Another green energy bankruptcy gives Romney fodder for debate

Despite winning 249 million in stimulus dollars, A123 experienced two battery recalls, slow demands and layoffs.
CBS News

A123 Systems Inc. announced today, ahead of the second presidential debate, that it's the latest recipient of stimulus funds to file for bankruptcy, giving Mitt Romney more fodder to slam the president's clean energy investments.

"At the town hall debate four years ago, then-Senator Obama promised to 'easily' create five million green jobs," Romney campaign spokesperson Andrea Saul said in a statement today. "A123's bankruptcy is yet another failure for the president's disastrous strategy of gambling away billions of taxpayer dollars on a strategy of government-led growth that simply does not work."

After the Obama administration committed $90 billion in stimulus funding for clean energy, the electric car battery maker A123 received a $249.1 million federal grant. The company used its stimulus funding to open two plants in Michigan, spurring President Obama in 2010 to call A123 and congratulate it on its "tremendous milestone." The new funding enabled the company to hire 1,000 workers, but 125 were laid off soon after. Then, after producing a faulty battery it supplied to Fisker Automotive Inc., A123 was forced to launch an expensive recall.

Fisker itself received a $528.7 million loan from the Energy Department to produce high-end electric cars. The company, however, has had successive rounds of layoffs, spurring the DOE cut off part of the loan. Fisker sold no cars in 2011 and only 5000 in 2012, though the White House had predicted the company to sell 6,000 in those two years.

In the first presidential debate on Oct. 3, Romney specifically called out Mr. Obama for supporting failing companies like Fisker.

"You put $90 billion... into solar and wind, to Solyndra and Fisker and Tester and Ener1," Romney said. "I mean, I had a friend who said you don't just pick the winners and losers, you pick the losers, all right? So this -- this is not -- this is not the kind of policy you want to have if you want to get America energy secure."

The Obama campaign today pointed out that A123's assets will be acquired by Johnson Controls, meaning American workers could keep their jobs. "Our interest in A123 Systems is consistent with our long-term growth strategies and overall commitment to the development of the advanced battery industry," Alex Molinaroli, president of Johnson Controls, said in A123's press release today announcing the bankruptcy.