Anthony Earley Jr., CEO, chairman and president of Pacific Gas & Electric Corporation, said that the bankruptcy announcement Tuesday of A123 Systems shouldn't stop the government or private companies from investing in advanced batteries, which are a key technology to developing more electric vehicles.
"The success rate isn't particularly high, but you've got to try to develop these technologies," Earley said, who acknowledged that more electric vehicles mean more electricity and thus more business for companies like his. He also noted that as CEO of the Detroit-based utility DTE Energy, he invested in A123. "We thought it was a good company," Earley said.
GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and congressional Republicans pounced on the bankruptcy news of A123 on Tuesday as more evidence of President Obama's failed $90-billion bet on renewable energy.
A123 received a $6 million grant in 2007 during the Bush administration and a $132 million grant from President Obama's stimulus package in 2009.
Republicans point to bankruptcies like this and the more high-profile failure of solar manufacturer Solyndra, which received a $535 million loan guarantee before going bankrupt in 2011, to say Obama is wrongly picking winners and losers in the energy market.
"I think it's an unfair criticism to say that the government shouldn't have picked A123," said Earley, who sites on the Board of Directors of Ford Motor Company. "The question is should they devote money to battery research and not try to pick out one company or another, that's an argument."
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the day that Republicans used the bankruptcy news for political purposes. The post has been updated to reflect the correct day.
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