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The Ecotality mess: Lying by omission

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Squandering taxpayer money on attempts to pick “green” energy winners once again has left the Obama administration's Department of Energy red-faced: Its own inspector general says officials failed to disclose for an audit that they knew a taxpayer-backed electric car charger company was headed for bankruptcy.

The Washington Times reports that Ecotality of San Francisco, headed by Pitt graduate Ravi Brar, received $100 million in 2009 stimulus funds, plus $35 million that Energy approved in 2005 and 2011. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Sept. 16. Energy's IG says Ecotality told Energy on May 21 that it wouldn't meet September benchmarks for installing charging stations and collecting electric vehicle usage data.

But the department didn't mention that in comments provided July 9 for an IG report. Instead, it “asserted that previous award modifications ... made Ecotality's production and installations goals achievable,” the IG's office wrote. And though Energy did cut off Ecotality's stimulus funding, it continued some payments OK'd in 2011.

The Energy Department has agreed to transparency improvements suggested by its IG. But it would have spared itself this Ecotality embarrassment — and taxpayers another huge loss — had it learned the lessons taught by its $535 million Solyndra debacle.

The Obama administration's politically motivated distortion of markets has proven financially disastrous — again. And distorting the truth (lying by omission, actually) about a beneficiary of that practice only compounds what's so wrong about it.

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