Taxpayers are on the hook for a multi-million-dollar tab after a U.S. Department of Energy gamble on a green automaker went into the red.
The Obama administration announced Friday it will lose $139 million on a loan to struggling electric car maker Fisker Automotive Inc. after selling part of the loan to a private investor that immediately took the company into bankruptcy.
The transaction brings to an end another effort by the Obama administration to use public funds to stimulate green initiatives. Awarded a $529 million loan guarantee by the administration in 2009 to produce the Karma, a $103,000 luxury hybrid car, Fisker failed to meet DOE benchmarks, causing it to lose its loan guarantee two years later. The company drew down on $192 million before its federal funding was pulled, and the Obama administration seized $21 million from the company in April to help repay taxpayers.
Hybrid Technology LLC, the California car marker's new owner, said it plans to keep Fisker operating after it emerges from bankruptcy.
The government lost $528 million in the Solyndra collapse, triggering sharp Republican criticism of the loan program and President Barack Obama's investments in green energy.
“Fisker's collapse closes yet another sad chapter in DOE's troubled portfolio. The jobs that were promised never materialized and, once again, taxpayers are on the hook for the administration’s reckless gamble,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Pa., and House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy, R-Pa., said in a joint statement.
Fisker backers were heavily involved in lobbying the Obama administration and Congress on green energy programs, The Daily Caller reported. The venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers -- where Al Gore is a partner -- was a seed investor in Fisker and spent $400,000 in 2009 and 2010 on lobbying. The firm helped push for the stimulus bill that handed out $90 billion in green energy programs.
The department's actions, along with the sale, mean the Energy Department has protected nearly three-quarters of its original commitment to Fisker, Energy spokesman Bill Gibbons said Friday.
"While this result is not what anyone hoped, the ($139 million loss) represents less than 2 percent of our advanced vehicle loans, and less than one-half of 1 percent of our overall loan program portfolio" of more than $30 billion, Gibbons said.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., vice chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, called that small solace.
"Once again, American taxpayers are losing out to foreign investors due to the Obama administration's failed green energy policies," Blackburn said. "Time after time this administration has fumbled the ball with their attempts to pick winners and losers when it comes to American energy."
In September, the Energy Department lost about $42 million on a loan to a shuttered Michigan company that made vans for the disabled. Vehicle Production Group, or VPG, suspended operations in February and laid off 100 workers. The company has said it plans to continue production of the wheelchair-accessible vans, which are powered by natural gas, at its Indiana plant.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.