by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Collin Anderson of the Washington Free Beacon reports an interesting hire for the U.S. Energy Department.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm has a new adviser: Ford’s top electric vehicle lobbyist, who has defended the auto giant’s use of taxpayer funds to build batteries with Chinese technology.
Granholm earlier this month tapped Ford lobbyist Christopher Smith to serve on her Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, which guides Granholm on how best to achieve a “global clean energy revolution.” As Ford’s chief government affairs officer—a role Smith will keep while serving on the board—Smith has lobbied an array of federal entities on green policies. Ford’s most recent disclosure, for example, shows that Smith lobbied the Energy Department on electric vehicles and greenhouse gas emission regulations just days before Granholm announced his status as an advisory board member.
Smith’s inclusion on the board comes as Ford attempts to fend off congressional scrutiny of its partnership with a Chinese battery maker. The company in February announced its plan to open a multibillion-dollar battery factory in Michigan alongside Chinese manufacturer Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Limited (CATL), which will provide technology, equipment, and workers to help build and run the factory. Ford says it will use the factory to receive lucrative subsidies and tax breaks under President Joe Biden’s so-called Inflation Reduction Act, despite provisions in the massive climate package aimed at preventing China from receiving funds.
After congressional Republicans attacked Ford’s taxpayer-funded Chinese partnership, the auto giant deployed Smith to defend the arrangement. In a March 6 op-ed, Smith said Ford’s Chinese partners will have no “control of the plant” and will not directly receive taxpayer funds. But Ford itself has admitted that CATL will provide personnel “to help with operations,” and any federal subsidies Ford receives through the plant will no doubt help the company pay to license its Chinese partner’s technology.