Foreign-ownership issue looms over US lithium-ion battery funds

Jul 14, 2009 | 12:51 PM | Martyn Chase

A heated debate is looming over Russian and other foreign ownership of lithium-ion battery manufacturers competing to land big slices of the estimated $3 billion in U.S. Department of Energy funding under new federal programs offering grants and loans as part of President Obama's stimulus package.

That debate is getting hotter as the agency gets set to award the first major contracts for development of the new-generation batteries central to both Obama's auto restructuring effort and his attempt to create "green" manufacturing jobs. The first awards are expected to be announced later this month.

The lithium-ion battery plants are the centerpiece of the President's plans to have 1 million plug-in hybrid vehicles on the road by 2015. There's pressure to build them domestically because policy makers don't want to trade dependence on foreign oil for that on foreign-made advanced batteries.

The first shots in the lobbying battle were fired when Indiana's two Senators, Republican Richard G. Lugar and Democrat Evan Bayh, teamed up to secure $6.5 million in earmarks in the budget process for New York-based Ener1 Inc., which plans to build a lithium-ion battery plant in Indiana if it can get Energy Department funding for the project.....

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