South Dakota Senator Aims to Eliminate Loan Program for Fuel-Efficient Autos
September 19, 2013 10:55 AM
comment(s) - last by
This is the same program that funded Fisker Automotive
South Dakota's Republican senator wants to terminate
the federal loan program
that gave millions of dollars to
-- an automaker that has failed to produce a car in over a year and is now missing loan payments to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
The Detroit News
, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) wants to get rid of the $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program due to failures like Fisker Automotive wasting taxpayer money. He has already proposed an amendment that would “permanently end the ATVM program and save taxpayers from paying for more of President Obama’s bad green-energy bets.”
Thune's amendment comes after the DOE said it would auction off Fisker Automotive's $168 million unpaid loan earlier this week. DOE plans to launch the auction in early October.
Fisker Automotive is an auto startup that received $529 million in
back in April 2010. However, Fisker fell a little behind on its production schedule, and in May 2011,
DOE froze the loans due to "unmet milestones."
Fisker had only drawn $193 million of it at that point. It hasn't been able to build a car since July 2012, and started looking for a buyer so it doesn't have to claim bankruptcy.
But Fisker isn't the only auto company that failed after receiving money from the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program. Vehicle Production Group LLC -- which is a Michigan-based startup building wheelchair-accessible compressed natural gas vehicles -- was awarded $50 million in loans back in March 2011, but has since halted production.
Senator John Thune
DOE sold its unpaid $50 million loan for Vehicle Production Group LLC to AM General for $3 million earlier this month. According to The Detroit News, taxpayers lost about $42 million on that sale.
The Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program was created by Congress in 2007 in an effort to reach the goal of 1 million EVs on U.S. roads by 2015, but the program hasn't made a new loan since March 2011. This is mainly due to the fact that two of the five companies (Fisker and Vehicle Production Group) that received government loans stopped production.
The Obama administration received a lot of flak for these failures, but the program wasn't all bad. The other three loans -- $5.9 billion to Ford, $1.4 billion to Nissan and $465 million to EV startup Tesla Motors -- proved to be successful. Tesla even managed to pay its full sum back
nine years early
, which was a great feat for a startup.
U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said last month that the Obama administration is interested in
reviving the $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program
. He noted that it plans to draw a new round of loan requests (but is not actively considering any applications for retooling loans) and reexamine its lending criteria in order to avoid problems it encountered in the past.
The Detroit News
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RE: Bad Loans
9/19/2013 2:42:04 PM
I am unaware of any land seizure, although I would not be surprised. It would also be valid, falling under eminent domain, since it would benefit the nation as a whole. The only requirement would be compensation for the land owner. The subsidies were, in fact, government bonds, not taxes. This means private companies and individuals bought them and helped fund the railroads. The government would later pay back the bond owners, and this was a common practice for more than just railroads.
And it made plenty of sense to support commerce on the west coast; you forget about the gold rush, and all of the construction that surrounded it. The gold rush alone had a global impact.
The origin of the Internet was not the same as the railroads. There was no commercial intention for the Internet. It was purely for academic and research purposes, and the public could not access it. Commercial, public access to the Internet began with private companies and private funds.
As to NYC drivers, there aren't that many. There simply isn't enough space for cars. Most of the drivers come from out of state or upstate, and they park in overpriced garages. The bulk of the cars in NYC are taxis or delivery trucks. Clearly, you don't live here.
RE: Bad Loans
9/19/2013 3:29:53 PM
1) The transcontinental railroad was built a decade after the California gold rush, it was long over and the economy had cratered at that point. Building it to 'service the gold rush' was not a concern. It was a purely speculative endeavor, and one that ended off paying very well.
2) At the time the west coast did just fine by shipping. The railroad certainly made things cheaper, but private industry had already built a sustainable economy without it. Many of the arguments I see against EV investment are that private industry needs to be the only driver of it, that government foresight has no place in it. The same could have been said about the TR.
3) The internet was built for multiple purposes, but many people back then saw long term potential commercially. Read interviews with many of the founding developers and engineers, or simply read how Xerox viewed its potential. In the 60's and 70's lots of people involved realized and even planned for a commercial future.
And finally, I do get your point about NYC. My point is that the reason why there can be so few roads is because of the MTA. Without it, NYC would have to spend a fortune building and maintaining roads. So a small investment in the MTA saves the nation a huge investment in NYC infrastructure. Its a smart way to spend the money.
RE: Bad Loans
9/19/2013 5:10:19 PM
1) The Gold Rush officially ended in 1855, but the effects were permanent (as of the time of this post, anyway; Lex Luthor might still want to blow up the west coast with nukes to create Otisburg). San Francisco went from a village or town of a few hundred to a city of thousands in just five years. California gained 300,000 new residents and became the 31st state. People flocked from all over the world, either to mine for gold, or support those who were.
The economy did not crater. It simply became impossible for individual immigrants or emigrants to mine for gold because all of the land was taken. Only large organizations could profit from gold since they owned the mines. But the economy thrived independent of gold. Agriculture and a short oil boom helped grow the economy further.
The railroad was built in response to the clearly established community, created by the Gold Rush. The railroad took six years to build, from 1863-1869, and was preceded by surveys that began in 1853. The Gold Rush was officially over, but California had established itself as an economic center.
2) I'm not sure what you mean by "did just fine by shipping". The only direct route to the west coast was to walk or ride a wagon, both of which were dangerous due to the desert and Native Americans. Shipping from east to west meant loading a boat, sending it to Colon, Panama, unloading, loading onto a train, sending it to the Port of Balboa, unloading, loading onto a boat, then sending it to San Francisco. It was time consuming and expensive when compared to a train that just went east to west.
3) The government never intended for the Internet to be commercial. It certainly didn't prevent a commercial internet, but read the acceptable use policies for NSFNET, ARPANET, etc... The individual techs may have thought of commercial uses, but the Federal Government, the financial sponsor, did not.
4) You still don't get it. New York City has plenty of roads. It's just that the place is so densely populated that it is impossible to create enough roads to support enough drivers to pay for them. The MTA was not created to reduce road creation and maintenance; it was created because without mass transit NYC simply would not function. It's not a small investment, either, and I still don't see why the entire United States is forced to pay for one city's infrastructure, trains, roads, or otherwise.
"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet. A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis
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