Washington is in the business of handing out money these days (see: bank bailout, auto bailout, stimulus), but when it comes to cutting checks for a Department of Energy program designed to support advanced vehicle manufacturing, the feds have taken nearly three years to get projects moving. But according to a new Wall Street Journal interview with DOE chief Steven Chu, the stalling stops now. He wants money moving out the door within four weeks, not the additional the five months that people working on the program had planned.
The $25 billion in loans and loan guarantees, created as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and appropriated by Congress in 2006, could breathe new life into some of the more than 70 companies that have applied for funds, including electric car startups Tesla Motors, Integrity Automotive and Zap, and battery makers Ener1 and A123Systems. As recently as last month, a DOE spokesperson told us that applications were “under rigorous and thorough review,” and that the DOE was “moving with all deliberate speed in reviewing the applications, but any date by which we might make a decision would be pure speculation at this point.” Not anymore. Chu’s the boss, and with some $30-$40 billion expected to require spending (if only I had that problem) after the stimulus bill passes, he’s naming dates.