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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Obama appointee subsidizes electric bus company, then goes to work for it -- By Timothy Carney, The Washington Examiner


Ray LaHood, US Transportation SecretaryWashington's green revolving door keeps on spinning.

President Obama’s Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has left the administration and joined an electric bus company he subsidized and praised while in office.

Proterra Inc. makes buses that require no gasoline or diesel – they run on electricity and fuel cells.

You can see why electric buses would appeal to cities that want to clean the air and reduce fuel usage: City buses run a predictable number of miles a day, averting worries about dead batteries. Also, a fleet of buses creates economies of scale that can make recharging infrastructure economical.

Proterra is the leading U.S.-based manufacturer of electric buses. Like most green-technology companies, it receives taxpayer subsidies from many federal, state and local programs.

Under the Bush administration, the Federal Transit Administration - a unit of the U.S. Department of Transportation - gave $49 million in grants to a program aimed at developing fuel-cell powered buses. Proterra was the leading manufacturer in the program.


South Carolina in recent years provided cheap financing for Proterra: $12.5 million in loans funded by Obama’s stimulus.

According to a 2011 DOT press release, Proterra received a “$6.5 million research grant provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Transit Administration.”

On top of all this, LaHood's department subsidized Proterra through grants to municipalities that buy electric buses. These grants to local transit authorities cover 80 percent of the cost of a battery-powered electric bus.

In September 2012, for instance, the Worcester Regional Transit Authority in Massachusetts bought three Proterra buses with $4.4 million in DOT grants.
Proterra Takes the Hill
Most of Proterra's sales are subsidized. “The majority of transit agencies buy with federal funds, which cover about 80 percent of the cost,” explained Proterra Vice President Ian Shackleton in a company publication in March 2013.

Given DOT’s generous support for Proterra, it’s no wonder LaHood has been so cozy with the company. In October 2009, Proterra executives brought one of their buses to D.C. as part of a lobbying trip. LaHood rode the bus sitting next to Proterra founder Dale Hill.

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