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Published on April 26th, 2013 | by Guest Contributor


Issa No Longer Into ‘Sperm-Shaped’ Electric Car He Pushed For?

April 26th, 2013 by  

This article originally appeared on Think Progress.
By Ryan Koronowski

Aptera1In a contentious hearing yesterday, the House GOP members of the House Oversight Committee aggressively questioned Fisker Automotive executives and an Energy Department staffer about a loan Fisker received from the Energy Department.

The attacks were reminiscent of those made in hearings on Solyndra and were more of a reflection of the committee’s hyperpartisan agenda than any real oversight duty. It also suggested some hypocrisy as GOP lawmakers attacked the Energy Department for “picking winners and losers” in a loan program that they themselves had sought to exploit for their own “winners.”

Fisker received the $529 million loan through the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program (ATVM), which began under President Bush. In fact in 2008, the Bush Administration urged Fisker to apply for a loan. The company raised more than $1 billion in outside financing. Fisker had received $192 million of the federal loan when the Department of Energy suspended the loan in June 2011. Since then, the government seized $21 million back from Fisker as a partial loan repayment. For context, the larger Energy Department clean energy loan program has leveraged more than $55 billion in total economic investment in 33 projects.

Who is to blame for this loss? Fisker met the conditions of the contract when it was made, and so the Energy Department had to follow the contract’s terms. If bankers could foreclose on a mortgage just because they heard the homeowner got a bad employment review, most would be outraged. As long as the homeowner met the terms of the loan, the bank is not allowed to foreclose. Risk exists in the market.

DoE invested in fast-growing electric car company Tesla Motors (as well as Ford and Nissan North America). Tesla is paying back its loan early, employs nearly 3000 workers, recently turned a profit, and its stock price recently hit an all-time high. Though it is possible that they lost money on Fisker, they helped to create a successful new company, and strengthen two others.

At the hearing Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the full committee, made an extended appearance at this subcommittee hearing to lambaste Henrik Fisker (the company’s former chairman), Bernhard Koehler (Fisker’s COO), and Nicholas Whitcombe from the Energy Department’s Loan Program Office. Issa was joined by Rep. Jim Jordan and other Republican members who each attacked the program as an example of centralized planning, crony capitalism, and a reason why the government should not be getting into the venture capital game.

In fact, as CAP has reported, many GOP critics of the loan program have themselves requested money for their own favorite projects. Rep. Jordan, who attacked the Department of Energy for picking winners and losers himself requested money for a company’s proposed project in his district called Global Energy.

Issa himself acknowledged one thing during the hearing that may have slipped by most observers: He tried, and failed, to get a loan guarantee for a company called Aptera Motors. Based in Issa’s district, Aptera had designed a three-wheeled electric car. The company failed and has since been purchased by a Chinese-American partnership, but there may have been more fundamental issues with the company’s business plan as Wired reported in 2011:

Southern California electric vehicle startup Aptera Motors is out of time, out of money and out of luck. It announced today that it is shutting its doors, liquidating its assets and laying off its staff…. The truth is, Aptera always faced long odds and has been in trouble for at least two years. The audience for a sperm-shaped, three-wheeled, electric two-seater was never anything but small.

Design issues aside, when Issa was flacking it, Aptera had other concerns. Initially, three-wheeled cars were ineligible for DoE loans. But Rep. Issa and Rep. Brian Bilbray got the law changed so that the car would be eligible. The company also received funding from one of Issa’s campaign donors, and the firm’s CFO paid a $40,000 fine to the SEC for an accounting fraud charge from her time working at Delphi. All of this did not stop Issa from sending a letter to Energy Secretary Chu requesting a loan (reported to be $150 million) for the company through the ATVM loan program.

Issa has complained about delays in the loan guarantee program, but with funding requests like this to parse through, a rigorous process is an asset to taxpayers. To date, Issa’s Oversight Committee has not held a hearing to investigate congressional support for projects such as these.

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  • agelbert

    The Energy Department has credibility; Issa and most members of the “corporate owned” Congress don’t, PERIOD.

    We have the technology for a House of Representatives with one Rep for every 30,000 to 60,000 population like in the original Constitution. When the cork of 436 was placed on the max rep count at the beginning of the 20th century, we lost our democracy to the corporate power of money. If we had 10,000 Representatives working from their home districts 24/7 electronically instead of being wined and dined in D.C., we would (since now minorities and native Americans can vote – unlike in 1800), have for the first time, a government of the people and by the people. AND 10,000 Representatives is an awful lot of people to bribe, threaten or blackmail. Just sayin’

    One Rep per 600,000 population is NOT a Democracy or a Representative Republic, FOR THAT MATTER. :>(

  • Mohan Raj

    Creatures on land have
    2 legs (Humans, Apes, Kangaroos)
    4 legs (Cats, Dogs, Horses)
    6 legs (Insects)
    8 legs (Spiders)

    In the same way, our vehicles also has 2 wheels, 4 wheels, 6 wheels and more. So why the 3 wheeled vehicles, even though few vehicles in developing countries have 3 wheels, they are used only in cities.

    So please don’t design and try to sell any 3-wheelers.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Kangaroos have kind of a three wheel thing going.

      They move pretty danged well….

      • agelbert

        Kangaroos are cool. :>)

    • Conrad Clement

      Creatures on land have no wheels!

      Wheels are replacing the reciprocating kinematics of legs needing at least a pair of legs.

      The wheel is a purely human invention nature has failed to produce, whereby the most dramatic break-through was in aviation by replacing the limited-rotation wing joint of birds by an unlimited-rotation bearing to make the pair of wings into a propeller — and yes, a one-bladed propeller or helicopter rotor works perfectly!

      Moreover, three-wheeled cars are extremely lightweight constructions thanks to the absence of torsional constraints on the mainframe.

      And the only eligible substitute to the motorcar to date is a three-wheeled giro (which will become definitely eligible once it is updated to full VERTOL capacity, i.e. to helicopter technology).


  • Ross

    Issa isa dick.

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