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|V-Vehicle's fate in Landrieu's hands|
Who would have ever thought the Obama administration would hire a bunch of tight-fisted conservatives to run the U.S. Department of Energy?
I certainly never envisioned it. Judging by the reasoning, though, that the Department of Energy (DOE) gave V-Vehicle Co. (VVC) last week in denying its request to borrow some $320 million to help launch an automobile manufacturing plant in northeastern Louisiana, we could surmise otherwise. At the very least, we could assume the boys and girls at DOE could be credentialed to attend a Conservative Political Action Conference get-together.
That's certainly a stretch, and it's laughable to say the least. DOE's reasoning, though, that VVC needed to raise more money from private investors to secure its blessing in landing some fat-cat financing from the feds to build fuel-efficient automobiles completely conflicted with the attitude and actions the Obama administration has exhibited since taking office in January 2009. Remember the $1 trillion stimulus package? Remember the government-backed loans for General Motors?
As we all know, VVC is a start-up company based in California, which claims to have designed an inexpensive automobile that would get sky-high gas mileage. Though it would run on gasoline, one would think the environmental movement would go goo-goo over it. Accordingly, one would think the environmentally friendly Obama administration, including DOE, would be hip on V-Vehicle, too.
Last year, VVC announced it would set up shop in the former Guide plant off Interstate 20 in eastern Ouachita Parish, the hub of one of the most impoverished regions in America. Some 1,400 new direct jobs would be created at the plant, according to VVC officials. Another 1,800 indirect jobs would be created not long after VVC began operations in Ouachita while hundreds of construction jobs would surface to rehab the former Guide plant to make it suitable for VVC.
We were so giddy over the prospect of an automobile manufacturing company establishing a presence in God's country that the state offered VVC some $130 million in incentives to do it. Ouachita Parish governing bodies stepped up to the plate with $15 million in incentives courtesy—by and large—of property owners in Ouachita, who agreed to take on a new property tax to underwrite the local incentives package.
When VVC made its foray into the region it claimed to have raised in the neighborhood of $100 million from private investors, who, we have to assume, felt VVC was such a sure bet that they were willing to put some pretty serious money on the table to help finance it. We later learned the $100 million really meant some $86 million had been raised from the private investor community, but whose to throw stones over a mere $14 million?
Up until a few months ago, it appeared all was well for the V-Vehicle project. All that was needed to take a good idea and turn it into a reality was the big loan from DOE's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program.
The loan wouldn't be problem, we were told in 2009. DOE would sign off on it without a hitch, we were told back then.
Something happened along the way, though, that rocked the apple cart, so to speak. DOE denied VVC's request to borrow $321.1 million.
When the news spread that DOE denied VVC's loan, every Tom, Dick and Harry with an opinion took it upon themselves to enlighten us with his opinion on why DOE said "no" to financing VVC's game plan to manufacture automobiles a stone's throw from the Louisiana Delta. The prevailing opinion had something to do with politics.
It has been suggested and it is entirely possible that DOE sent VVC back to the drawing board because Louisiana is a Republican-leaning state. Remember, our governor, Bobby Jindal, is a Republican. Our congressman in northeastern Louisiana, Rodney Alexander, is a Republican as well. Louisiana voted overwhelmingly for Sen. John McCain, a Republican, in the 2008 presidential race.
And let's remember that the president of the United States, Barack Obama, is a liberal Democrat. That means Obama owes his election, in part, to labor unions, including the United Auto Workers.
V-Vehicle officials said early on that its plant in Ouachita would be non-union, meaning the UAW would not be welcomed.
As I said, it is entirely possible politics played a role in DOE's decision to show V-Vehicle the door.
Yet, there's hope.
V-Vehicle has indicated it will reapply for a loan from DOE. Sen. Mary Landrieu, an ally of the Obama administration, believes V-Vehicle has a good shot at securing financing from DOE once the company raises more money from private investors.
I don't make it a habit to wager money, but I'll allow 5-1 odds VVC will succeed if it reapplies for a loan from DOE. Of course, the queen bee herself, Landrieu, would secure it.
What an ironic conclusion to a muddied affair—Landrieu the Democrat prevails upon the ultra-liberal Obama administration to sign off on a taxpayer-backed loan to bail out a bunch of Republicans.
Sounds like good copy for a novel.