President-elect Joe Biden is set to appoint former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to lead the U.S. Department of Energy. That’s a foolish decision that should frighten every American taxpayer. A big part of her job will be to dole out taxpayer dollars to “green” companies and industries favored by the Biden administration — a strategy she deployed in Michigan, but with little to show for it.
When Granholm was governor, she directed hundreds of millions of dollars to politically favored companies in the hopes of creating “green” jobs. She famously promised Michiganders, “In five years, you’re going to be blown away.”
That prediction came true in a way: Michigan taxpayers were shocked at how spectacularly the effort failed. Her key subsidy program, the Michigan Economic Growth Authority, approved billions of dollars in tax credits for 434 projects. A Mackinac Center analysis found that only 10, or 2.3%, of those projects were successful in meeting their job creation promises. Despite the lack of success in creating jobs, the deals she made still cost Michigan taxpayers today billions even though she left office a decade ago.
Granholm’s many massive failures
The list of failures is long and includes:
► A123 Systems: This Ann Arbor electric car battery manufacturer was heavily touted by Granholm and then-president Obama, with promises of hundreds and thousands of jobs. Despite receiving hundreds of millions of state and federal dollars, A123 went bankrupt and has abandoned manufacturing batteries in Michigan.
► LG Chem: The state offered $125 million to this company in an effort to make Michigan “the world capital for advanced batteries.” But the demand for advanced batteries wasn’t there, and with nothing productive to do, workers were discovered watching movies and playing games. They remained on the payroll so the company could continue to qualify for federal grant money. After reshuffling, the plant got back up and running and today is in production with hundreds working. But during the Graholm era, which promised hundreds of jobs in a few years, the company was praised in nine press releases while producing zero batteries.
► Other battery company failures: Granholm said Michigan would see “up to 40,000 great new (battery) jobs by 2020.” It’s 2020, and none of the battery companies met their job projections with several going through bankruptcy, and Michigan has fewer than 5% of the promised battery manufacturing jobs.
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► Mascoma: The Upper Peninsula project was supposed to convert biomass into ethanol. Instead, it turned tax dollars into nothing. The Granholm administration awarded it a $20 million grant and the federal energy department approved up to $100 million. The company’s intellectual property was sold off and the plant was never built.
► Wixom: The shuttered Ford plant was supposed to get new life as a $725 million renewable energy park. Granholm said it would be “symbolic for Michigan in what we’re going to become.” Let’s hope not. The state approved a $100 million credit for a promised 4,000 news jobs. The energy park idea was scrapped two years later and the land was repurposed for another, more successful, project.
► Solar sore spots: Touting taxpayer investments in solar energy companies, Granholm said “Michigan would lead the green revolution.” The $250 million Saginaw-area project from Suniva pledged 500 jobs, but they didn’t materialize. United Solar Ovonics cashed in on state and federal subsidies with a pledge of more than 1,000 jobs; its parts were sold off in 2012. Evergreen Solar went bankrupt. GlobalWatt, approved for $42 million, also shut down.
Michiganders are still paying for Granholm’s failures
► RASCO: Perhaps the greatest embarrassment of the Granholm era was the “RASCO fiasco.” The governor appeared at a press conference with Richard Short to promote $9 million in tax credits to create jobs in Flint through his “cutting-edge” company. One problem: Short’s parole officer saw the press conference and alerted the state that he was a convicted embezzler with a “history of scams.” He was living in a borrowed trailer when he was approved for state tax credits. Short ultimately went back to prison.
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This is the record of the “green leader” who Biden has tapped to head the U.S. Department of Energy. Michigan taxpayers are still paying for the billions of dollars she wasted during her time in office. Picking and choosing economic winners wasn’t as easy as she thought, and Michigan taxpayers were the biggest losers.
Now Jennifer Granholm is set to bring her record to the national stage. She’ll try to make good on Biden’s promise to “accelerat[e] cutting-edge technologies” in the “green” space. With her at the helm, you can expect the Biden administration to repeat Michigan’s corporate welfare failure, but on a much grander and costlier scale.
Jarrett Skorup the director of marketing and communications at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, based in Midland, Michigan.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden’s mistake: Jennifer Granholm is a bad pick to lead energy department
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