US Senator Carl Levin says the federal government needs to invest in renewable energy companies, even if those investments sometimes go bad. Levin made the remarks during a visit to Grand Rapids Community College today.
Last week the lithium-ion battery maker A123 Systems filed for bankruptcy. The company got a multi-million dollar grant from the federal government as part of the federal recovery act. Another battery maker that got a similar grant, LG Chem, has its employees on furlough at its plant in Holland, Michigan. Johnson Controls, which got a grant of its own for battery manufacturing, has agreed to buy A123 System’s battery business.
Still, Senator Levin (D-Michigan) says the government must offer these kinds of subsidies.
“That involves picking winners and losers at an early stage and that’s always subject to criticism when you lose; when you make the wrong bet. But we better do it,” Levin warned.
He says if the federal government didn’t invest in renewable energy technologies it would hurt the economy, national security (in part because of dependence on imported oil) and the earth’s climate.
“There is no way the private sector is going to take huge risks at the early part of research and development. It can’t do it,” Levin said. He says companies can’t take those risks because they have a responsibility to their stockholders.
Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) made a very similar case for subsidies last week.