geared towards the long term paybacks you mention.

    Leave the greedy speculators and government boondoggle out of it, and just encourage pure, long term research. Some of that is being funded now by the Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos of the world. It would not cost NASA or DARPA, anything to periodically post worthy research goals and X-prize like awards. Modern canning of foods was founded by such a public search by Napoleon to come up with a way to preserve food for his military campaigns. The payoff was an award of 12,000 francs to be paid by Napoleon himself.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolas_Appert

    Larry

  71. Myrrh says:

    Curiousgeorge says:
    April 5, 2012 at 8:34 am
    @ Latitude says:
    April 5, 2012 at 7:07 am

    The government invests heavily in the manufacture of a product….
    …..then passes laws requiring you to buy that product

    What could possibly go wrong?………………….

    Wake up people….what do you think she meant?
    =================================================================

    We’re having a test of that as we speak. Obamacare. Even relevant to AGW/Sustainability. Hopefully it will be struck down.
    =============
    What’s going on over there? Is this for real?:

    “The IRS is no longer strictly about taxes. “Top IRS officials have been working with Democrats on Capitol Hill to determine how the agency will enforce President Obama’s new health care law. Republican lawmakers estimate the legislation will require the hiring of many thousands of new (and armed) tax enforcement agents,” Fox News reported last month. “Under the new law, the IRS is required to fine taxpayers thousands of dollars if they do not purchase health insurance. In order for the government to enforce compliance, tax authorities will need information, for the first time, about people’s health care. Collecting that data will require more IRS personnel.”

    In short, the IRS will act as an enforcer – armed to the teeth – for Obamacare, that is if it is not ruled to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in June.

    The IRS is but one component of an increasingly tyrannical and militarized federal government.

    “The Department of Homeland Security recently stoked concern by contracting a company to provide them with 450 million rounds of hollow point bullets. Now the federal agency is also purchasing bullet-proof checkpoint booths that include ‘stop and go’ lights,” writes Paul Joseph Watson today. “The purpose behind the bullet proof booths is unknown, but the DHS has publicly announced that it plans to increase the number of unannounced checkpoints manned by TSA VIPR teams and other federal agents beyond the 9,300 that were set up last year alone.”” http://www.infowars.com/bill-allows-irs-to-deny-americans-right-to-travel/

    Looks like you’re being set up for something..

  72. Curiousgeorge says:

    @ Myrrh says:
    April 5, 2012 at 2:33 pm
    …………..

    “The Department of Homeland Security recently stoked concern by contracting a company to provide them with 450 million rounds of hollow point bullets. Now the federal agency is also purchasing bullet-proof checkpoint booths that include ‘stop and go’ lights,” writes Paul Joseph Watson today. “The purpose behind the bullet proof booths is unknown, but the DHS has publicly announced that it plans to increase the number of unannounced checkpoints manned by TSA VIPR teams and other federal agents beyond the 9,300 that were set up last year alone.”” http://www.infowars.com/bill-allows-irs-to-deny-americans-right-to-travel/

    Looks like you’re being set up for something..

    Set up? Yes, I’d say so. I’ve manned checkpoints like the above you mention, although not high-tech. Just sandbags and guns – lot’s of guns. Just not in the USA. Yet.

    Set up? Absolutely. And we voted it in. BOHICA, SUCKERS!

  73. Rich says:

    I’ve been keeping my eye on A123 for some time now since I work in automotive engineering. People have been leaving the company for the past several months. It’s only a matter of time before they go the route of Solyndra.

  74. Tsk Tsk says:

    Robert Brown says:
    April 5, 2012 at 7:46 am

    It is by no means necessarily foolish for the government to invest our tax dollars in “Solyndra”s, in companies seeking to build a better battery, in seeking thermonuclear fusion, in trying to develop algae that will produce commercial quantities of biofuel out of air, water and sunlight at competitive prices, and so on.
    —————
    Investing in basic research is one thing. Investing in pilot operations to the tune of billions of dollars is quite another. You want to solve the problem of zinc-air batteries –I personally would wager more on flow batteries– then spend a little money on DARPA or ARPA-E grants to universities to fix the chemistries. Solyndra’s tubular, pun intended, arrays have no cause to claim over $500million of taxpayer money to fund a startup. Fisker automotive and A123 have no claim on additional hundreds of millions of dollars to ship products which in their current form will NEVER be cost competitive with the products they seek to replace. Adding insult to injury Fisker isn’t even going to use US labor to build its overpriced golf carts. The fundamental problem is that the Federal Government is a terrible venture capitalist but they can afford to be because they aren’t playing with their own money. For every example of a success we can find scores of failures and equally large successes that came about with absolutely no government funding at all.

    Basic research: Yes
    Federal Venture Funds, LLC: No

  75. johanna says:

    To Robert Brown and others who defend this kind of funding – do you think that Steve Jobs and his team or Bill Gates and his team were paid hundreds of thousands a year when their businesses were not even producing anything? Or, if they were, were losing money, breaking even or perhaps making tiny profits?

    This has nothing to do with true entrepreneurship, and everything to do with a few individuals walking away with large amounts of taxpayer money, no care, no responsibility.

    No-one seems to be held accountable for these boondoggles. When was the last time someone was sent to jail for these thefts? The answer is – never.

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