The bankruptcy auction of battery-maker A123 (above) over the weekend turned out to be a revealing snapshot of the world economy as America’s Johnson Controls, Germany’s Siemens and Japan’s NEC were all outbid by China’s Wanxiang, which paid $260 million. The Michigan-based company had received a $250 million stimulus grant from the Department of Energy. Republicans in Congress worried that the sale will compromise national security or something like that, but it appears to be just a matter of pure economic muscle. The DOE said it would not provide the last half of the grant, which is yet to be paid.
While the US debates on whether to enter the global gas market with LNG exports, the rest of the world is steaming ahead. Egypt has now become an importer after years of export. China will build an LNG hub in the Philippines. The US also will help Pakistan import natural gas. Sempra took a step forward in exporting some of America’s abundant resources by securing a federal permit for an LNG terminal in Louisiana. And the mild winter weather is driving down the price, making export to premium markets such as Japan all the more attractive.
Offshore oil drilling continues to progress around the world as New Zealand makes plans to expand its acreage and Bangladesh offered 12 drilling blocks for auction. Gabon is planning a licensing round and the Persian Gulf states, already rich in onshore resources, are also moving offshore. The Chevron oil spill off Brazil has slowed that country’s development, however, and France’s Total has decided to skedaddle out of Nigeria after being hit with a rash of pipeline thefts.
Finally, the wind tax credit battle in Congress is coming down to the wire as the December 31 deadline approaches. In many ways, the big wind brouhaha is being overshadowed by the larger drama of the Fiscal Cliff. There’s much at stake for the wind industry, however. A group of Western governors have weighed in on behalf of the subsidy and wind has a big lobby. But Bonner Cohen, writing for National Policy Analysis, calls it “corporate welfare at its worst.”