Our tax dollars at work… a half-billion dollar loan (actually $529 million) from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a hybrid toy for the wealthy and/or celebri-licious (like Leonardo DiCaprio, one of the first customers) that, in real world driving, won’t get much better mileage than your average crossover utility vehicle. Not only that, but the cars are manufactured in Finland — that’s right, Finland – and shipped here for sale, where their purchasers will then receive a $7,500 tax credit for buying one (the “cheap” base model starts at $96,895, with the full-zoot Eco Chic model going for a bargain $108,900).
I generally try to keep this blog pretty much clear of politics. But I’ll make an exception for this. Staring out the windows of my lunch room this afternoon, I saw something intriguing enough to get me to scarf down my lunch and get myself out into a gray, drizzly afternoon to check it out. Across the street from my building, a very large automotive transport truck with a fully enclosed trailer unloaded four cars of a type I had never seen before. They looked somewhat like big, four-door Chevy Corvettes, with voluptuous curves leading to a sleek rear end. People on the sidewalk next to the cars crowded around them and took photos with their camera phones.
I headed downstairs to see what the heck the cars were. I thought they might be one of the new four-door luxury electric models from either Tesla or Fisker, which I’d read about but hadn’t yet seen pictures of. What threw me, though, was spotting a round gas tank door on the rear driver’s side flank, plus dual exhausts. Not electric, I thought. By the time I got downstairs and across the street, the cars had been moved a block away, to the front of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, a luxury hotel in Southwest Washington, DC. I spotted the driver of the auto transport rig and asked him what he’d been hauling. He said four of the brand-new Fisker Karma performance hybrid sedans. Oh, gas-electric hybrids, I thought; that explains the gas tank and the exhausts. He said he’d had the devil of a time getting into this corner of Southwest Washington. Most of the city’s highways had been off-limits to his giant truck, and then he had found several local streets blocked by Occupy DC protests taking place at MacPherson Square, our local version of Occupy Wall Street. He said this was Fisker’s big roll-out. The head of the company, Mr. Fisker himself, was present at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel to do a press conference.
I walked over to the front of the hotel to get a look at the cars. Pretty damned nice, I’ll certainly admit, with a sleek roof lined with solar panels that, according to the company’s claims, give up to five additional miles per week of all-electric driving. While I was standing there admiring the four identical silver cars’ lines, a cabby exited his ratty old Crown Victoria and wandered over next to me, a look of rapt admiration on his face. “Nice, but it’s not for the likes of you and me,” I said. He nodded a little sadly, circled the cars, then returned to his cab.
I recalled reading that the Federal government had become a major financial partner in Fisker Automotive. That would explain the official rollout taking place in Washington. When I got back to my computer, I looked up the specifics. We the taxpayers are on the hook for more than half a billion dollars, about the same amount that got loaned to Solyndra, another “green manufacturer,” before they went bankrupt. At least Solyndra was manufacturing their products in this country, providing American manufacturing jobs (if short-lived jobs), and making a product that average Americans could conceivably afford. Fisker is manufacturing these gorgeous Leonardo DiCaprio toys in Finland. And the kicker, for those of you who would still claim that the risk of half a billion tax dollars is justified by environmental gains… contrary to the company’s initial hype, the Karma will only run for thirty-two miles on its electric motors before its turbocharged gasoline engine needs to kick in (as opposed to the initial estimate of fifty miles). Once that occurs, the Karma gets about the same mileage as a Ford Explorer. Not the new Explorer, even. The older, gas-hog, body-on-frame model. We’re talking twenty miles per gallon, folks. So much for your “green investment.”
Those Occupy Wall Street-types in their tents at MacPherson Square? If they really, truly are bugged by corporate welfare, they need to schlep their signs and their chants and their anger over to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Right now. Because the Fisker Karma is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to corporate welfare.
I have no problem with a group of entrepreneurs raising money from private investors to build a hundred thousand dollar toy for rich folks who want to flaunt their eco-consciousness. When and if that’s the case, may they have all the mazel in the world. But damn, it steams me up when my family and every family in America are forced to pay for it.
Al Gore is on the list of customers waiting to receive their Fisker Karmas, having put in his order before the DOE signed off on the company’s half-billion dollar loan. Oh, and by the way, it just so happens that several major investors in the company are also major donors to the Democratic Party. And here’s information on John Doerr, an advisor to President Obama who is also a major investor in Fisker Automotive. Can you say, “crony capitalism?”
Update: The analysts at Green Car Reports, “the ultimate guide to cleaner, greener driving,” worry that the Fisker Karma may discredit the entire Department of Energy loan program. Given that, in a comparison of EPA mileage ratings between the two “American made” (scare quotes present due to the Karma being manufactured in Finland, with its electric motors and batteries being sourced from China) plug-in hybrids now on the market, the Chevrolet Volt and the Fisker Karma, the Volt is “rated at 94 MPGe in electric mode, and 37 mpg on gasoline, with an electric range of 35 miles,” whereas the Karma is rated at “54 MPGe in electric mode; 20 mpg in range-extended mode,” with an electric range of just 32 miles, they may well be right to worry. Oh, and Fisker conveniently left out that little detail about “20 mpg in range-extended mode” in their press releases sent out in the last few days. Details are for the little people, don’t you know…
Update #2: Howdy to all you Instapundit readers! Hope you enjoy your visit. And if you happen to enjoy science fiction with a Libertarian outlook, you may want to check out my third novel, The Good Humor Man, or, Calorie 3501. It’s just been reissued by Tachyon Publications as a Kindle ebook.