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EDITORIAL: Energy’s bad charges

Green energy grants stimulate video games and card playing

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The White House insists investments in renewable-energy technologies will pay off with a strong middle class. As President Obama declared in last week's State of the Union, increasing government spending on solar panels will "drive down costs even further" and kick off an explosion in the green jobs of the future.

The only explosions heard at the Michigan factory that was supposed to be producing electric car batteries came from the employees who have been playing video games like "Call of Duty" at taxpayer expense. That's according to a Feb. 8 report by the Energy Department's inspector general that confirmed game playing and movie watching was used to pass the time at the LG Chem plant in Holland, Mich. The Obama administration poured a $142 million stimulus grant into the company to subsidize battery production for the Chevy Volt, the hybrid-electric darling of government bureaucrats.

The public, however, hasn't warmed up to the idea of paying $40,000 for a glorified golf cart. According to testing done by Car and Driver magazine, the Volt does save $8,089 in fuel costs over the course of 100,000 miles, but the car costs $23,000 more than its gasoline-powered twin, the Chevy Cruze. Only a bureaucrat could possibly find that to be a good deal.

With no consumer interest in the Volt, and thus no interest in LG's batteries, plant employees found themselves with plenty of idle time on their hands. The company responded by refunding $842,189, which was the exact value of the bogus time claims. As the inspector general pointed out, "the audit surfaced issues relating to the management of this grant which transcend the reimbursed amount in importance."

The Energy Department was all too happy to dole out taxpayer cash without checking up on how it was spent. That's the problem with Uncle Sam playing the role of venture capitalist, deciding winners and losers in the technology arena.

All of Mr. Obama's dreams of a green economy are propped up by government grants, loans and subsidies of this sort. As soon as the cash runs dry, the jobs will disappear. It's time for the administration to stop playing games on the taxpayer's dime and end the green crony capitalism.

The Washington Times

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