Sunday, June 17, 2012

Absolutely Nothing To Do With The Bakken -- A123 Batteries -- A Mystery -- For the Bakken, Skip and Scroll


November 23, 2013: A123 is now B456, owned by the Chinese

Original Post

This story was on CBS Nightly News tonight -- Don alerted me to the story.

The story has to do with A123 -- a battery company located just "down the street" from where I'm staying. I've followed this story / this company for a very long time for many, many reasons.

For two earlier updates regarding A123, click here and here.

There are so many story lines, but the best I will save for last.

Story lines:
  • It shows just how challenging this battery "stuff" really is. No breakthroughs despite many companies and many billions spent. Steve Jobs of Apple Corp (the computer company) once said his biggest challenge for the company was a better battery. (There is a company in Belmont, MA, that is working on a new battery; they may be closer to a breakthrough.)
  • This is yet another company that received millions in stimulus money from the administration and has nothing to show for it.
  • I had read the company's press release a couple weeks ago about a new battery. I did not know what to make of the announcement. According to the linked CBS story: "many analysts seemed underwhelmed."
  • A123 is a battery company, so in light of the battery breakthrough announcement, this last paragraph in the story is very strange:
A123 isn't giving up. It still has more than 100 million federal stimulus tax dollars left to spend. Recently the company said it will hire 400 people -- not to build batteries for electric cars, but for power grids.
If the breakthrough was that big a deal, why wouldn't they be using the 100 million federal stimulus tax dollars and 400 new employees to press forward on this new technology?

That is a huge  story. In fact, some folks might think that is the big story, that the company, despite a breakthrough in battery technology, is moving into a new endeavor: "power grids."

Nope, this is the bigger story, and it starts earlier in the linked article:
The road wasn't always so bumpy. When President Obama announced 90-billion stimulus tax dollars for green energy, A123 stepped up for a slice of the pie. It spent $1 million lobbying Congress and federal agencies, and won 249 million in stimulus dollars.

When an A123 plant opened in Michigan in 2010, the company even got a call from President Obama. "I'm calling to congratulate A123 Systems on this tremendous milestone," he said.

Herrera was among 1,000 workers who landed jobs at A123.

But one month after that interview, A123 laid off 125 employees.

Then the luxury electric car Fisker Karma failed. It was powered by a faulty A123 battery. "It's low, it's sleek, it's sensuous... it's also broken! " said Consumer Reports.

Electric vehicles fall drastically short of Obama's 1 million goal
All of that was in the CBS transcript including that last link. 

[Note: CBS did not note that Fisker was a recipient of federal stimulus money also; if I remember correctly, the Fisker was going to be built overseas. But I digress.]

Finally: here's the big story -- CBS Nightly New has very limited time to present the news; the producer must be very, very selective in what he/she decides to air. The question is, and the big story is, why would CBS, a huge supporter of the president and liberal causes, air a story on another administration failure jut months before the election? In the big scheme of things, it's a pretty uninteresting story for the average viewer.  I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why CBS would air this story.

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