Friday, April 27, 2012

And on, and on, and on it goes

Obama's Investment In Ener1 Pays Off For Russia

Tech Transfer: Billed as batteries made in America, backed by America and for America, advanced U.S. military technology that was paid for by stimulus cash will now be in Russian hands.

'The question is which nation is going to seize the future," Vice President Joe Biden said in a January 2011 speech praising federal support for car battery maker Ener1 Inc. at its facility in Mount Comfort, Ind. "Some nation is going to grab it by the throat. One of the nations of the world is going to lead the world in green energy and technology."

That nation, apparently, is Russia. Just as U.S. tax dollars have gone to subsidize electric cars made in Finland by Fisker Automotive, state-of-the-art technology developed by Ener1, which was also supposed to rejuvenate the American auto industry, is now owned outright by Boris Zingarevich, a Russian businessman with ties to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Zingarevich, who was Ener1's largest shareholder from the beginning in 2002, acquired Ener1 out of bankruptcy March 30 with an agreement to infuse $81 million in financing.

It's one thing to be an investor in technology. It's quite another when you own it and determine where, how and for whom it will be put to use.

Ener1 had joined Solyndra, Beacon Power, Evergreen Solar, SpectraWatt and AES — all recipients of taxpayer dollars — in bankruptcy.

The company had tapped the country's top scientists at Argonne National Lab in Illinois, and U.S. taxpayers pledged up to $118 million in stimulus funds from an administration that has grabbed taxpayers by the throat as well as $80 million in state and local incentives to help Ener1 produce cutting-edge battery technology for electric cars and the U.S. military.

Now that technology is owned by a Russian tycoon.

"In a company whose ownership is connected to Medvedev, you have a golden opportunity for a military technology transfer and, perhaps, civil transfer from the U.S. to Russia at no cost," said Stephen Blank, an expert on Russia and a research professor of national security affairs for the Strategic Studies Institute at the U.S. Army War College.

Indeed, it's doubtful Russia wants such technology just so it can produce its own version of the Chevy Volt.

Russia and China have ruthlessly been pursuing U.S. technology through espionage and cyberhacking into corporate and government computers.

Intruders from China hacked into computers and stole the blueprints for America's new joint strike fighter planes, the F-35 and F-22, according to the chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management.

It is one thing when our adversaries steal our technology. It is quite another when we allow them to just buy it.

It is even worse when it is subsidized by American taxpayers to generate jobs for American workers.

Taxpayers are not amused when the technology they paid for benefits other countries that may not have the best interests of the United States at heart.

Technology experts are raising concerns about nearly $8 million in military contracts the company received, including a Navy contract for research and development related to unmanned aerial vehicles.

In 2006, according to filings, Ener1 also was awarded a $1 million Department of Defense contract for so-called asset tracking, a technology used to track people carrying battery-powered devices.

"We need to make sure the federal government isn't an unwitting accomplice to the theft of our own national secrets by providing them with multimillion-dollar government grants," says Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., chairman of a House oversight subcommittee.

The panel has held hearings on the issue and is seeking internal documents from the White House, the Energy Department, Ener1 and its EnerDel battery unit.

In a recent open-microphone moment, President Obama told outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev that Obama's reelection would give him more "flexibility" to give the Russians what they want.

There's one way to stop that — for voters to just say "nyet" in November.

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