Though it has been criticized by those who oppose government financing of business, in part because of the failure of Fisker, one of the recipients of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program, the DoE has announced that it will resume marketing the ATVM to industry and possible applicants. About 60% of the $25 billion that Congress allocated to the program still remains. No loans have been made since 2011.
“With no sunset date and more than $15 billion in remaining authority, the program plans to conduct an active outreach campaign to educate industry associations and potential applicants about the substantial remaining funds available and the application process in general,” a Dept. of Energy spokeswoman said.
Demand for the low interest loans may not be as high as it was when the program began disbursing funds in 2009, following the financial crisis which tightened credit and made it difficult for alternative energy firms, many of them startups, to find financing. Now that private capital is available at low interest rates, businesses may opt for private rather than public funding.
Some of the criticism of the ATVM program was due to the failure of other, unrelated, government loan programs, like the hundreds of millions of dollars loaned to Solyndra, but the ATVM program itself approved only five loans, the Ford, Nissan, Tesla, Fisker and mobility van maker Vehicle Production Group. Fisker and VPG were not successful, but Tesla has repaid their loan and Ford and Nissan are currently profitable and paying down their ATVM loans.
Analysts say that because of the political controversy involved, if any loans are extended, they will be to applicants looking for supplemental funding, not a main source of capital.
The DoE announcement was greeted with criticism by South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune. “From Solyndra to Fisker, taxpayers have already paid too much for President Obama’s risky green energy bets. Now is not the time to revive defunct Department of Energy loan programs that have already wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.”
Though the ATVM program began loaning money in 2009, the program was created in 2008 by the administration of George W. Bush with the support of congressional Republicans.