There were few surprises at Thursday’s House hearing on failing carmaker Fisker Automotive. The title of the hearing, Green Energy Oversight: Examining the Department of Energy’s Bad Bet on Fisker Automotive, made it clear up front that Fisker and its DOE champions were in for a roasting.
Five witnesses testified, including company co-founder Henrik Fisker, current COO Bernhard Koehler, and Nicholas Whitcombe of the DOE Loan Programs Office.
Amid all the political posturing, it may be easy to forget that the mandate of the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform is not to judge the wisdom of investing in electric mobility, but to expose government waste and mismanagement – and it seems clear that some of that was indeed going on. Republican committee members pointed to evidence that the DOE failed to realize that Fisker was not meeting required milestones in its loan agreement, and acted too late when it froze Fisker’s loan in June 2011.
Some of the Democrats on the committee tried to come to the DOE’s defense, pointing out that Fisker received only 2.3 percent of the total funds awarded under the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program. Fisker received a total of $192 million, and the DOE recently recovered $21 million. Koehler claims that Fisker still plans to pay everything back, and that there is a lot of value left in the company – he said that design and engineering work for its second vehicle, the Atlantic, is “almost complete.”
In case there were any doubts about the political nature of the hearing, several committee members made it clear in their public comments. Representative Darryl Issa (R-CA), said, “Mitt Romney, the day he left graduate school, would not have made the mistake” of loaning Fisker more money. Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) invoked a trio of liberal bogeymen, saying “Taxpayers effectively subsidized luxury, novelty vehicles for the likes of Justin Bieber, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Al Gore.”
On the other side of the aisle, Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA) compared the hearings to “a Soviet show trial.”
Sources: Green Car Reports, AutoBlog Green