Obama's Green-Car Gambit the Latest Stimulus Failure

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is one of my absolute favorite holiday movies. Rare is the Christmas movie that is funny without being childish and sentimental without being saccharine.

In one of my favorite scenes, Clark, who wants nothing more than to have an old fashioned family Christmas, finally gets the piece of mail he’s been literally going crazy over. It was supposed to be his year-end bonus, the money he desperately needed to afford the down-payment for a pool he had already made.

Instead of a check, Clark opens the envelope to find that it’s a membership to the Jelly of the Month Club. The room goes quiet, except that is for cousin Eddie, who happens to have the intelligence of a box of tinsel, who says “Clark, that’s the gift that keeps on giving throughout the entire year.”

That scene pretty much sums up Obama’s green energy program.

Obama was absolutely convinced that he could predict the future of the energy market. Based on that prediction Obama spent tens of billions of taxpayer dollars in support of certain green energy technologies. And he promised big things. We would finally reduce our dependence on foreign oil. We would “create five million ‘green’ jobs.” And our investments would lead to “the birth of an entire industry in America, an industry that’s going to be central to the next generation of cars.”

But just as Clark didn’t get the bonus he was expecting, Obama’s investments have been left the equivalent of a Jelly of the Month Club. Company after company has failed to live up to jobs predictions or gone belly up altogether. They are truly the gift that keeps on taking.

Although solar-panel maker Solyndra is by far the biggest Obama green energy flop, the Washington Post reports trouble in a new sector – green-energy cars.

“The Obama administration has poured roughly $5 billion in taxpayer funds into the electric-car industry, offering incentives to manufacturers, their suppliers and even car buyers who might want to go green.

But analysts say the risk is rising that taxpayers in many cases will not see a return on their money soon, if ever. Instead, they warn that some federally subsidized companies could be forced to shut down in the coming months.”

Among the problem companies are A123 Systems, a battery maker that received $380 million. The company has lost an astounding $412.3 million and recently announced massive layoffs. Another is battery maker EnerDel, a recipient of a $118 million federal grant, that suffered a quarterly loss of $84.7 million and whose stock now trades at just 27 cents. Investors Business Journal reports that, “Ener1 realized last year that its business wouldn’t survive on selling to the electric car market, and it has shifted its emphasis to electric utilities.”

Electric car manufacturer Fisker automotive was given a $529 million loan guarantee but recently announced that it would be assembling its cars in Finland, saying it could not find a facility in the United States capable of doing the work. Navistar, which received a $39.2 million in grants, has only sold 100 trucks since beginning and many of its dealerships have closed.

Even large, established carmakers aren’t doing well in the electric market. General Motor’s just announced that its Chevy Volt is 3,800 cars short of its goal of selling 10,000 electric vehicles this year. The Volt is also under investigation because its batteries caught on fire after government crash tests.

And more problems will likely surface. According to a report by consulting firm Roland Berger, “capacity in 2015 will reach 200% of demand,” leading them to conclude that only 6 to 8 electric battery manufacturers will survive. For comparison, the Obama Administration has given loan guarantees or grants to 48.

The American people were promised a backyard swimming pool, but all we got was a one-year subscription to the Jelly of the Month Club. Actually, we would have preferred that to the utter waste of this green energy gambit. If nothing else, it would have been cheaper.